Loren Bouchard, creator of Bob’s Burgers (Fox) and co-creator of Central Park (Apple TV+), addressed the subject of female representation in animation in a panel at Comic-Con at Home.
What did Bouchard say? He acknowledged the “very healthy conversation going on about representation in animation,” adding, “every part of it is good, even the awkward ones, and I’ve been enjoying it in a way because you get better at being in the world” by participating in it. He said that Bento Box Entertainment, which animates his shows, “tries to do good” but isn’t doing “enough.”
What is it doing? Bouchard noted that 31% of the studio’s staff are women, as are five of the 11 writers on Bob’s Burgers. Nora Smith, co-creator of Central Park and executive producer of Bob’s Burgers, said of the latter show, “Every female character we have, we try to make them as funny as possible.”
Why did the subject come up? The context is casting: on both shows, men voice several key female characters, but not vice versa. Bouchard has come under pressure over this before. During a panel in January, he said he’s committed to “balancing” casts, but also explained his motivation for casting men as women: “Animation just makes you want to take this voice and have it come out of this face, [it’s] so delicious I can’t help myself.”
Bouchard’s comments at Comic-Con came amid a growing debate about racial diversity in animation voice casts. In June, several white actors declared that they would no longer voice characters of color — including Kristen Bell, who walked away from Central Park’s Molly. Last week, Emmy Raver-Lampman (The Umbrella Academy, Hamilton) was announced as her replacement.
Why can’t men just voice women and vice versa? Of course, animation has a long tradition of both. But the casting in Bouchard’s shows is symptomatic of broader inequality across the industry, and his admission that he and his colleagues aren’t doing “enough” should be seen in this light.
In 2018, The Animation Guild disclosed that only around a quarter of its members are women. The following year, USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative published a raft of statistics that reflect the gender imbalance in the industry: for instance, men occupy 81% of below-the-line roles in top animated tv series.
The bottom line: The renewed attention on the race of voice actors may prompt a reevaluation of gender in casting, too.
(Image at top: Tina Belcher on “Bob’s Burgers,” who is voiced by Dan Mintz.)