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.
In news sure to excite lovers of brands, The Simpsons Brand Entertainment Franchise is joining forces with Sanrio's Hello Kitty, a Japanese anime cat who exists mostly as merchandise, which seems fitting. As the press release states, this HISTORIC collaboration is to "celebrate" two meaningless milestones:
Announced today, the two iconic pop culture brands are partnering to introduce a product line in 2014 in celebration of two milestone anniversaries: the 40th Anniversary of Hello Kitty and 25th Anniversary of THE SIMPSONS.
As a reminder, The Simpsons once insinuated Hello Kitty products were made from actual cats.
Apparently Sanrio will be making "supercute" versions of the Simpsons that will delight "fans of every age" to be sold alongside its other flagship characters Hello Kitty, Dear Daniel, Badtz-Maru, Chococat, and Mutated Panda.
Frankly, I'm disappointed The Simpsons didn't go with Lisa Frank. Maybe for the 30th anniversary?
[Fort Mill Times]
The Simpsons and Butterfinger brand chocolate bars had a long and fruitful endorsement deal - one that began even before the series started - generating over a hundred (!?!) commercials over a period of 13 years. Then, for unknown reasons, Butterfinger terminated the partnership in 2001. Not one to leave bridges unburned, The Simpsons poked fun at their former corporate partner in the 2002 episode Sweets & Sour Marge, as described in Chris Turner's book Planet Simpson:
In a Season 13 episode, the Springfield court imposes a total ban on sugar. A giant bonfire is built to burn all the sugary treats in Springfield, and some police officers attempt to throw a pile of Butterfingers onto the blaze. As they hit the fire, though, a sort of force field surrounds them, and they're thrown back, unburned. "Not even the fire wants them," Chief Wiggums notes ruefully.
A later episode, Half-Decent Proposal, featured the chalkboard gag "I will not bite the hand that feeds me Butterfingers," indicating Butterfinger was unhappy with the joke and made their displeasure known.
And so, for over a decade, Bart Simpson never so much as laid a finger on a crispety, crunchety, peanut-buttery Butterfinger. Spokespeople including Seth Green, Lou "Iron Man" Ferrigno, and Jaime Pressly were brought in as replacements for Bart, but things just weren't the same. Could those two bar-crossed brands ever reconcile and form a new advertising partnership?
Last season there was a Simpsons episode where Bart becomes a street artist with the help of special guest star Shephard Fairey, because it's impossible for a Simpson to develop a new skill without meeting the most famous people associated with that skill. Fairey's perhaps best known nowadays for making that weird Soviet propaganda-ish Barack Obama "Hope" poster in 2008, but back in "the day" his claim to fame was the OBEY Giant campaign where he'd plaster stickers or spraypaint images of deceased wrestler Andre the Giant (later redesigned to avoid copyright infringement) everywhere - without permission! - with the word "OBEY" under it, which may have provided the inspiration for such cultural touchstones as internet memes and Microsoft advertising. For the episode, The Simpsons cleverly "mashed up" Fairey's two pieces into a "parody" (using the term very lightly) featuring Homer's face and the word "Dope."
Anyway, the Associated Press sued him over the "Hope" poster (apparently they own the rights to Obama's likeness??) and won. Last September a federal court sentenced him to two years' probation and fined him $25,000. Now where's an avant-garde street artist supposed to get scratch like that??
Hey, uh, do you own that pair of slippers that look like Homer's face? Are you perhaps wearing them right now?? Well, you'll no doubt be thrilled to learn they were produced with state-sponsored Chinese slave labor.
Al-Jazeera has a 30-minute documentary on their site (use YouTube if it's not loading) that uncovers how China throws political and religious dissidents into prison camps and forces them to manufacture consumer goods. It specifically highlights these Homer slippers, which were manufactured in Nanjing Prison near Shanghai for the New Jersey company SG Footwear. The company claimed (via Fox for some inexplicable reason) "it has never knowingly utilized involuntary labor." Ha ha not only do they not deny it but they made their comment through a second company. Anyway, just something to think about next time your browsing the novelty slipper aisle at your local shoe store.
[Al Jazeera via Tumblr]
Remember a few months ago when everyone thought the fictional cartoon town of Springfield was in Oregon thanks to an egregious misunderstanding on the part of the media? Well, apparently tourists from AROUND THE WORLD have been flocking to the town, evidentially hoping to snap a few photos of their favorite cartoon characters in their natural habitat, at least according to some guy:
"I've had people from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland - they're coming here because this was declared Simpsontown, Springfield, the town of the Simpsons, so people are coming here," he said.
I don't really believe this guy, but if just one person from the other side of the world spent a thousand bucks to fly to America because of a misquote, that's one too many in my estimation.
Anyway, the guy in question put up a few tacky Simpsons statues in front of his yogurt shop, which is apparently the full extent of The Simpsons Experience in Springfield. It's been leaving tourists disappointed, because I guess they were expecting to see full-fledged Kwik-E-Marts or something? So now the yogurt guy is proposing the city take "just five or 10 blocks" and turn it into a Simpsons-themed shopping center. Now that'll get people excited! And by "people" I mean copyright lawyers.
[KVAL via Seattle P-I]
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post's headline mistakenly said "atom" instead of "at them." IN THE NEWS regrets the error.
The most critically underrated component of the enormous Simpsons media empire is the Radioactive Man spin-off comic book series occasionally put out by creator Matt Groening's Bongo Comics, which after 18 years is finally being collected in a deluxe hardcover anthology.
First, a little backstory. The premise of Radioactive Man is simple but ingenious: each issue was purported to be a random issue from the fictional comic book series' nearly 50-history, satirizing different comic book eras (Golden Age, Silver Age, etc.) and all the superhero conventions and gimmicks that come with it. There was initially a six-issue run in 1994, starting with #1 (mostly consistent with what we saw of it in the Simpsons episode "Three Men and a Comic Book") and ending with a Spawn-tastic #1000, followed by an "80 page colossal" the following year. A second run debuted in 2000, this time written by the remarkable Batton Lash, with a noticeable improvement in the artwork. Each issue also featured faux ads from the Simpsons universe and letters from readers playing along with the joke (however, the letters in the second series were all fictional; i.e. #222 features a letter from a young Marge Bouvier). Everyone at Bongo is a giant comics nerd (the first issue of Simpsons Comics is a Fantastic Four reference, for example) and Radioactive Man really let them go hog-wild, sort of like how The Critic allowed Simpsons writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss do all the movie parodies they wanted.
The Country of Iran has taken the unprecedented step of banning the foreign import of Simpsons dolls, thereby throwing a wrench in peace negotiations and putting the entire international community in mortal jeopardy.
Oh, sure, the Iranian Secretary for Policy-making at the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in Tehran (the Iranian equivalent of the IntelDevChiYA czar) claims they're doing it so as not to corrupt the morals of Iranian youth with Western depravity, but we all know the real reason: to strike back America for the tough economic sanctions we've been putting on them to get them to stop being so nuke-curious and weird. As we all know, the production of Simpsons crap is America's largest industry, and the loss of such a big market could really hamper our economic recovery and prolong the recession. This is Iran's way of letting us know they mean business. Diplomats are working around the clock trying to come up with an agreement, but have been met with resistance. Just yesterday, President Obama told NBC's Matt Lauer that "all options are on the table" with regards to the Simpsons ban; "I will not rest until every Iranian child has a Bart Simpson plush doll," the president vowed.
Simpson creator Matt Groening went to Egypt to check out the pyramid and he foolishly ignored all the hieroglyphic warnings and trespassed into the forbidden zone when all of a sudden The Mummy appeared and cast a big curse on him. As karmic retribution for all his brazen merchandising and capitalist crimes, Mr. Groening was turned into a piece of merchandise himself, how ironic. Now he is no longer human, he is just a doll and can't do human things anymore, rip.
OK but seriously now, for just fifty American dollars you can buy a toy version of the guy whose signature appears on all your other Simpsons toys. Here's what the solicitation says:
Created by legendary "Life is Hell" cartoonist Matt Groening, THE SIMPSONS is celebrating its 500th episode in February 2012, and Kidrobot is honoring the father of primetime animation in the only way we know how - making him into a 6-inch vinyl toy! Complete with goatee and glasses, director's jacket, and pad and pencil accessories, it is the first EVER Simpsons Matt Groening toy.
Essentially, if you cut out the middlemen, you can pay a guy money and he will give you a doll version of himself. This is so weird and messed up that I needed to lie down to fully contemplate the many levels of Meta this object encapsulates.
Simpsons Illustrated was an official Simpsons magazine that went on for 10 issues in the early 1990s. Each issue featured exclusive Simpsons comics, news, and pictures of people who worked on the show (Disclosure: the header and title of IN THE NEWS is an, er, homage to this magazine). It was the forerunner to Bongo Comics Group and the Simpsons Comics series.
In 1992, they did a special 3-D issue featuring a barbecue-themed comic with an interesting moment:
Yes, Lisa requested a vegetarian alternative three years before becoming a vegetarian in the 1995 episode "Lisa the Vegetarian."
Was this quick moment merely an indication of Lisa's multiculturalism and non-conformist personality? Was her character so predictable that it was assumed she'd eventually turn vegetarian? Was it simply to set up the use of a long prop, in this case a shish kebab, in order to take advantage of the 3-D gimmick? Or, more likely, did the writer of the comic have access to Simpsons episodes from the future, thus allowing him or her to retro-plagiarize "Vegetarian" writer David X. Cohen?
You can read the whole issue over at the astoundingly comprehensive Spanish Simpsons Comics blog Tebeos de los Simpsons, including an early comic version of the Hey Arnold! pilot.
Yeardley Smith, voice of Lisa Simpson, is launching a new line of designer shoes called Marchez Vous (that's French for "you walk") YS, with the goal of marrying comfort and style.
That's all nice and good... but can she compete with these kicks???
Smartphones! They're all the rage now! The iPhone, the Android platform, and the upcoming Microsoft Windows Live Zune Phone 7 Series are all beautiful mobile operating systems that have dramatically raised the bar for OH GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THIS
AHUJ9BLJ8qwuyr8913h9h31oKjklajsfas;; [AndroidZoom via Sx2]
Fox has released an official press release about the upcoming Season 20 DVD/Blu-ray, detailing the many bonus features that will come included with the $50 set:
- No audio commentaries
- A "sneak preview" for a Simpsons documentary scheduled to air 2 days before the DVD is released
New York Times senior art critic Roberta Smith wrote a blog post describing her fascination with the recently released Simpsons postage stamps:
The Simpson palette has always seemed as radical and subversive as the show's social commentary and close in artifice to that of innovative colorists like Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman and Matthew Barney. Five amped-up hues suffice: egg-yolk yellow, magenta, Marge-Simpson's-hair blue, darkened chartreuse and lavender, plus important bits of white (mainly eyes and teeth) and touches of red. Subtle distinctions of tonality are made. Homer's yellow head is seen against a slightly darker yellow background. Marge's hair is slightly darker than the blue behind Bart. Red defines only Homer's tongue, Maggie's pacifier, Marge's beads and the smidgeon of Bart's T-shirt.
Third, less is more. The "Simpsons" gestalt is boiled down to its essence and so is stampness. The images are stripped of detail except for the letters USA and the number 44 (cents, the new first class). No fussy engraved textures, no identifying names. This allows color to take over and the faces to pop out. Like a Richard Serra sculpture, only smaller and a whole lot cheaper, the stamps prove the adage that scale has nothing to do with size. They strike David-like blows against the Goliaths of American visual illiteracy.
Don't have a Nauman! [Arts Beat]
An autographed 2-foot cardboard cutout of Lisa Simpson (she's the girl one) is going to be sold off in a charity auction, hopefully not to some creep with a Lisa fetish, to raise money for Tibetan orphans. It was made an honorary member of a Tibetan center, for reasons that elude me. Godspeed, cardboard Lisa thing! [BBC News]
A set of five Matt Groening-designed Simpsons postage stamps, suitable for sending anthrax or tea bags to elected officials, will be on sale from the U.S. Postal Service starting May 7th. [AV Club]
TVShowsOnDVD.com wrote a bunch of words about the horrible DVD packaging of the equally horrible season 11. Here's an excerpt:
How would you get the discs out of such a tight space then? You have to reach in with two fingers and pinch the edge... making it virtually impossible to not smudge your fingerprints on the "don't touch!" side of the DVD. Also, it's a cinch that the discs will get scratched up sooner or later, inserting them and removing them this way since 100% of the disc makes contact with the cardboard. It's a travesty. [TVShowsOnDVD.com]
Better invest in News Corp. stock now!
Featuring arguably the most popular sitcom family in history, "The Simpsons" revolutionized not only the TV industry but also the TV licensing biz, with a wealth of quirky characters that have translated into a multibillion-dollar merchandising franchise.
To date, Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa, Maggie and their Springfield neighbors have appeared on everything from T's to pinball machines, raking in more than $5 billion worldwide. All told, the program involves more than 600 licensees.
If all goes as planned, the convenience store chain plans to refit 11 stores across the U.S. -- Richmond is an unlikely choice -- to resemble the front of the Kwik-E-Mart, the convenience store that Homer and other characters frequent in the classic cartoon TV series.
Customers also will be able to buy products inspired by the nearly two-decades-old show, including KrustyO's cereal, Buzz Cola and iced Squishees (the cup says Squishee, but the contents will be Slurpee).
Here's the best quote:
Spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said contracts on the promotions have not been signed with movie studios. She didn't give any further details, saying the company will release more information in coming weeks.
"We've done research, and research shows us that our customers like . . . movies, so we're getting involved with some major studios on some of their properties this summer," she said.
Wow 7-11 has a crack research department [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Some Simpsons Movie-related toys that are coming up are raising more questions than answers.
Not a huge surprise, as McFarlane Toys is best known for coming out with the best-looking action figures out there, so the announcement that they have been tapped to support the release of THE SIMPSONS MOVIE on July 27th, with a line of intricately detailed action figures, was good news all around. The characters will feature incredible character detail (see below), but also a voice-chip technology, which will allow them to "speak" exclusive dialog from the film. Each figure comes mounted to a customized base, and, as an added feature, the "Movie Mayhem" line of figures come with interlocking bases so the figures can be combined to create one large scene. The line will include a 6-inch figure line and three boxed sets.
There's a boxed set entitled "What you lookin' at?! Bart, Ned Flanders and Top-Secret Character (??????)" and two special sets, one featuring Itchy & Scratchy and the other entitled "Doodle Double Dare" (?????????????). Click here for a picture of a pig. [JoBlo]
Not to be outdone by TVs that look like Spongebob, Samsung has made some cell phones with The Simpsons Movie logo plastered on them, which probably also come with some annoying Simpsons ringtones. According to the reporter, "if done right, these have the potential to be the geek phone of the year." He probably should have waited a day before making such a pronouncement. [The Inquirer]
The Simpsons Mobile: Coming soon, Jamba will exclusively offer mobile content from the popular FOX series, The Simpsons, through the industry's first subscription package tied to exclusive content called the "Yellow Plan". Available to consumers for the first time, the "Yellow Plan" will include an array of uniquely designed Simpsons mobile content, such as wallpapers, screensavers, ringtones and video.
SOUNDS EXCITING!!!!!!!!!! [splashphone.com]