Netflix hosted a raucous Emmys FYC screening and panel for critically-beloved animated series “BoJack Horseman” on April 22 and while the panel itself was as colorful and irreverent as the show, with stars Aaron Paul and Paul F. Tompkins, as well as supervising director Mike Hollingsworth, production designer Lisa Hanawalt, and creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg, it wasn’t until after the event that the mood grew more contemplative.
Currently in production on its sixth season, “BoJack Horseman,” about a depressive, alcoholic horseman struggling to make his way in a lightly-fictionalized version of Hollywood inhabited by humans and humanoid animals alike, is beginning to draw attention within the industry itself, with Will Arnett’s win for voicing BoJack and the show’s win for Best General Audience Animated Television at the 46th Annual Annie Awards in February.
“I didn’t think we would ever crack through at the Annies,” Bob-Waksberg said in a sit-down interview with IndieWire after the panel. “I’m thrilled we did. That is the animation community. I’ve always kind of assumed, ‘Oh, I guess they don’t like us.'”
That perceived lack of acceptance within the animation community itself has spurred something of a crisis of confidence for the show in years prior, particularly given the single Emmy nomination the show has garnered to date, for Kristen Schaal’s performance in Season 3.
“Every year, we have this conversation of going into Emmy submissions — Do we want to submit as animated show again, or do we want to make a go for best comedy?” he said. The creator is admittedly frustrated by the restrictions of the Television Academy with regards to animation, pointing to the flexibility of AMPAS with regards to animated films eligibility. For example, “Toy Story 3” won best animated feature at the Oscars, while also being nominated for best picture. At the Emmys, no such crossover is possible.
“You have to choose a lane,” Bob-Waksberg stressed. “You have to choose animated or live-action.”
It’s a decision that carries even more weight given a recent TV Academy rule change.
In January, the TV Academy released their official rules and regulations for the year, specifying that a show could appeal its categorization – think “Orange is the New Black” competing at the Emmys first as a comedy, then as a drama – but would only ever be able to change categories once. That means that “Orange” is now forever a drama and, were “BoJack” to attempt to compete purely as a comedy, instead of animated, the die would be cast for the rest of its run.
But, it’s not really about the awards. It’s about getting the show in front of as many people as possible and letting it speak to them. “Whenever you go to an awards show and you win, you have a good time,” Bob-Waksberg laughed. “When you go to an awards show and you lose, it all seems stupid and pointless.”
“I don’t need the ego boost,” he said. “Why do we want to win an award? Yes, my grandmother would be very proud, but I think it’s also so people can hear, ‘Oh, this show won an award. I guess it’s good. I should watch it now.'”
“Art is a dialogue,” he said. “I’m throwing rocks across a chasm and hoping people catch them on the other side. Whatever they catch, that’s what the show is.”
“I have to be okay with people coming away with multiple interpretations of my show, because that is what I’m trying to do,” he continued. “There are moments that I intentionally put in where I go, ‘I don’t know what this part means. Let’s see what people take away from it,’ and I’m delighted to see what they find.”