‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’: Behind the Musical Spectacle of the Animated Big-Screen Spinoff

The writers and directors tell IndieWire about taking the Belcher family's singing and dancing to new heights.
Linda Belcher (voiced by John Roberts), Louise Belcher (voiced by Kristen Schaal), Gene Belcher (voiced by Eugene Mirman), Tina Belcher (voiced by Dan Mintz), and Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) in 20th Century Studios' THE BOB'S BURGERS MOVIE. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
"The Bob's Burgers Movie"
Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

While “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” is sure to be a hit with fans of the animated Fox series, there’s also a lot for newcomers to enjoy, including four toe-tapping musical numbers that ramp up the energy while revealing the internal lives of the Belchers — parents Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts) and kids Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman), and Louise (Kristen Schaal) and their devoted family friend, Teddy. The film opens with an ode to summer, a big, Broadway-like number that might recall last year’s “In the Heights” as it moves from the film’s namesake restaurant into the oceanside town the series takes place in, culminating in an anxious meeting with the bank officer overseeing the family’s business loan. The song is hilarious, heartfelt and uplifting — while celebrating the Belchers’ underdog spirit.

While original musical numbers have long been a part of the “Bob’s Burgers” repertoire, the cinematic spin-off takes things to the next level. “It’s not so much that we wanted to do it differently, but we wanted to do it bigger and as make as much of a spectacle as we could manage, to make it fill the speakers and fill the room,” series creator and “Bob’s Burgers Movie” writer-director Loren Bouchard told IndieWire. “We wanted people to get their money’s worth, so to speak.”

Adding to the spectacle is dancing — lots of it — which Bouchard said was one of the big things he and co-director Bernard Derriman wanted to add to the film. “Bernard is really good at drawing dancing,” he explains. “It’s incredible what he can capture for a character dancing. And [co-writer] Nora Smith is also really good at a very particular kind of dancing, which I like to call ‘silly good dancing.’

“It’s always funny, and yet also really good dancing,” Bouchard continues. “The shoulders are going in the right direction and the hips are doing something that you haven’t seen before. Between the two of them, for the movie, they really brought dancing as something we were trying to offer the audience as best as we could. It was really fun for us too. We really get a kick out of seeing these characters move like that.”

(L-R): Tina Belcher (voiced by Dan Mintz) and Jimmy Pesto Jr. (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) in 20th Century Studios' THE BOB'S BURGERS MOVIE. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
The Bob’s Burgers MovieCourtesy of 20th Century Studios

“We love musicals,” Derriman adds, naming some of the filmmakers’ favorite cinematic references, including “The Blues Brothers,” “The Music Man,” and “Hair.”

“There’s something really magical about seeing a lot of characters doing the same movement, especially at different levels, when you see characters in the foreground and characters in the far background doing stuff,” he said, noting that they could never afford to have scenes with so many characters in the series. “It would take a year to do it, and we really only have a show for a few weeks and then it’s out the door, so this was an opportunity to do these really big numbers with tons of characters dancing. It was a lot of fun.”

“When you have somebody with a good eye and a good pencil, you can almost feel the movement in your own body while you’re watching these animated characters on screen,” said Bouchard.

“Bernard, perhaps even without thinking about it, always puts the camera in the right place. I imagine that these music video directors, some of them rise above the others. And it’s probably just an instinct about where to put the camera,” Bouchard said, describing a sequence of the three Belcher children walking to school in synchronized dance mode. “They’ve got this little side-to-side, up-and-down head thing, and it just worked. It’s just a great shot.”

There is one common reference point they sought to keep out of “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” though. “Sometimes you have to fight to avoid Busby Berkeley,” said Derriman, “because it’s the immediate go-to for animators because it’s such a visual thing. Not to be crude about it, but it’s duplicating animation. You can do one character and basically duplicate the action the whole way. So in animation, Busby Berkeley is the go-to. Sometimes you can’t help but do a little bit of it. But, at times, I try to move away.”

Linda Belcher (voiced by John Roberts) in 20th Century Studios' THE BOB'S BURGERS MOVIE. Courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie”Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

The process for writing songs “never stays the same,” said Bouchard, explaining that each of the songs from the series has its own unique origin story, and that the songs for the film “were vomited into existence” as they wrote the script.

“We were always working on them, trying to make sure they were earning their spot,” he recounts. “We had a sense also of not overstaying our welcome. We didn’t want to pack this thing with songs like a real capital-M Musical. We wanted it to be a ‘Bob’s Burgers; version of that, which is to say, hopefully, a song just where you want it and never one where you don’t.”

While they approached the project with what Bouchard calls “a lot of humility and fear,” his longtime collaboration with Smith built his confidence in the songs they wrote together, often on ukuleles in his own home. “Nora does not play the ukulele, but she had figured out these two chords, and she said, ‘I really like these two chords.’ And right away I knew those were the first two chords of the first song in the movie. I said, ‘Holy crap. I love those. Show me that.’ And I immediately felt like we were going to be able to do it.”

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