How the Bob’s Burgers Creators Expanded Their Cult-Beloved Show Into a Movie

How the Bob’s Burgers Creators Expanded Their Cult-Beloved Show Into a Movie
Tina, Louise, and Gene Belcher in The Bob's Burgers Movie. (Image: Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

First announced back in 2017, then delayed and delayed again thanks to the pandemic, The Bob’s Burgers Movie — an animated musical based on the long-running Fox series created by Loren Bouchard — is almost in theatres. Ahead of the movie’s May 27 debut, Gizmodo attended a press conference featuring its cast and crew.

First things first: “You do not need to see the series to understand the movie,” said Bouchard, who also co-wrote and co-directed the movie. “It is [about] a family that runs a restaurant and the restaurant’s in trouble. You’ll get it all the first five minutes. We have literally made no homework for you. You are invited to come cold. You don’t need to know a thing.”

That said, it’s safe to assume that many of the people who attend The Bob’s Burgers Movie will already be Bob’s Burgers fans, something producer and movie co-writer Nora Smith acknowledged. “We knew that we had to try to make our fans happy and make people who are not our fans — but are perfectly fine people as well — happy, like people [seeing it] for the first time. So we were trying to not make it too chock-full of inside references, and we wanted people to come at it fresh and still enjoy all the characters. And I think we did a good job.”

Given the long gap between the start of production and the theatrical release, it’s tempting to imagine that The Bob’s Burgers Movie has just been sitting somewhere fully completed for months. That is most definitely not the case, according to Bouchard. “We worked on this movie until just — it feels like last week. We were determined to take every moment they gave us and keep working on it. So, yeah, [the story] changed [during the delays]. It wasn’t like it drastically changed. It was more like any time we had, we were excited to take advantage of — tweak jokes, change [the] picture, fool around with the sound. It was not just the script [that changed], [just] everything in was our hands until they tore it from our little fingers.”

Translating Bob’s Burgers the series into The Bob’s Burgers Movie was a challenge, but it was one the creators relished taking on. “We always say, every episode we do, we would love to make it look like the movie,” co-director Bernard Derriman explained. “But the problem is we do 22 episodes a year. It’s 11 hours of Bob’s Burgers. So we’ve only got a few weeks at a time where we can focus on each episode. So it wasn’t it wasn’t actually that big a stretch on the movie; it’s just we had four years for an hour and a half. And it was all the stuff we’ve always wanted to do on the show, we’re able to do now in the movie.”

Image: Courtesy of 20th Century StudiosImage: Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Bob’s Burgers has run for 12 seasons — the season finale was on May 22 — with a 13th on the way, in addition to the new feature film. The show’s impressive longevity isn’t something that Bouchard takes for granted. “We really like making the show. We really loved making the movie. It is a great pleasure, a privilege, and an honour. And we are always shocked and surprised that it is also so hard to make a show this many episodes in. You think there’s going to be an infinite number of stories, and it turns out that’s a fool’s stance. You have to actually try to now go back and get in between the 200-something episodes that we’ve done. So the target’s getting smaller if you want the show to be fresh and still find new things to say. But we love the challenge. The characters suggest to us that they are worthy of more stories. They kind of keep us going, coming back and trying to figure out how to keep going, and we’ll go as long as we can.”

Bouchard also addressed something that Bob’s Burgers fans have wondered: what is the timeline of the show exactly — and adding onto that, how does the movie fit into its continuity? “I like this question because it’s, you know, it’s not any kind of linear timeline that we can understand using our own lives. This is sort of a circular space where this family seems to be going through, roughly, a year over and over again with different permutations, and then some things we’ve pulled through,” he said. “So you can’t call it continuity, really, and certainly not for somebody who’s watching early seasons and late seasons … for them it must be doubly weird [when] Louise is on her on her green machine in one episode and then she’s riding a bike in the next episode. And so that’s not continuity, exactly.”

He explained further: “But we have made a deal with the fans, I think, that as long as it feels right, that as long as there’s this sort of — it’s not narrative growth over time, but it’s kind of these layers that build up this depth. So for the movie, it’s got to fit in there. And we are just now starting to think about these episodes that are going to air after the movie, and they’re going to air in the shadow of this event [that happens in the movie]. But of course, they also kind of happened before. I mean, in a way, the movie happened before the first episode. So this is a weird game to play, but it’s fun.”

Image: Courtesy of 20th Century StudiosImage: Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Another Bob’s Burgers conundrum also came up in the press conference: is Bob, voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, actually a really good cook with really bad business sense, or is he a bad cook (also with bad business sense)? “Loren and I have talked about this over the years,” Benjamin said. “I used to argue to Loren that Bob was not a good cook because there were no customers or very few, just Teddy. One guy came in. So maybe that’s indicative of a food problem. But Loren always suggested there’s the Burger of the Day. There’s these, like, flights of creativity that Bob has, and he’s super into his food. And I think over the years, [Loren] might have won the argument … I have to say that it’s been pointed out by many chefs, even just to me, how much they like the Burger of the Day element. They think that’s a signal that Bob is a good cook … or creative, at least.”

By the way, that other big Bob’s Burgers mystery — what’s the deal with Louise and her bunny ears? — finally comes to light in The Bob’s Burgers Movie. (“I feel very honoured that this is the moment that we get to share it with the world … it’s really exciting!” said Kristen Schaal, who voices Louise.) We’ll find out the answer to that when the movie opens May 27 in theatres.

Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.