The Belchers – worrywart Bob, peppy Linda, neurotic and butts-obsessed Tina, sardonic Louise, and rambunctious Gene – have been part of the animated furniture for over a decade now.
Since its 2011 debut, Bob’s Burgers’ offbeat brand of musical comedy and family adventures revolving around Bob’s burger-flipping business has rightly placed it alongside the likes of BoJack Horseman, and fellow H. Jon Benjamin vehicle Archer, as one of the greatest animated shows in recent memory.
Now, Bob’s Burgers is heading to the big screen – and creator Loren Bouchard was quick to pinpoint the secret ingredients that allows the Belcher family to cook up a treat in cinemas. “If we had a mystery with life or death stakes and then we had music, we knew we could make something that was big enough to fill the screen and fill a theater. That was the starting point,” Bouchard tells me over Zoom, ahead of The Bob’s Burgers Movie release date of May 27, 2022.
Despite the added urgency of The Bob’s Burgers Movie, Bouchard says fans can expect plenty more personal, intimate moments between the Belcher clan as they deal with the twin threats of an impending summer – with all that entails, including concerts, boyfriends, and mounting bills – and a murder mystery.
“We love character-driven storytelling. It’s our code, it is the show; it is character driven at its core,” Bouchard explains. “One of the first things we did right at the beginning of thinking about the movie was, ‘How could each character have a crisis that’s personal to them?’ How could the thing that they think defines them be the thing that’s challenged, and that they have to face squarely? Then we just threaded it through: each character had to go through this.”
Dance dance revolution
But with a bigger budget, inevitably, comes greater ambition. Director Bernard Derriman, who has worked on the show in various guises since its inception, was invigorated by the freedom of a feature-length timescale. “It’s all the stuff we’d love to do on the show but we just don’t get the time. For Loren and I, working in directing, we can really go all out,” says Derriman, pointing to The Bob’s Burgers Movie’s very first shot as proof enough that the movie’s scale worked in their favor: “That’s something that probably took longer than it took to animate a whole episode. It was opportunities like that where we really leant into it and had a lot of fun.”
Long-time fans will be pleased to know that The Bob’s Burgers Movie also continues to wear the series’ musical heart on its sleeve. Show favorites such as ‘Bad Stuff Happens in the Bathroom’ are earworms, to be sure, but pale in comparison to the sheer scale of those found in the feature-length production. Yes, an orchestra was involved.
“The first thing we ever really did differently was recording the score and the music. And we did it at the Alfred Newman stage on a Fox lot where all the scores have been recorded since the ’50s. So that was the first time we had that feeling that this was a big movie. We had an arranger with a huge orchestra. That was pretty, pretty awesome,” says Derriman, with more than a hint of excitement.
“One of the things we did was add winds and horns in a big way, which is something we always wanted to do,” Bouchard adds. “That was one of the toys we got to take out of the toybox and play with. The other was dancing… We knew that it wasn’t just going to be music. It has to be physically visible on the screen.”
“We were always keen to really get that going in the movie. That’s another thing you could never do on the show: you can barely get one character dancing, let alone 15 or 20. So seeing all them dancing and doing all different moves, it was really fun to work on.”
Breaking new ground, without breaking the show
The Bob’s Burgers Movie, though, takes the rough with the smooth when it comes to the leap to cinemas. Where some animated movies – including the recent anime hits of Jujutsu Kaisen 0 and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train – are happy to continue their stories on the big screen before heading back to television, co-writer Nora Smith was always mindful of the delicate balance between offering just enough intrigue while also maintaining the status quo.
“I definitely don’t want to break the show,” says Smith. “You have to be able to come back at the end of the movie and dive right back into the show. We definitely didn’t want to go so big where it didn’t feel organic and it didn’t feel natural.”
Smith adds, “It was a good challenge for us to go big, but we’ve never gone so big that it feels like it breaks the world.”
Even after 11 years, nearly 250 episodes, several blackboards’ worth of groan-worthy burger puns, and one movie – are the creative team looking towards serving up a sequel for The Bob’s Burgers Movie as their next step?
“Even halfway through, we talked about how we want to do another one,” Bouchard teases. “We started joking about what we would do differently for the next one or start talking about ‘the next one’ as a fun wink to each other, which meant ‘I’m having fun, are you?'”
Bouchard, though, has urged caution – with a little bit of optimism sprinkled in for good measure. “At the same time, you don’t want to just crap one out. The story would absolutely have to be deserving,” the creator says. “You don’t want to do one of those until you’re really, really ready – both in terms of what you’re going to talk about and how it’s going to differentiate itself from the show. Now we’ve got to differentiate it from the first movie.”
“I know I can speak for everyone who worked on the movie, and say it is an incredible joy to make one of these things. We would be fools not to try and do it again if somebody gives us the chance.”
The Bob’s Burgers Movie is released in cinemas on Friday, May 27.