MY TWO CENTS Archives

Don Hertzfeldt Animated Tonight's Couch Gag

I am a banana
America's greatest living independent animator Don Hertzfeldt (Rejected, Billy's Balloon, It's Such a Beautiful Day) is doing the couch gag for tonight's The Simpsons episode (the one where Krusty's dad dies).

Hertzfeldt had hinted at the project in his online journal a few times:

january 14 2014 meanwhile, a third secret project that i cannot possibly turn down has just made itself known
march 20 i'm about 70 seconds into a rough first pass on this little project i can't tell you about, but this one is an interesting creature because it's somehow the first time, bizarrely, that i find myself tasked with delivering something under a given running time. everything i've ever done has always been sort of the length it was, just because it was whatever the length it was. so i've been measuring seconds closer than usual and trying to keep every moment disciplined, finding a way to cram all of this information in under the wire, which is a good exercise anyway, and have been really kind of amazed at just how much information can be stuffed into one minute. i am now deep into the stage of not leaving the house or seeing other human beings for days again, having long conversations with the cat, feeding myself becoming as routine as feeding him, the computer room trash mostly filled with granola bar wrappers.
july 29 during my skype meeting today the cat walked around the house and threw up everywhere he could as i sat there watching helplessly

On his Facebook page, he advises you to turn the volume way up:

Look, I hate how these couch gags are these weird little clock-eating mini-epics now, and I think farming them out to other people is an admission of failure on the part of the Simpsons creative team who can no longer think of quick 5-second gags on their own, and the quality animation only serves to highlight how stiff and boring the actual show is by comparison. But I'm going to put that all aside for now, because Hertzfeldt is an all-time favorite artist of mine and I like to see him succeed.

[Cartoon Brew]

Bowl Taken

The Simpsons live show is over now, with far less casualties than the usual Hollywood Bowl event. In defiance of the rules, some audience members recorded it with their cell phones and cameras. Here's a video of the Friday show, which could be taken down at any time:

Dead Homer Society has some more videos of the Saturday and Sunday shows, but I'm not going to bother watching them.

Some observations:

  • "Unlike Seth MacFarlane, Matt [Groening] will not force you to listen to him sing" burnsauce
  • Whoever recorded this decided to leave it on for part of the intermission, but ran out of battery during Jon Lovitz singing the Planet of the Apes musical, and then somehow regained power immediately after. Okay...
  • Jon Lovitz is basically a more likable version of Ricky Gervais.
  • Host Hank Azaria got to live his greatest nightmare onstage because nobody told him a clip he was setting up was cut.
  • The Alf Clausen tribute seemed abrupt and a little at odds with the rest of the show's tone. Still, nice to see the Sideshow Bob motif get its due...
  • Conan O'Brien seemed energetic, but "The Monorail Song" isn't really much of a song, come to think of it.
  • "Do The Bartman" was really disappointing. Granted, it's hard to do the Bart voice while singing in front of hundreds of people with limited stage experience, while also trying to make sure you don't fall off the stage, but still...
  • Here's the weirdest thing: Harry Shearer (who generally doesn't agree to anything that's not in his contract because he feels cheated by Fox) apparently didn't give permission for his voice to be used in clips. So, twice they had to replace him with a "scratch" voice that's REALLY OBVIOUS AND WEIRD. Shearer also declined to do The Simpsons Ride, but his voice is still present in episode clips that play while you're waiting in line, so I don't know what the deal is.

Simpsons LEGO Episode Bankrolled by LEGO Company

armour hot dogs

Shocking news for Simpsons fans concerned about the artistic integrity of an episode based entirely around a name-brand product: it turns out The Simpsons's upcoming 30 minute LEGO commercial was partially funded and essentially proposed by The LEGO Group.

Entertainment Weekly casually mentioned The LEGO Group's financial stake in the episode in an interview with producers Matt Selman and Brian Kelley:

Lego helped pay for the episode. How much input did the company have into the creative side? I understand that there was a sex scene between Lego Homer and Lego Marge that they wanted to tone down.


KELLEY: Let's say we had a lot of fun with the Lego sex scene, and I'm not surprised that it was a little too risque. But we'll always treasure the memory. [Laughs] They were good partners. Our audience is slightly older than their audience, so they would occasionally have concerns, but all the words in the episode are ours. If they had an objection, which they did on very rare occasions, we'd find a way around it.

Good to know that a show with "a near-total absence of network interference" (virtually unheard of in the industry) is now taking notes from a toy company.

The Simpsons Still Doesn't Know What to Do About Mrs. Krabappel

Mrs. Krabappel
Mrs. Krabappel made her final speaking appearance last Sunday in an episode that also featured Sideshow Bob using animal DNA to obtain gills and stepping on a rake underwater. Spoiler: Ned Flanders is cursed, and his Vegas wife should fear for her life.

Other than that, the producers still aren't totally sure what to do about Bart's lack of a teacher:

So who will replace Mrs. Kabrappel [sic.] in the fourth-grade classroom? For the time being, no one. The rest of this season's episodes -- which already have been completed -- do not involve Bart with his teacher.

It appears they've already been removing her from classroom scenes. There's a recent episode where a still image of Groundskeeper Willie is just pasted in the background of a scene (I'm pretty sure he doesn't blink).

As for season 26, "we have some ideas," says Jean. "It's also possible both given the way the show works and the state of public schools there won't be a permanent teacher. We can get some great guest stars here and there before we settle on somebody. We're looking at it from different angles."
So, basically it'll be like the post-Steve Carell episodes of The Office, then. Great!

While my preference would be for the show to cease production immediately, my worthless, hacky suggestion is to just have Principal Skinner take over. It'd give the show more chances to focus on his adversarial relationship with Bart and, as a bonus, isolate him from his mother, who's easily my least favorite character. Meanwhile, Superintendent Chalmers would naturally become principal, since he's already at the school all the time anyway.

Either that, or it's finally time for Nameless Ponytail Teacher to step into the spotlight.

[Entertainment Weekly]

The Simpsons Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki Was 10 Years in the Making

Otaku My Wife... Please!
The Simpsons homage to legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki that delighted the internet a month or two ago was apparently ten years in the making:
The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean said his team had been trying to work in an homage to Miyazaki on their show for at least a decade, but the eventual episode -- in which Comic Book Guy marries a woman from Japan -- was well underway before the filmmaker announced his retirement.

In the episode, Homer gets drunk with the Japanese woman's father for no apparent reason, they have an anime dream because Japan, and the father realizes he should let his daughter be with Comic Book Guy because he sees his face on No-Face from Spirited Away. The whole sequence is rather disjointed from the rest of the episode, and the awkward attempt to justify its inclusion by making it the story's climax makes for a weird, lazy plot progression (problem → get drunk → problem solved). If the episode was created just so the writers could finally put in a Miyazaki tribute they'd been wanting to put in for over a decade, you'd think they could've worked it in better.

Oh, and Miyazaki hasn't even seen it.

[BuzzFeed]

Simpsons Showrunner Al Jean Vows To Kill Again

Al JeanSimpsons executive producer Al Jean, who in the past few years has killed off Homer's mom and the real Fat Tony for no real reason, has vowed to kill again, this time with more hype:

"We're working on a script where a character will pass away," he confirmed. "I'll give a clue: The actor who plays the character won an Emmy for playing that character. I won't say who it is."

Will nothing stop this man's insatiable bloodlust??

Now the guessing game begins, for this episode that likely won't air for another year! The Emmy clue doesn't really narrow things down, because five of the six main voice actors have won Emmys for their performances. That would mean Harry Shearer's characters are safe, but look at this scene and tell me they're not already dead.

The smart money is on:

Rabbi Krustofski (Jackie Mason): Krusty's estranged father, old, rarely appears, voiced by guest star, nowhere else to go with the character.

Jacqueline Bouvier (Julie Kavner): Marge's mom, old, rarely appears, difficult voice to do, death would keep viewers from noticing how Marge sounds exactly like her these days.

Just Stamp The Ticket Guy (Hank Azaria): Perhaps the most iconic character, death would bring guaranteed ratings.

Here's some characters that aren't likely to die but are being mentioned in other articles anyway:

Princess Penelope (Anne Hathaway): Krusty's wife. You didn't forget Krusty was married, did you? Or that he's still a Congressman? She's not a particularly memorable character, so why bother killing her off?

Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer): I doubt they would kill him off without a guarantee that this is the last season (still waiting on renewal, by the way). He's a costumed character at Universal Studios Florida and it seems weird to have him alive for The Simpsons Ride while dead in the series.

Mrs. Krabappel (Marcia Wallace): Are they heartless enough to kill off Ned Flanders's wife a second time? Bart would need a replacement teacher, and the show rarely (if ever) replaces a character... Gil is occasionally a lawyer for the Simpsons, but I wouldn't say he's a straight-up replacement for Lionel Hutz.

Fun fact: Comic Book Resources posted about this more than a week ago, but for some reason it's only just now trending, due to this Sun News article. It seems to use the exact same quotes, so either they sat on the story for a week or Al Jean robotically uses the exact same quotes every time he talks to the press... which is exactly the kind of thing a serial killer would do.

[Comic Book Resources]

Simpsons Does Harlem Shake, Because That's The Kind of Thing They Do Now

Harlem Shake! I still don't really know what the hell it is because I try to avoid these global phenomenon internet meme things like the plague. Sometimes a guy likes to preserve a little mystery and be blissfully unaware of all internet traditions, y'know? About a week after "Harlem Shake" starting creeping up on my radar I started seeing blog headlines declaring it dead, and I breathed a sigh of a relief that maybe it really did die before becoming a year-long "thing" like Gangnam Style ended up being and I wouldn't have to eventually learn what it is. But, of course, nothing can truly be dead until after Modern Simpsons has had their "take" on it. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you "Homer Shake."

Everyone Lost At The Oscars

Well, the Maggie Simpson short lost in its bid for an Academy Award, and the world was robbed of the opportunity to see director David Silverman's majestic beard. Here's a photopic of Silverman, Matt Groening, and writer Michael Price looking dapper on the red carpet (apparently Silverman and Groening didn't get the memo to wear this Maggie button):

Simpsons Producers Dig Up 20 Year Old Fanfiction, Plan To Air It

What do you do if you're a long-running show that's totally out of ideas? Do you scrounge up long-discarded episode ideas from the Trash Co. waste disposal unit and try to pass them off as new? What if you've completely exhausted that avenue? What's your next recourse? Well, if you're The Simpsons, you do the next best thing - scrounge up long-discarded fanfiction.

A little while ago, comedy movie king Judd Apatow told Slashfilm he wrote a fanscript for The Simpsons way back in 1990 after only five or six episodes had aired, which he described like so:

And what it was about was they went to see a hypnotism show and at the hypnotism show, they made Homer think he was the same age as Bart. And then the hypnotist had a heart attack. So now Homer and Bart became best friends and they spent the rest of the show running away because Homer didn't want responsibility and didn't want to be brought back to his real age. So I basically copied that for every movie I've made since.

Basically, All The Other Simpsons Websites Are Dying

Three big Simpsons fansites have gone offline just in the past month or so. Normally, I'd be ecstatic that three of my competitors have been knocked off in one fell swoop, but instead I'm perturbed. Is someone picking off Simpsons fansites? Who could it be? Why are they doing this? And who's next?

Back in the late 90s, Simpsons fansites were a dime a dozen. Some, like the character sites, had their niches, but most were pretty generalized, meaning they had a little bit of everything: some character bios, episode guides, some .WAV files, some grainy framegrabs that would occasionally rouse Fox lawyers into sending threatening letters to teenagers, maybe some fanart and reviews, and ever-popular "grabpics," which were framegrabs that were traced over in Illustrator or something and put on white backgrounds. But as time went on, webmasters grew up and moved on, the show got steadily worse, the dynamics of the internet changed, and the number of sites dwindled. That number dwindled even further this month as three Simpsons fansite fixtures met their frosty fate.

The Worst Upcoming Episode

simpsons brand new episodeCheck out this sneak peek preview of an upcoming episode from next season:

When Bart's love life heats up again on The Simpsons, it will involve an old flame or two. Actually, make that five. Not only will Zooey Deschanel guest-star on the animated comedy by reprising her role as Mary Spuckler -- that adorable hillbilly daughter of Cleetus [sic.] whom Bart nearly married in season 19 -- four other former girlfriends, voiced by Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Sarah Silverman, make cameos in the same episode, EW has learned.

This episode has it all: a hackneyed plot ripped off from romantic comedies, a bunch of guest stars returning to voice some of the blandest characters in the show's history (Girlfriend #4, Girlfriend #7, et al.), a clip show-like premise that emphasizes not only how long the show's been on but how repetitive and assembly line-produced it's been, Bart having what sounds like a midlife crisis at the age of 10, and a country song performed by Zooey Deschanel, who apparently played one of Cletus the slack-jawed yokel's daughter in some horrible-sounding episode I managed to avoid. Please end this show. [Entertainment Weekly]

Feeble Jab at Fox News Garners Big Press

The Simpsons appended this incredibly minor "jab" at Fox News to the rebroadcast of the first episode, Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire, which aired as part of Fox's twenty-fifth anniversary celebration Sunday night:

Congratulations FOX on 25 years... We still love you* (*This doesn't include Fox News)

Despite its severe lameness (We don't like Fox News! LOL!), it still got a bunch of press coverage from places like the Huffington Post (takes shot!), Hollywood Reporter (skewered! blasted!), and Zap2It (trashes!) ... and that was before professional pinhead Bill O'Reilly weighed in.

I can only imagine what font size they'd use for the headlines if the scene featuring CEO Rupert Murdoch in jail had aired today.

No, The Simpsons Don't Live in Oregon

SpringfieldLike a bunch of lemmings jumping off a cliff, just about every news outlet from CBS News to the E! network to the gadget blog Gizmodo to the New Yorker (!) to the Los Angeles Times to the FOX Network to local newscasts around the country has regurgitated the SHOCKING news that Simpsons creator Matt Groening had finally revealed the location of the fictional cartoon town of Springfield: his home state of Oregon. Except, uh, he didn't say that at all and you'd have to be severely incompetent at basic reading comprehension to think otherwise?

There Is No God: Simpsons Renewed Through Season 25

First things first: The Simpsons, after days of cancellation rumors amidst a fierce contract negotiation between the voice actors and Fox, has been renewed for not only Season 24 (2012 - 2013), but also Season 25 (2013 - 2014), despite those honest, upstanding Fox "anonymous sources" telling every news outlet within earshot they would only renew it for Season 24 "at most." That's right: Twenty-Five. Goddamn. Seasons. Five Hundred Fifty-Nine Episodes. Let's assume everything after Season 8 is bad. That means by the end of Season 25, the good seasons will comprise slightly less than 32% of the entire series. And this season just started two weeks ago, so we have a guaranteed three seasons of atrocious episodes to look forward to. Excuse me while I go stick my head in the oven.

Writing Outsourced to Shippers

Seddie by KarlaRockangelMy biggest beef with The Simpsons nowadays is how much it feels like fan fiction. Characters speak in the same stilted voice, their personality traits are either ignored or sacrificed so they can be crammed into a ridiculous situation, and storylines tend to revolve around shocking new revelations, origin stories, and pairing characters together. So I'm not surprised that the show is actually giving control to shippers.

This Sunday, after a new episode where Mrs. Krabappel (she and Mr. K should really get that divorce finalized) starts dating Ned Flanders, viewers will get to decide whether their relationship continues, in a half-assed attempt to generate "buzz." It's exactly like that Batman thing from the 1980s where readers decided whether Robin lived or died, except with "Nedna." Yes, they've already coined a name for it.

The Simpsons has a good track record of cleverly subverting their shameless stunts: Mr. Burns was shot by the least likely suspect; a fan-created character was killed instantly. But I highly doubt even a hilarious twist could salvage this desperate gimmick. Will it be a forgettable waste of time? Or will it be a forgettable waste of time? (Answer: It will be a forgettable waste of time.) [TVbytheNumbers]

Simpsons Momentarily Subversive

If you were one of the people watching The Simpsons last night (sucker), you may have noticed something a little different about the opening sequence!


The "couch gag," if one could call it that, was storyboarded and directed by the pseudonymous Britain street artist known as Banksy, whose distinctive graffiti has shown up across the UK and the US, and whose work has been auctioned off for millions of dollars to limousine liberal luminaries like Brangelina.

Showrunner-for-life Al Jean told the New York Times he seeked out the ostensibly underground (despite having a publicist) "art terrorist" and asked him, via a series of messengers, if he'd do the opening, later receiving the storyboards without ever meeting the mystery man. Although 5% was cut out by request of Fox Broadcast & Standards, Jean insists the final product was as close as possible to Banksy's original intention.

The response has been enormous - Banksy became a "Trending Topic" on Twitter last night (which is, like, super-important and stuff) and there are currently hundreds of news stories about it - which I'm sure makes up for the 29% decline in ratings from last week. It's to quantify these things, but I think it's safe to presume this will get more attention than other recent Simpsons "viral" stunts, from the godawful Ke$ha thing to the Itchy & Scratchy parody of Koyaanisqatsi (in the old days, The Simpsons usually generated buzz with actual episodes instead of context-free YouTube clips, but I guess that's the way things are now in the New Media Landscape).

How The Simpsons Could Go On Forever

Back in February, beloved Twitter user and occasional film critic Roger Ebert went on Oprah to show off his fancy new computer voice. In an article on the subject, Ebert went into detail about the technology used to create the voice:

One day I was moseying around the Web and found the name of a company in Edinburgh named CereProc. They claimed they could build voices for specific customers. They had demos of the voices of George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. (I amused myself by having them argue with each other.) In August 2009, I sent an e-mail to Scotland and heard back from Paul Welham, the president of CereProc, and Graham Leary, one of their programming geniuses.


They said they needed good quality audio to work with.

[...]

Before I lost my voice due to cancer-related surgery, I'd recorded commentary tracks for some movies on DVD: "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," "Floating Weeds," "Dark City" and, ah, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls." These tracks had been recorded separately from the movies, so they could be edited to fit scenes. They might be "pure" audio.

[...]

This began a back-and-forth process with CereProc, which had to transcribe every recording with perfect accuracy so they could locate every word.

What's stopping an unscrupulous Fox executive from harnessing CereProc's technology for evil, and ensuring The Simpsons continues forever, with no need for participation from the voice actors and their pathetic mortality? The engineers would have a lot of pure audio to work with: two decades' worth of episodes, video games, commercials and a movie, plus hours and hours of outtakes that are probably sitting in a Fox vault somewhere. Fox has made no secret of its disdain for the handomsely paid cast; during contract renegotiations in 1999, they were told they could be easily replaced by college kids. The show itself has used replacements occasionally - Marcia Mitzman Gaven was brought in to voice Maude Flanders, Ms. Hoover, and Helen Lovejoy after Maggie Roswell left the show, and in recent seasons Lunchlady Doris (voiced by the late Doris Grau) has been given speaking roles after more than a decade of silence.

Plus, if they start using cheaper Flash animation (like the exquisite Superjail!) and outsource the writing to a computer algorithm (which has already happened), Fox will have cut costs dramatically, thus making the show still profitable (did you know it costs like $3 million an episode??) despite its declining ratings.

HEY, IT COULD HAPPEN... MAYBE IT ALREADY HAS AND WE JUST DON'T KNOW ABOUT IT???

Simpsons To End Next Year

my two centsI'm going to go out on a limb and declare that The Simpsons will finally, mercifully end in 2011, after twenty-two seasons.

  • The show has yet to be renewed beyond the 2010-2011 season (season 22), so there's no guarantee there'll be a Season 23.

  • In November, the Animation Guild blog mentioned that the writers were working on "another thirteen episodes". Each production season, the last couple of episodes become the first episodes of the next season; these are called "holdovers." The current season (season 21) has eight holdovers - notice the production codes in this chart. Presumably, this means next season will also have eight holdovers, which when coupled with the aforementioned thirteen episodes will fulfill a complete season order of twenty-one episodes, with no holdovers for a 23rd season.

  • The show has been losing a million viewers each season for the past couple seasons with no end in sight. It often gets lower ratings than Family Guy. Each episode costs somewhere around $3 million. All of these must be major concerns for Fox executives... but then again The Simpsons is the sixth-highest earner on television, and makes like a billion dollars from merchandise and syndication, so ratings are probably irrelevant.

  • The 20th anniversary hoopla feels like a final victory parade to me, a last hurrah before they ride into the sunset. It's probably wise to end it while goodwill is high.

  • I just want to be right so I can look prophetic.

Sit Down, Shut Up Cancelled, Pretty Much

Sit Down, Shut Up, the recently-premiered TV cartoon on the Fox Network created by the creator of Arrested Development and produced by one half of the former Josh Weinsten/Bill Oakley Simpsons showrunning superteam, was pretty much cancelled (TV channels never actually say the word "cancellation" because it is like saying Voldemort, basically) in order to make room for the upcoming Family Guy spin-off about the black guy, which was picked up for a second season even though it hasn't even aired yet. Yes, the first episode of Sit Down, Shut Up (or SitShut, as those in the 'biz call it) was real bad, but it was getting better, yes/maybe/kinda?? Anyway, doesn't Seth MacFarlane already have enough cartoon shows, and also the whole Spawn thing? "Simpsons Spinoff Showcase" is becoming true except for Family Guy because nobody in the world watches The Simpsons anymore, and even less people are watching the new shows [SFGate]

Homer Votes For Change, Al Jean Becomes Showrunner-For-Life

In the opening of the upcoming annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode, Homer attempts to vote for Barack Obama, remarking that "it's time for change," but his EVIL ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE marks it as a vote for John McCain. A scuffle ensues, and the machine ends up killing him. (SPOILER ALERT: The previous two sentences may have contained spoilers).

In an eerie parallel, Al Jean has entered his eighth consecutive season of running the show, more than any other showrunner's "term of office" in the show's history. If his two years co-running the show with Mike Reiss during seasons 3 and 4 are taken into account, Jean will have been a showrunner for half the show's run by the end of this season. Is it time for change? Even Homer thinks so. [Wonkette]

Season 19: More Shit

Despite reports to the contrary, the next season is looking to be a continuation of the death spiral that was the past two seasons, if the Simpsons panel at Comic-Con is any indication. A look at what's to come:


  • Yet another Nelson episode: Really? Again? Who could have imagined that there would be so many goddamn episodes exploring the emotional life of the kid who says "haw haw?"
  • Another slam at the on-screen FOX advertising bugs:
    The panel was brought to a close with a clip from the upcoming season's Halloween episode. In it, Marge is decorating cupcakes that look like jack-o'-lanterns. She pokes fun at the fact that Halloween "was last week," but at the Simpsons' house they're still celebrating (a nod to the fact that the Halloween episodes never air on Halloween). While she's speaking, the American Idol "bug" pops up on screen. Marge is upset by this, grabs her Dust Buster and sucks the logo up. She tries to start speaking again, but the Fox Sports "bug" pops up and a bunch of mini-football players run out. Marge kills them with bug spray. Next, 24 (along with a mini-Jack Bauer), Family Guy (with mini-Peter Griffin) and House bugs (with mini-Dr. House) appear. Marge grabs Jack and sticks him to the fridge with a magnet. Next, she "blends" Peter to death with a cappuccino frother. Lastly, she grabs Dr. House, sticks him in the microwave, and blows him up. Cut to the family sitting at the dining room table and Marge walking in with fresh baked bread. "Dinner is served," says Marge. She slices off a piece of bread to reveal the various body parts of all these guys spelling out "Treehouse of Terror XVII."
    OK, it was kinda funny when Homer ate Joe Millionaire, but this is comedy cancer.
  • More character returns: This time it's Lurleen Lumpkin, the country singer Homer managed, and Sideshow Bob's brother Cecil, following in the footsteps of such other pointless Jean-era returning characters as Homer's Mother, Bob the RV salesman, Artie Ziff, and The Guy Who Originally Owned The Dog.
  • Al Jean is going to remain showrunner forever: Says No Homers Club poster elephant6rawk, who was there and asked them if they plan on replacing Jean as guy in charge of the show any time soon. There is no hope for The Simpsons.

[IGN]