BoJack Horseman, which is getting ready to debut its final episodes on Netflix at the end of January, surprised viewers and critics with its gradual dive into the depression of an anthropomorphic horse that used to be the star of a banal, early 1990s, TGIF-type sitcom. On the series, the town of Hollywoo is made up of both humans and talking animals full of hopes, dreams, and regrets.
Will Arnett stars as the voice of the titular equine who, at the beginning of season 3, is faced with the consequences of getting what he wants: legitimate acting recognition for playing the lead in a movie about his hero, Secretariat. Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul plays BoJack's human roommate, Todd; Amy Sedaris stars as BoJack's agent, Princess Carolyn; and Alison Brie portrays BoJack's ghostwriter, Diane Nguyen.
1. BoJack Horseman’s creator and production designer have been friends since high school.
BoJack Horseman 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, 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. Some BoJack Horseman characters are modeled on Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Lisa Hanawalt’s former 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. None of BoJack Horseman’s characters have tails.
Despite the fact that about half of the characters in the BoJack Horseman universe are animals, none of them have tails. That’s a decision production designer and co-producer Hanawalt made early on. "I’ve drawn a couple animal people with tails in my personal work, but it makes more sense to draw them without, and I’m not sure why,” she told Business Insider in 2015.
The only minor exception is in the season 2 episode “Escape From L.A.,” which features a scorpion—with its trademark stinger—as a prom DJ.
“So he’s got this big tail thing, but I rationalize it by saying it’s coming out of his upper back,” Hanawalt told Business Insider.
4. Michael Eisner signed off on BoJack Horseman.
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner's Tornante Company agreed to produce the BoJack 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.
5. 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.
6. BoJack Horseman's human characters were the hardest to create.
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."
7. Todd Chavez is one of the first openly asexual characters on television.
Todd Chavez is one of very few television characters to use the word asexual to refer to himself, a development some critics have described as revolutionary. Other television characters who openly identify as asexual include Brad, a background character in Faking It; Valentina “Voodoo” Dunacci in Sirens; Lord Varys on Game of Thrones; and Florence, a minor character in Netflix’s Sex Education.
8. Lisa Hanawalt takes inspiration from real-life fashion to design clothing for BoJack Horseman’s characters.
“I’ll often reference celebrities,” Hanawalt told Racked in 2017 of how she comes up with character's outfits. “Like Jessica Biel, who’s actually on the show—she has the best street style, so I look at what she wears a lot. There was this leather army green one-sleeved mini dress she wore that I definitely put on a character. And I recently drew a dress that Constance Wu wore to the Critics’ Choice Awards; I love her.”
Once, Hanawalt even put Princess Carolyn in the mint green Gucci dress Katy Perry wore to the 2013 Grammy Awards. To draw the characters who work at the fictional Manatee Fair, she turned to Prada for inspiration.
“That was crazy fun to draw, and I liked that they’re the opposite of model body types,” she told Racked. “It was fun to take runway fashions and put them on manatees!”
9. Yes, that was really Sir Paul McCartney's voice you heard on BoJack Horseman.
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 1, 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 2 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 BoJack creator 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.
10. Margo Martindale didn't know BoJack Horseman 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 BoJack Horseman, her husband discovered that someone updated her real-life Wikipedia page to read that she spent the last year in prison for armed robbery. “This is what your cartoon’s done for me,” Martindale told Arnett.
11. Some actors do double or triple voice duty on BoJack Horseman.
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.
12. BoJack Horseman’s writers love giving Amy Sedaris complicated tongue twisters.
Amy Sedaris’s character Princess Carolyn is often saddled with complex tongue twisters because the actress “hates them,” according to a Yahoo! interview with Bob-Waksberg. “She’s so annoyed,” he said “There’s a fun friction that comes out of her saying these words. Where you can almost get the sense that she doesn’t want to, but she has to, which gives it a fun charge.”
The writing team is fond of creating characters specifically for the purpose of inserting them into increasingly ridiculous word avalanches. In season 4, Amy Sedaris had several lines revolving around the fictional actress Courtney Portnoy, who portrayed “the formerly portly consort in The Seaport Resort” and “the thorny horticulturist in One Sordid Fortnight with a Short-Skirted Sorceress.”
“I enjoy doing it, and I enjoy making Amy do it,” Bob-Waksberg told Yahoo! “I think she secretly enjoys it too, even though she complains.”
13. BoJack Horseman’s running Zoe or Zelda 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.
14. Some of BoJack Horseman’s 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.
15. One BoJack Horseman 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. "I’ve seen every version of a Harry Potter joke and you guys wrote my favorite," Radcliffe told Bob-Waksberg.
16. BoJack Horseman’s creator doesn’t actually hate honeydew.
Bojack Horseman is very vocal about his hatred of honeydew, which the show refers to as the Jared Leto of fruits (“It is literally the worst part of everything it’s in,” one character explains). But Bob-Waksberg doesn’t actually mind it.
“I think good honeydew’s all right,” he told Yahoo! in 2017. “I hope this doesn’t destroy my credibility. I live in constant fear that people connect to the show because it’s such a sensitive and accurate portrayal of honeydew haters, and it’s going to come out that I myself am not a honeydew hater, and they’re going to tear me down.”
17. Raphael Bob-Waksberg thinks BoJack Horseman still has a few seasons left in it.
In an interview with Vulture, Bob-Waksberg was asked whether he was surprised when Netflix announced that season 6 would be BoJack Horseman's last; his answer was somewhere between yes and no."I thought we’d go a couple more years," he said. "But you know, it’s a business. They’ve got to do what’s right for them, and six years is a very healthy run for a TV show. Frankly, I’m amazed we got this far. So I can’t complain. I think if we premiered on any other network, or even on Netflix on any other time than when we did, I don’t know if we would’ve gotten the second season."