The Bob’s Burgers Movie creators on serving up a “genre salad” to fill feature-length appetites
As the Belchers are blown up to big screen size for the first time, we sit down with the filmmakers to talk nervous laughter, spectacle, and the challenges of converting episodic animation to film.
- Liz Gorny
- 27 May 2022
Today (27 May), The Bob’s Burgers Movie hits UK cinemas and before fans get to take a big ol’ chomp on a whole 102 minutes of Bob’s, let’s look at what’s on the menu. For starters (groan all you like, we’re riding this train all the way to the station), the film is anything but a stretched out episode. Described in a release as a “murder-mystery musical-comedy”, The Bob’s Burgers Movie finds audiences plucked from the restaurant and thrown amongst a medley of genres. Over the course of the film, we follow the Belcher family as they try to solve a fiendish murder mystery, all while saving their restaurant from ruin as a denied loan extension and inconveniently-located sink-hole threaten to close the doors to their restaurant, forever.
The stakes are high, and not just narratively speaking. The filmmakers behind this summer’s big animated release faced a myriad of challenges to overcome. For one, how do you sidestep the potential potholes a series can fall into when going feature-length? How do you offer character development while not altering the DNA of the series? Essentially, how do you make a TV show cinematic? To get some answers, we catch up with director Bernard Derriman, screenwriter Nora Smith, and director and screenwriter Loren Bouchard as the film rolls out across screens.
It’s Nice That: The challenge of turning a beloved animated series into a film is obviously really complex. It’s something that many series, from The Simpsons and Spongebob to South Park, have gone through in the past. For Bob’s, what were the main challenges involved in the process of moving from an episodic format to a feature-length?
Nora Smith: Well, our main objectives were to make our fans happy, because we love them and they maybe are the best fans of any show ever, I think. But we also knew that people are going to come to this movie – ideally – who have never seen this show before, and that should not be an issue. So we were juggling that the whole time, but honestly, it never proved too difficult because we just wanted to make a movie that we would want to go see. Make it big, blow out stuff that we wanted to do on the show as far as size, epicness, not necessarily storylines but setpieces and visual gags; just do all of it.
“Here it was flipped, we were thinking cinematic all the time.”Bernard Derriman
It’s Nice That: Can you talk a little about some of the visuals on the film. There is still the 2D animation format present and that feel you get from the series, but a lot of the camera angles and shots feel more grandiose or cinematic. What, if anything, about the look of the show changed and what stayed the same?
Bernard Derriman: First of all, we didn’t want to upgrade the characters and change the look of them for the movie. We really wanted it to feel like it was part of the show in a way. It was just a better way to look at the show; like you’re looking at it through a better lens and you’re seeing more detail. It was also a great opportunity to think cinematically all the time. On the show, we’ll have the odd little action sequence and straight away we’re thinking: ‘This is sort of cinematic’. Here it was flipped, we were thinking cinematic all the time, and then every once and a while, when it called for it, we’d go back to the standard two-shot or the standard three-shot of the kids at the counter.
Loren Bouchard: Moving camera is very expensive in animation and 2D animation; it’s the big one. Moving camera means that your background might be changing perspective, which means new drawings. You’ve got to have the time to be able to move your backgrounds and draw everything again, if that’s what’s called for.
It’s Nice That: Can you talk about this introduction of the murder mystery format. What does this new way of experiencing the Bob’s Burgers universe offer viewers?
NS: Hopefully, if you like murder mysteries, you will be sucked in right away. If you like action movies, comedy, music; we took all the stuff we loved and made it into a Bob’s form of all those genres. I think you can come at it and enjoy being with these characters for – I forget how many minutes it is. 90?
NS: For at least 93 minutes.
BD: We should know this (laughs).
NS: But you should be able to come at it fresh and experience it as its own movie, stand alone.
“We took all the stuff we loved and made it into a Bob’s form of all those genres.”Nora Smith
It’s Nice That: The film is really laugh out loud funny at many points; it doesn’t lose any of the quality of the series throughout. What was it like making sure that Bob’s humour remained even with this new adventure narrative? Was it hard to juggle suspense alongside comedy?
LB: This is a character-driven comedy, and all you have to do in the end is say: ‘What would these characters say?’ The way we describe it to each other is: ‘You make a joke when you’re scared. You give yourself a little bit of comfort in a scary situation’. So as the stakes raised, it never felt wrong for them to make jokes – in fact, it felt right. You knew the jokes were going to be flying because this family is nervous. And when they’re nervous, they tease each other or make jokes, or fart and make jokes about farting. We just had to count on the characters reacting the way they really would.
“They’re not finding this on their laptop while cooking dinner; they had to go and make a conscious decision and spend money on a ticket.”Loren Bouchard
It’s Nice That: What sparked this fusion of genres throughout the film. What was the catalyst that made you think: ‘We are going to blend all these things together.”
LB: Spectacle. Spectacle is a word we had right from the beginning. You have to think in terms of spectacle because [audiences] left their houses to come to see this, this isn’t a passive experience for them. They’re not finding this on their laptop while cooking dinner; they had to go and make a conscious decision and spend money on a ticket. We really knew that spectacle was something that people would expect, and that speaks to genre. You know a musical will give you spectacle; you know a mystery will give you stakes. So we started making that salad, that genre salad, right from the beginning, knowing we had to deliver.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures: The Bob's Burgers Movie (Copyright © Disney / 20th Century Studios, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.