The Big Movies That Inspired That Underwater BoJack Horseman Episode

bojack horseman underwater fish out of water

Unless you've watched Netflix Original BoJack Horseman obsessively or have had fans talk to you about it obsessively, there's a good chance you're underestimating the emotional depth of the animated series. But not even the most hardcore fans could have anticipated the mostly silent brilliance of Season 3's "Fish Out of Water," which appeared on a majority of "Best of 2016" rundowns. As explained by supervising director Mike Hollingsworth, there were apparently two very different inspirations for the episode that came from popular feature films, and one is a tad more obvious than the other.

We just had so much fun getting really cartoony. We always viewed this episode like 'BoJack in Toontown,' like in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which is kind of funny because he's a cartoon but he went to a cartoon-ier place with different rules, just like when Eddie Valiant headed through Toontown. I know when Raphael started out, his initial direction was a Lost in Translation thing, but then the storyboarders and I took that and mixed it with Roger Rabbit.

If you told a million people to come up with a TV episode that had both Sophia Coppola's 2003 romantic comedy Lost in Translation and Robert Zemeckis' innovative 1988 classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as guiding forces, you would probably get a million ideas that look nothing like BoJack Horseman's "Fish Out of Water." It's immediately clear how those two cinematic gems led to their respective aspects of the episode's conception, but they aren't ones that fans would likely guess out of the blue (water). I also like that Hollingsworth's answer to EW offers a brief glimpse into how animated projects can completely change in some ways from the page to the screen.

Almost everything about BoJack Horseman bucks stereotypes, and this standout episode is the epitome of that conceit. While attending the Pacific Ocean Film Fest to promote Secretariat, BoJack heads underwater, where his diver's helmet blocks his attempts to communicate, which is fine since no one down there speaks his language anyway. Like both Bob Hoskins' Eddie Valiant and Bill Murray's Bob Harris, BoJack gets caught up inside a society that is alien to him, and since alienation and self-struggles are things this show handles expertly, the dialogue-free deep sea hijinks are beyond impressive, both from an emotional viewpoint and a technical viewpoint. Just like both movies, though Lost in Translation wasn't the most complex filmmaking challenge, I suppose.

It's such a departure from the rest of the series, going so far as to turn BoJack into a valid father figure, but it still holds true to everything the series is known for, including plentiful sight gags, interesting and oddball animals, and the ever-welcome presence of job whore Mr. Peanutbutter. If I can bring up one thing that absolutely sucks about both Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Lost in Translation, it's that there's no Mr. Peanutbutter.

bojack horseman fish out of water

You can currently watch all three currently released seasons of BoJack Horseman on Netflix - with Season 4 coming later this year - as well as the excellent standalone Christmas special. (Even though it's more than a week after the actual holiday, don't let that hold you back from watching.) Head to our 2017 Netflix schedule and our midseason premiere schedule to see everything else that's coming to TV in the near future.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.