Meet the most beloved sitcom horse of the ’90s – 20 years later. BoJack Horseman was the star of the hit TV show “Horsin’ Around,” but today he’s washed up, living in Hollywood, complaining about everything, and wearing colorful sweaters.
1. THE CREATOR AND THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER HAVE BEEN FRIENDS SINCE HIGH SCHOOL.
Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg and production designer/producer Lisa Hanawalt met in a high school theater class, coming up with ideas for TV shows. Even while still in high school, Bob-Waksberg had anthropomorphism on the brain. It was there that he wrote a play about a boy with udders who just wanted to fit in. While the two were in college, they teamed up to make a web comic titled Tip Me Over and Pour Me Out.
Years later, while Hanawalt was becoming a regular James Beard Award finalist for her illustration collections of characters with animal heads on human bodies, Bob-Waksberg was living like his future creation Todd, in a small bedroom “that was more of a closet” in a big beautiful Hollywood Hills house formerly owned by Johnny Depp. It gave him the idea of coming up with a character “who had every success he could have wanted and still couldn’t find a way to be happy,” someone who felt “simultaneously on top of the world and so isolated and alone.” Since the two had always wanted to collaborate on a television project, Bob-Waksberg proposed combining his feeling of isolation with Hanawalt’s drawings.
2. THEY HAVE DESIGNED CHARACTERS BASED ON FORMER HIGH SCHOOL CLASSMATES.
One day Bob-Waksberg asked Hanawalt, “Oh, do you remember that girl who was in our English class senior year of high school? Draw her, but as a dolphin.” Sextina Aquafina, singer of “My C*itoris is Gynormous,” was born.
3. MICHAEL EISNER SIGNED OFF ON IT.
It was the former Disney CEO’s Tornante Company that agreed to produce theBoJack concept and sold it to Netflix. After a nervous and inexperienced Bob-Waksberg pitched the show to Eisner himself, Eisner expressed reluctance about putting another series satirizing show business on the air. Once Bob-Waksberg talked about why it was still interesting to him, Eisner agreed to just let him do it his way.
4. BOJACK HIMSELF WAS FAIRLY EASY TO COME UP WITH.
Bob-Waksberg doesn’t remember where he got the name of his protagonist. “BoJack just sounded like a horse name to me,” he said. “I don’t know where I heard it or how I came up with it.”
Hanawalt claimed that BoJack Horseman was one of the easiest characters to design, quickly picturing the sweater, the shoes, and his grumpy expression as soon as Bob-Waksberg described him to her. For Hanawalt, Diane and Todd were the hardest characters to create. “Humans are generally much trickier to draw because we’re so used to looking at and analyzing human faces,” she said. “The slightest tweak makes a huge difference in how we perceive that character. Todd went through dozens of variations before we got him right, and then we changed him even more.”
5. YES, THAT WAS REALLY SIR PAUL MCCARTNEY’S VOICE.
Not every celebrity agrees to do a voice on the show—after a writer on the show “poured his heart out” to Cameron Crowe, Crowe was still too busy to voice the raven named Cameron Crowe. In season one, the show still managed to snag J.K. Simmons to play the tortoise Lennie Turtletaub and Naomi Watts to portray herself. More celebrities followed; an unnamed guest actor told Bob-Waksberg, “Well, I guess if Naomi Watts is willing to make a fool of herself like this, I can too.”
For the season two episode “After the Party,” the show managed to get the former Beatle after some “tenacity” from the casting director, Linda Lamontagne. McCartney recorded his lines in New York, with Bob-Waksberg instructing him from the studio in Los Angeles. The BoJackcreator didn’t know McCartney was going to do it until five minutes beforehand, when an executive producer called his cell while he was waiting to pick up a smoothie.
If he didn’t do the voice, Kevin Bigley would have done an impression of Michael Bublé to end the installment.
6. MARGO MARTINDALE DIDN’T KNOW THE SHOW INVOLVED ANIMALS UNTIL AFTER A TABLE READ.
Margo Martindale’s The Millers co-star, Will Arnett, insisted that Martindale had to appear on his animated show. After she said she didn’t want to do a cartoon, Arnett explained, “You have to do it—the part is Character Actress Margo Martindale.” The day after her first BoJack table read, Martindale approached Arnett on The Millers set to tell him how much fun she had had, and how Mr. Peanutbutter oddly has a lot of doglike qualities.
Unfortunately, after Martindale was sent to jail on the show, her husband discovered that someone updated her real-life Wikipedia page to read that she spent the last year in prison for armed robbery. Martindale called Arnett and said, “This is what your cartoon’s done for me!”
7. SOME ACTORS DO DOUBLE OR TRIPLE VOICE DUTY.
Arnett voices both BoJack and his father, Butterscotch Horseman. Alison Brie portrays Diane Nguyen, “Vincent Adultman,” and Joelle Clarke. Even Bob-Waksberg gets into the voice acting as tree frog assistant-turned-agent Charley Witherspoon.
8. THE ZOE OR ZELDA RUNNING GAG WAS BASED OFF OF A TIA AND TAMERA OBSERVATION.
“The Zoe/Zelda thing in season one came from a Tia and Tamera observation I’ve had for a while,” Bob-Waksberg admitted. Back in 2010, he wrote on his Tumblr that he was a Tia, despite his many Tamera qualities, and later that he was a Zoe with some very Zelda qualities.
9. SOME JOKES TAKE ENTIRE SEASONS TO BUILD.
While the mulch joke was a variation of a joke Bob-Waksberg knew for years, and the movie-star speech Rutabaga Rabbitowitz gives Princess Carolyn is something he had told to heartbroken friends before, the Marisa Tomei sneezing picture took the entire first season to come together in the writers room. “In Season 1, we were working on some episode and we knew there was some story on BoJack sneezing on Marisa Tomei that we had set up, and elsewhere, we had set up that there was a sneezing picture that BoJack hates, but everyone uses when they talk about BoJack,” he explained. “It wasn’t until Episode 11 that we realized, ‘What if the sneezing picture is the picture of him sneezing on Marisa Tomei?’ We went back to Episode 2 and changed the picture and had a flashback in Episode 11.”
Some story arcs were invented in the writers room, like the paparazzi birds, Todd’s rock opera, and the progression of Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane’s relationship. Going to Boston, the Herb Kazzaz storyline, the drug trip episode, and BoJack cornering Diane at Ghostwritercon were all Bob-Waksberg’s initial pitch to Netflix.
10. ONE EPISODE WAS BASED OFF OF AN UNUSED CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM SCRIPT.
“Let’s Find Out” was based off of a Curb Your Enthusiasm spec script by BoJack writer Peter Knight. In his script, Larry David appears on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? with Ron Howard. When Ron Howard admits he doesn’t know who Larry David is, David pretends to not know who Howard is and deliberately blows the game. In “Let’s Find Out,” BoJack goes on the Mr. Peanutbutter-hosted Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: What Do They Know? Do They Know Things?? Let’s Find Out! and fumes over the fact that Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t know who he is. In the end, BoJack pretends to not know who Radcliffe is, losing the game.
Radcliffe was a fan of BoJack Horseman, so he was written in as the celebrity on the game show. Radcliffe told Bob-Waksberg, “I’ve seen every version of a Harry Potter joke and you guys wrote my favorite.”
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