Posts Tagged ‘The Simpsons Movie


Crazy Noises: The Fool Monty

Simpsons Movie Pie Chart

In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for Season 22.  Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom.  Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on  “dickey”).

I’ve linked the above graph before, and I couldn’t help but think of it when “The Fool Monty” did that rather half assed dome reference toward its ass end.  That graph neatly sums up the general opinion on the movie, and if anything the SpiderPig slice is too small.  What I especially like about this is that it exposes the movie for the cheap, forgettable ninety minutes that it was.  

One of the hallmarks of paint-by-number, chum bucket studio comedies is when they have just one or two decent jokes (which are often flogged to an early death in the trailers).  In this case, it was a single iteration of a pig that had three of them, and only that because of the song that accompanied it.  If Harry Potter had a catchy 60s cartoon theme they could’ve played off, that graph would read differently. 

But that isn’t what Zombie Simpsons brought back in their little meta-joke about how little sense the movie made.  They brought back the dome that no one cared about, and then they tried to play it as though they were sending themselves up.  The cultural ignorance that displays is impressive in some way and unintentionally funny in another, but neither does them any credit. 

On account of Thanksgiving we were a man short again, though this time it was Mad Jon.  In the spirit of being thankful, I assume that he is. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Well then, let’s get this over with quickly, shall we?

Dave: Please, let’s.

Charlie Sweatpants: On a scale of one to the largest prime number yet discovered, what the hell was that?

Dave: That was maybe a -8.

  I err on the side of caution lest I seem biased or anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think there’s any way to be objective about that thing. They took perhaps the easiest character to write for in the entire list of characters, made him act pathetic, then brainwashed him into some kind of plaything, then they made him pathetic again.

Dave: Yeah the plaything bit was borderline demented, even by ZS standards.

  A, it’s implausible. B, it went on for what seemed like 4/5ths of the episode.

  So I suppose that’s actually par for course, who am I kidding?

Charlie Sweatpants: Burns isn’t off the hook either, though. Even when he was still himself he wasn’t actually himself.

Since when would C.M. Burns, a man who’s cheated death countless times and once, when he faced death, responded by kidnapping a child so that his evil would live on, when would that man kill himself?

Sorry, I’ll stop ranting. It’s just that the suicide thing really pissed me off. And then it didn’t end. It went on for like thirty seconds.

Okay, now I’ll stop ranting.

Dave: No, you’re right though. They ran with the essential bits of Burns but left out the irrevocably evil and selfish part

  Which, you know, is kind of the point of Burns.

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much. On slightly (very slightly) less dismal ground, the B-plot, while timid and about five years too late, had one or two things that were okay.

Dave: Go on.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the Dick Cheney business card that said "architect of America’s downfall" and the joke about stacking naked men (which are right next to each other) were decent.

Dave: I actually thought the Fox news chopper was timely.

Charlie Sweatpants: I enjoyed the opening. As usual it was a little off, but the whole yelling at NBC joke was pretty good (though it didn’t need repeating).

The same with the FOX chopper joke. "Not Racist, But #1 With Racists" was good. But then there was that really strained "fair" and "balanced" joke.

Dave: Yep, they couldn’t leave well enough alone.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole scene had those problems. Things just went on a bit too long here and there. Still, it was easily the best thing so far this season. That isn’t saying much, but it’s there.

Dave: Word.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was also better than the Cheney thing, to get back there for a second. Like I said, I liked the card and the torture joke, but then when they actually got to him it was pretty much a let down. His evil was about as lame as Burns in this episode.

Dave: Again, my point earlier stands, they couldn’t really leave well enough alone.

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed with that.

Dave: The whole Smithers needing purpose thing has been done before and better.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, this wasn’t repeating things so much as it was just really soft and lame.

  But a few enjoyable pokes at our dark overlords aren’t enough to make up for the rest of the episode.

Dave: Right.

Charlie Sweatpants: And I don’t think they realize that twice going meta on yourself (once for Homer’s limited imagination, the other for the worthless return of the dome) stopped working for them fourteen seasons ago with Roy.

Dave: Jesus. Fourteen.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah.

Dave: I mean, it’s not like that’s a revelation or anything.

  But it’s not often that I think about how much time has actually passed.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s not so much the time as it is the change in culture. When they did it in Season 8 the general feeling about the show wasn’t that it was over the hill. Now, in lightly making fun of themselves, they make themselves look stodgy. Like Krusty with the flapping dickey.

In other words, when they bring the dome back (in a stretch for that Stephen King joke), it’s not like people loved the dome and they’re saying something counter-cultural. They’re just referencing themselves with the kind of gentle dead weight humor you hear at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

  It’s obligated humor, which makes it dull.

Dave: I wish I had something to add to that, but I don’t, and you’re absolutely right.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else? I want to go watch good cartoons.

Dave: You should, because that’s what I’m about to do


“The Simpsons Movie” Makes Baby Jesus Cry (Part 2)

Itchy and Scratchy and Marge4

“No, make it a pie. Pies are easier to draw.” – Itchy & Scratch Animator
“Okay, a pie.” – Roger Meyers Jr.

After spending roughly seven weeks in the optical drive of my laptop, The Simpsons Movie is finally in the custody of the United States Postal Service and on its way back to Netflix.  (Which means “Lies Make Baby Jesus Cry” should start for Season 13 in the next few days.)  The second commentary was done by some of the animators and directors of the film, and while there is some interesting information in here, mostly it’s a blur of two ideas.

The first is, and coming from the other commentary this is no surprise, that there were many, many different versions of almost every scene. The constant reactions and overreactions to test screenings meant that lots of things that had already been animated were scrapped, and whole new sequences were jammed in, up to and including at the last minute.

The second is the term “beautifully animated” and variations thereof. Whatever else may be said about its timidity, its over-reliance on physical comedy, and its complete lack of anything that could be called a coherent story, The Simpsons Movie has a distinct and colorful look to its animation that served it well. This is, in many places, a very pretty film, and the animators are justifiably happy with how their work turned out.

The commenters here are David Silverman, Mike Anderson, Steve Moore, and Rich Moore. Since they don’t pause the movie, and since there’d be no point in my noting the many times they mention a specific animator and compliment their work, this one is a lot shorter than Part 1. So let’s get to it.

0:50 – Discussing Scratchy’s entrance, the animators were also looking for a big laugh when the audience recognized the character.

3:45 – Pointing out that all of the audience is made up of regular characters, no generic animations.

4:30 – More discussion about how many times all of these things got redone.

5:15 – Discussing another thing that got cut by test audiences: “It looked really good, and um, nobody laughed.”

7:00 – Discussing all the different people who did animation and layouts at two different studios.

12:00 – At this point I’m beginning to wonder if there’s use in doing this for the animation commentary. Basically they’re just mentioning who did a specific animation or background along with the occasional mention of whether or not something was redone after test audiences did or did not like it.

15:00 – Further underlining how much they got away from their usual editorial independence, someone asks how this was different than animating the show, and the answer is that they had to keep redoing things on account of rewrites.

18:30 – Here they’re discussing how they do transitions between all the completely unrelated scenes.

19:00 – Everybody loves Spider Pig.

19:45 – When they’re having Krusty, Cat Lady and Moe dump things in the lake, there was originally going to be a trunk labeled “Sperm Bank”, and then it would dump out furniture as a head fake. Just another example of things getting taken out that were more creative than the ones that got left in.

21:00 – The Fat Tony body dumping joke nearly got cut.

23:00 – This is about the third time they’ve mentioned that they had to make Homer less of a jerk. That’s right, he was even more Jerkass Homer earlier.

26:00 – Discussing Cargill, they had done a lot of revisions on his character and backstory, for two days it was going to be Hank Scorpio before none other than Albert Brooks talked them out of it.

28:05 – Once the dome is down they pull back for a wide shot of it, and if you look on the right you’ll see that the stadium is half in, half out of the dome. That’s because their used to be a joke about a baseball game half in, half out. (It’s on the deleted scenes.)

29:00 – Really glad they aren’t pausing the movie.

29:10 – More discussions of how many different Cargills there were.

30:00 – Springfield disappearing on the GPS had several fully animated sequences before it just became a little blip on the map.

31:00 – Long discussion about what the dome would look like and the reflections therein.

32:45 – Much talk about the massive pain that was the first shot with the mob and all the things they had to keep sending back to Korea to get reanimated.

34:00 – More discussion about the hands punching through the door. Jean talked about that on the other commentary, and, really, it was that much of a production?

34:30 – They cut out a scene where Lovejoy had gotten the mob to set the house on fire, which explains why the whole thing is on fire when Marge runs into it before they escape.

37:15 – The house going into the vortex on the sinkhole had so many people working on it that even these guys (for the most part) can’t remember who did what.

38:50 – As the family runs into the cornfield, they comment on how nice the corn looks before we find out again that something got cut here. Which is why this whole thing just disappears without explanation.

39:20 – Cargill’s line about going mad with power was one of the first things they animated (albeit with the original Cargill model instead). The line when it was Hank Scorpio: “You’re giving me that look. I know that look. You think I’ve gone mad with power.”

40:15 – Long discussion about how many things in the motel scene got changed, over and over.

43:00 – Oh, it’s my favorite scene, where Homer rides the motorcycle in the little ball. Not that any was needed, but we now have more confirmation that this thing was shoehorned in at the last minute.

44:50 – They did the doodles Bart does on the wanted poster in one day. It was just someone doodling and they used it.

45:45 – The token scene at Burns mansion was done Jonathan Demme style with everyone looking straight at the camera.

48:00 – They had a guy who worked for Don Bluth do the Disney animals that do the intro to the sex scene.

50:30 – The five plans Cargill presents was originally going to be a mystery box.

51:00 – Very half assed defense of the final quality of the film after all the rewrites. Someone actually uses the term “trust word”. Is that like “safe word”? Because BDSM is as good a metaphor as any for the perverse pain of this movie.

52:00 – Discussing Homer disappointing Marge and the family about going back to Springfield and how it was originally even worse, at one point the family attacked Homer and he had to dive out the window.

54:35 – Complimenting Kavner’s performance in the video tape scene that was discussed on the other commentary.

56:40 – The transition to the NSA building is yet another thing that used to be a lot longer.

57:30 – Talking about all the ins and outs and doubts about Homer’s hallucination.

58:35 – Unlike the writers, the animators actually have something to be proud of about the hallucination scene.

61:20 – Homer’s staggering through the snow is based on David Silverman acting it out in his office (without snow, of course).

62:30 – When Homer’s focusing his eyes like they were binoculars, one of the editors didn’t get it. He thought the binoculars were missing.

64:45 – Just like on the other commentary, they’re discussing the massive entrance scene they had planned for when the family wakes up in the dome.

68:00 – Now that we’ve gotten back to the dome, there are several discussions about things that they cut out, and a lot of those were animations that made things make a bit more sense, continuity wise.

70:30 – Long discussion about the police robot that commits suicide.

73:15 – They wanted to make the dome appear as big as possible.

75:20 – It was one of the animator’s ideas to include the ambulance on the gorge.

77:35 – In the background during the crowd celebration scene, Carl is acting like Lando Calrissian at the end of Return of the Jedi. I did not notice that.

79:00 – We’re in the credits now, and the little scene with Burns and Smithers was originally in the movie but got cut.

79:30 – More about how the Spider-Pig thing got bigger on account of Hans Zimmer.

82:25 – They’re still talking over the credits, but it’s mostly just shout outs to the names on the screen and discussion about how much work and or fun it was.

83:15 – Final interesting note: they decided to go with super widescreen instead of 1.85:1 very early after only a few test drawings.


“The Simpsons Movie” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou4

“Well, you know what? I’m glad you’re nervous, because that means we’re on the right track!” – Herb Powell

Several weeks ago I came across bobservo’s post about The Simpsons Movie commentary in which he described how the creators of the movie basically focus grouped it into oblivion. There are two commentary tracks on the disc and, having slogged my way through the all-star one (Brooks, Groening, Jean, Castellaneta, etc.), I have to agree with him. The commentary reveals another problem as well, one that resulted from all that focus group feedback, but we’ll get to that in a second. First, the timidity, then the horrible damage it did.

Both The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons are famous for their lack of network/studio interference; whatever their respective merits, both shows are the product of a group of people who thought A was funny and B was not, the outside damn world be damned. According to the commentary, that famous independence was completely abandoned during the creation of The Simpsons Movie. Rather than the writers writing, the actors acting, the animators animating and letting chips fall where they may, a partially completed version was repeatedly shown to test audiences, and everything was redone based on their reactions. The fickle minds of Sally Housecoat and Eddie Punchclock so terrified the powers that be that they nervously offered up whole new scenes and endings based on the reactions of a few dozen people in Tempe and Portland. For a show that once prided itself on doing what it wanted without interference, this is an unsurpassable capitulation.

The result of all that bowing and scraping is a fractured movie. Scenes and characters were added and removed willy nilly such that the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Movie Goes Oops For example, halfway through the movie the family finds itself basically teleported to a carnival so Homer can ride a motorcycle in a big metal ball. Seconds prior to being at the carnival, they were holed up in a hotel room, hiding from a massive police manhunt. There’s no scene of them traveling to the carnival, nor is any reason given why they would want to go there. They’re in the hotel and then – poof – they’re at the carnival.

While at the carnival, no mention is made of the police chasing them, nor are they at all concerned about being seen by a crowd. The entire story the movie was telling has been dropped so that Homer can ride a motorcycle. Why does Homer ride a motorcycle? Because he rides one at the end and they need to establish that motorcycle riding is something Homer can do. According to the commentary, they originally had no scene to establish that, and they crammed in the carnival as a patch job when somebody noticed. The next time we see the family, the police chase is back on and they’re once again running for their lives as though the carnival scene had never happened.

The commentary is littered with moments like that, where a line was given to a different character or something was removed or added with only minimal regard to what that did to the rest of the movie. Test audiences and rewrites had them so tied up in knots that the script was never finished; things were being taken out and put back right up to the end. This movie feels like a creaking mass of parts barely held together by spit and string because that’s exactly what it is.

Now comes the inevitable “to be sure” statement, and here it is. To be sure, there are good jokes in The Simpsons Movie, some survived the test screenings, fewer were a result of them. But whatever can be said of this movie, good or bad, it was not made the way The Simpsons was made. It was made… tentatively. There was neither confidence nor verve in its creation; the script was passed around and vetted until it resembled refrigerator instructions. There are bits and pieces that work, but taken as a whole it is a jumble, and heaven help you if you try to make sense of it from start to finish. Worst of all, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before: put things inside, make them cold – hit Homer in head, make Tempe laugh.

Commentary #1 has James Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Scully, David Silverman, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith and Richard Sakai. As if to further prove how slapdash this effort was, Sakai is not listed on the DVD menu as one of the commenters. Maybe he was left off intentionally. Then again, maybe they just didn’t care.

1:20 – First mention of the test screenings, and it’s very revealing. They were talking about what to do with the Itchy & Scratchy opening, and how they expected that as soon as people saw Scratchy they would be clapping and cheering just because they recognized the character. No one slapped their fins together at the first test screening though, and they seem surprised by this. Is it any wonder this show runs on nostalgia fumes? They thought people would cheer out loud just because they saw a character on screen!

1:40 – They’re recording this before the movie came out.

2:20 – This should come as no surprise, the end of the cartoon, with Scratchy getting filled with missiles, came very late in the process.

3:30 – Green Day was coincidental, they just happened to want to be on the show when they were trying to pick a band for the opening. They’re laughing about how they could’ve plugged in any band here.

4:45 – The church sign says “Thou Shalt Turn Off Thy Cell Phone”, the alternate was “Stolen Bible Amnesty Day”.

5:45 – First time pausing the movie. Ugh, this is going to go on for a while. Marge was originally going to be the one spazzing out in church, not Grampa.

8:15 – Discussing how widescreen means they can cram more stuff into the background. This reminds me of nothing so much as “Phantom Menace” when the fact that every shot had a bunch of crazy crap going on in the background was considered an unalloyed good.

9:00 – Someone compliments Castellaneta on his performance of Grampa speaking in tongues. Castellaneta seems taken by surprise, I don’t think he was paying attention.

9:30 – The scene in the car with Grampa in the rug was endlessly rewritten.

10:45 – As Homer and Bart are on the roof, someone says “With this movie, for better or worse, everything done is crucial. Everything is either setting up a joke, paying off a joke, or giving you information you have to have.” That seems a rather grand assessment.

11:45 – They’re very pleased with themselves for having Homer fall through the roof instead of off the roof. Truly, creative genius at work.

12:30 – More about how many rewrites they had to go through, this time in regards to the scene with Lisa going door to door.

12:45 – Continuing in the same vein, they initially had Lisa and Milhouse getting together, but test audiences weren’t familiar with Milhouse’s longstanding crush on her.

13:45 – A lot of things changed between the test screenings in Portland and Phoenix.

14:25 – Discussing the little banner at the bottom of the screen to advertise a fake FOX show, they originally had it a bit crueler, “What are you going to do, entertain yourselves? Don’t make us laugh.” But that got shot down. At least one person here, I can’t tell who, sounded a little mournful about that getting bumped for safer material, “I was hoping to take a chance with it.”

15:15 – Very pleased with themselves for managing to show Bart’s dick.

16:25 – Still laughing at how cool they were for keeping in the nudity. Nevermind that Bart is handcuffed to a pole for some reason.

16:35 – Rewrote the whole handcuffed to the pole scene after the original “didn’t work”.

17:15 – Now Bart’s getting humiliated in the restaurant and they’re going on and on about how they toned this down. In the original, Homer was even less likable here. Test audiences to the rescue!

17:45 – Apparently it was a lot “coarser” originally and just kept getting toned down.

18:30 – They went through lots of designs on the pig. I’m sensing a pattern here.

19:00 – Yeardley Smith just showed up.

20:10 – Al Jean (I think, might be someone else) is talking about how this schmaltz (he uses the words “sweet and deep”) with Bart looking enviously into the Flanders house while Homer cuddles the pig is his favorite scene. Someone else then cracks that it’s a good time to go for popcorn. First time I’ve laughed.

21:20 – Homer getting electrocuted while biting the fish survived years of rewrites.

21:45 – Test audiences love Flanders cocoa preparation.

22:00 – Spider-pig was a late entry.

25:00 – Apparently both David Silverman and Richard Sakai left. I, uh, didn’t notice.

25:10 – The computer animation technology they used was very new. They didn’t think that even a few years ago they could’ve done as many rewrites after test audience reactions. They used Wacom Cintiq tablets to do quick story reels, which were brand new at the time. Here’s a YouTube.

26:30 – Discussing the silo, they had long arguments about how many euphemisms for “shit” they could come up with and whether or not they could call it “crap”.

27:30 – As Homer drives up to the lake to dump the silo, there are a bunch of signs that say “No Dumping”, and one with Hans Moleman saying “You Suck”. They had a lot of other signs there, but they all got dropped. No explanation is given, but I choose to chalk it up to continued desire to make this as bland (and profitable) as possible.

28:30 – Talking about the squirrel with all the eyes, originally there were lots and lots of creatures, but audiences didn’t know what was happening at the end, and so they dropped it. Hence, the “thousand eyes” thing from Grampa’s rant doesn’t work.

29:45 – Went through a lot of designs for Russ Cargill (a/k/a Not Hank Scorpio), to the point that Burger King had the wrong design made into toys.

31:15 – They stopped playback at the point where the dome is coming down and the church people run to Moe’s and the Moe’s people run to church. According to them this was one of their favorite jokes, they all loved it, and yet they were going to ax it until, you guessed it, one test audience finally laughed at it.

31:45 – We’re still paused here and this deserves some more attention. They had to make the sign at Moe’s say “Moe’s Bar” instead of just “Moe’s”. There’s some crosstalk, but you can hear Jean (again, I think it’s him, not sure) in the background saying that they did that in case people didn’t know what “Moe’s” was. That ought to tell you everything you need to know about the mentality behind this production. They’ve dumbed it down to the lowest possible level out of what can be roughly described as total audience paranoia.

32:00 – Now comes the obligatory, “The church isn’t next to bar!” rag on the “die hard” fans who won’t like that. It goes on for thirty seconds and someone even mentions No Homers.

32:35 – Getting into more of the cut jokes, as the dome is coming down they originally wanted Burns to pop in and say that at this point you can no longer get your money back. They were afraid people might not realize that it’s a joke and actually ask for their money back. Wow.

33:10 – Mildly interesting trivia point: Edward Norton came in and did a Woody Allen impression for the guy who gets crushed by the dome, but they dropped that too.

34:15 – The dome has come down, and they’re aware of how much pointless exposition they now have to get through. But putting the screen in the dome made it “interesting” enough, according to them.

34:45 – The “trapped like carrots” line was a Swartzwelder joke that lasted from the first draft.

36:00 – They had some writers from the show come in late and do a lot of the lines for Albert Brooks. They’re the ones listed as consultants after the credits.

37:20 – Talking about all the writers who aren’t here for the commentary. Meanwhile, the crap silo is being lifted and the movie is steadily getting worse. Long silence.

39:00 – Talking about how tough the big crowd shot was to do. Needless to say, they cut jokes about three times after the audiences didn’t laugh.

40:15 – The scene with the arms breaking through the door was a late entry as well because they “could never get a great joke for these arms coming through”. Oh, we know.

40:45 – As the Simpsons are being driven out of their home and are fleeing over the wooden board to Flanders’ house, there is much discussion about how things were changed even after the animation was done, and how they had to keep at it because a lot of the jokes just didn’t work.

41:20 – “I just love Marge’s hair burning like a q-tip, and she calmly shakes it off.”

41:30 – Odd discussion about how they didn’t want to make Homer too much of a jerk. Huh? This is him not being too much of a jerk?

42:30 – The treehouse scene was actually worse in earlier drafts where they had lots of other things going back and forth during the mob scene.

43:10 – They were surprised the censors let Homer use his middle fingers. That was one of the few things I actually laughed at in the theater.

44:50 – The little moment that Lisa and Colin share was originally Bart and Flanders with Bart mooning the dome and it turning into a heart shape. But people thought it was weird. The test audiences may not have been a bad idea after all.

45:50 – The “gone mad with power” joke, which is maybe the best line in the whole movie, is the one they used to test the foreign language auditions for Not Hank Scorpio.

46:30 – The two policemen kissing and falling into the hotel got cut in Singapore. Now you know.

47:25 – The motel scene, as Marge and Lisa and Maggie are scolding Homer, was rewritten more than almost anything. Despite that it still ended up “burdened with a ton of exposition that has to get in.” Alaska wasn’t even in the movie for the first two years of the script.

48:30 – “The original idea was that Homer wanted to go to Homer, Alaska.” It’s really getting weird on the commentary, they’re recounting all the different rewrites and dead end ideas they eventually discarded or worked into the movie. I think they can tell they kinda went off the rails and this list of justifications just reinforces that.

49:45 – And – wham! – we’re at a carnival where Homer is going to ride a motorcycle for some reason. The list of equally terrible alternatives continues, at one point they were going to be on some kind of clown try out show. No wonder this film feels like disjointed nonsense, that’s how it was put together.

50:30 – “The lesson of editing this film was definitely getting from point to point quickly, and not laboring, and not making it look like a new film was starting.” Let’s consider that comment, they realize that they have a bunch of unrelated scenes that have nothing to do with one another. Instead of trying to justify them or weave them into a coherent story, their solution was to jump from one unrelated thing to another as fast as possible.

50:55 – The whole carnival scene was kept in because originally they hadn’t set up that Homer could ride a motorcycle, which they needed him to do at the end. For a while they didn’t have any set up for their ending.

51:30 – The scene at Moe’s where every thing gets stolen was another late, unrelated addition.

52:00 – The drawn out joke where Marge doesn’t want the attendant to see the wanted poster comes in for some heavy, preemptive defense here. This was, I think, not a unanimous winner among the writers.

52:40 – The cut to Burns house leads to another round of “Oh this scene was a pain!” and how they didn’t have anything that really worked. Some of these really feel less like explanations than justifications.

53:30 – Talk of which stuff is computer animated and which isn’t.

54:00 – They really had a bug up their ass to send the family to Alaska, and they went back and forth a ton on why they were there.

55:15 – The whole point of the long, drawn out throwaway avalanche scene was to get Bart and Lisa out of the house so they could have a sex scene. These guys can’t write their way around a problem in less than thirty seconds of screen time.

57:15 – After a long discussion of how they had a hard time coming up with a reason for the people in Springfield to riot against the dome (really? they riot all the time), they decided that the audience would be really focused on the family. That lead to this damning self indictment, “We really wanted to write this movie for people who weren’t that familiar with the Simpsons.” Which prompts someone else to reply, “We found out we got no free laugh when a character said, ‘Oh that’s that character, it’s good to see them in the movie’.”

In those two sentences lies the root of why this movie sucks. They wrote a movie that didn’t try to appeal to fans because their earlier attempts to appeal to fans fell flat. Why did those efforts fail? Because they were using single test audiences whose main sin appears to be not laughing uproariously when a known character simply appeared on screen.

58:00 – Silence as the plot to blow up Springfield commences in the President’s office.

58:40 – They selected Tom Hanks because they thought he was the most trusted celebrity in America.

59:30 – Pretty much ignoring Homer’s freakout and Bart’s taunting of him and talking about the background animation.

60:15 – They actually think they’re keeping Homer from being a jerk as he walks out on his family.

61:10 – At one point they had Homer riding a moose. Like you do.

61:40 – Kavner had to do a ton of takes for Marge’s videotaped farewell to Homer before they finally decided that she nailed it.

63:20 – We’ve paused again as Homer floats away on the iceberg. Castellaneta describes doing Homer’s voice nowadays as “physically exhausting” because there’s so many emotional changes and “lots of yelling”. He should have some pull with the writing staff by now, maybe he could do us all a favor and see if he can get them to make Homer yell less.

64:20 – Castellaneta’s still talking, this sounds like Behind the Actors studio (such a pleasure to work with X and Y). Somewhere, the disembodied spirit of James Lipton is smiling.

64:30 – Yeardley Smith chimes in with this interesting little factoid. She’s talking about how recording this was like the early years of the show when it would take about eight hours to get all the voices recorded; now they’ve got it down to about four.

65:30 – Smith’s going on about putting emotion into cartoons and what a great character Lisa is. Meanwhile, the movie is still paused which means we’re not advancing towards the end at all.

66:15 – Right after discussing how improbable it is that Marge would ever leave Homer, they talk about how they were really going for a gut slamming moment with this breakup. Nobody noticed that those two statements are contradictory. Also, movie still on pause.

66:40 – Oh hell, the seconds are going slow, literally. While it’s on pause like this the timer is moving at about one half speed, which means this pause hasn’t been three minutes, it’s been more like six. C’mon, unpause . . . unpause . . .

67:00 – They’re just filling time now, except that there’s no need to because it’s paused. All they’re doing now is congratulating one another.

67:30 – I keep expecting this to end, and it keeps not ending.

67:40 – Thank fuck, we’re moving again.

68:00 – As the polar bear menaces Homer for no reason, they’re discussing how the upcoming “epiphany” scene is one of the “biggest problems” in the movie, “audiences had a hard time with it, we had a hard time with it”.

68:40 – They were thinking about cutting the epiphany scene, but they didn’t think it felt “thick enough” without it. Translation: even when we don’t have a set amount of time to fill, we use filler. Hans Zimmer, the composer, had to tell them that Homer was already trying to find his family when he left the cabin. In other words, they had constructed a story so poorly that they needed the soundtrack guy to tell them where their plot holes were.

69:15 – Still defending the inclusion of the epiphany scene.

70:20 – Talking about yelling as things get worse on screen.

71:05 – More help from Zimmer as they thought the hallucination was too scary until he made up the orchestral arrangement of the Spider-Pig song for them.

71:20 – You can detect hints of shame as the hallucination rolls on, they’re speaking awfully defensively, especially given the fact that no one in the room is being critical.

71:40 – After Homer gets dismembered, including an “Ouch, My Balls” moment, there’s this: “Every crude physical joke, played great.” So, they know this scene sucks, but they think hitting Homer in the balls makes it okay. Remember, this took years to develop.

72:50 – After Homer runs out of the tent, they used to have the medicine woman saying “I will bill your HMO” or “How come they all think I work for free?”, but they never got a big enough laugh so it got cut. The testicle hit though, that stayed in.

73:35 – The dogs attacking Homer stayed in from the beginning.

75:00 – Rather than discuss the pointlessness of having Homer get lost again, they’re talking about more things that didn’t test well and got cut.

76:00 – The wrecking ball was in there from the beginning, someone even calls it a “classic coyote shot” and “Chuck Jones 101”. I’d call it Remedial Chuck Jones 1a on account of the coyote always got hurt in quick and inventive ways whereas this wrecking ball is the same joke over and over and over.

77:00 – Changed the backgrounds of the town so it doesn’t look as bad in response to – guess what – audience testing.

78:00 – A couple more concepts that didn’t make it past the test audiences.

79:00 – More discussion of things that didn’t please test audiences and now aren’t here.

79:50 – Having Homer write his plan down on a leaf was used to “re-establish story”, whatever that means.

81:10 – Cletus distracting Not Hank Scorpio was, just like so many other things, a late substitution. It used to be Lenny.

82:00 – Now that we’re back to the dome, there’s a lot of talk about the large backgrounds in a lot of shots.

82:30 – Homer kicking the bomb so the timer goes faster was in there from the beginning, unlike so much else, it tested well.

83:30 – Talking about how much of Bart’s personality they could retain while he’s with Flanders. They had him “de-Barted” to a greater extent earlier.

83:50 – Mildly interesting note, they were nervous about the police bomb robot killing itself because there was that Super Bowl commercial with the suicidal robot that pissed off the anti-suicide people.

84:15 – “Once again, Homer’s gonna get hit in the head”, followed by polite chuckles.

84:40 – They didn’t know how much people needed to be reminded of the whole carnival/motorcycle thing. I can’t imagine why people would have forgotten a throw away scene that had nothing to do with anything that was about seventeen such scenes ago.

85:15 – They weren’t sure how to get Homer and Bart to reconcile, and they ended up doing it the way they did because Hans Zimmer wrote a musical cue that they liked. Zimmer sounds like he should’ve gotten story credit at this point.

86:30 – Martin getting his revenge was in from the beginning.

86:50 – They were nervous as to whether or not people were going to buy the whole “riding the motorcycle upside down and hanging on by the hair” thing, but ultimately they figured they’d done so much already that people wouldn’t care.

88:15 – Originally they were going to be chased down the dome by the bomb, but they thought the cracking dome made “more logical sense”. They actually said that.

89:30 – Originally they weren’t going to have Not Hank Scorpio confront Homer, but then “Matt” (not sure if it’s Groening or Selman or someone else) pointed out that, yeah, you might want to have the hero confront the villain.

90:15 – After Maggie saves them, they laugh about how she just wanders off instead of being taken by Bart and Homer. Originally it was going to be President Schwarzenegger, now it’s Maggie. I’ve lost count of variations on “this was character X, but then we changed it to character Y”.

91:00 – Yeardley Smith improvised the line about Lisa’s had being sweaty. I like that line.

91:30 – As they’re all celebrating, originally they were going to have Grampa come up and says, “I never thought I’d be happy to say these words, but . . . my son.”

92:50 – Homer falls off the roof to end the movie and someone, I think it’s Castellaneta, jokes “You could see it coming from two hours away.”

93:30 – As the credits roll, Smith jokes about “sequel” being Maggie’s first word, which prompts lots of joking around about how it’s not important that she already had her first word fifteen years ago. Do people really care about that?

96:00 – They’re still hanging out during the credits, talking about animators and editors and generally congratulating each other. I’m done.


Reading Digest: Movie Leftovers Edition

Itchy and Scratchy - The Movie1“It’s just not the same.” – Bart Simpson

To go along with the fact that the Simpsonize Me website is still down we’ve got two other links to leftover stuff from the Simpsons movie this week.  Also there’s a little bit of video, some pointless internet lists, one piece of excellent usage, and a blogger who agrees with us. 


Limited "unlimited" claims should be banned – This is a discussion about how services are pretty much always lying to you when they promise unlimited anything.  It starts by quoting Lionel Hutz questioning Marge about what happened at the all you can eat seafood restaurant.  The quote is almost dead on and even though Hutz is listed only as “Lawyer”, I’m still calling it excellent usage.

Me fail English? That’s unpossible! – YouTube for the hell of it.  No other reason given or needed.

Man getting hit by football – Speaking of short YouTube clips, here’s a ref taking a football in the groin.  (Also there’s a link to the Simpsons version.)   

it’s the Top 5… hairstyles in the movies! – Marge comes in at #1, beating out Princess Leia. 

100 Reasons to Love Winnipeg – #54:

Homer Simpson is from here. In 2002, Simpsons creator Matt Groening noted his father, also named Homer, was born in Canada, making the lovable cartoon character a Canadian, too. But from where? “Uh, if you went straight north from Kansas, where would that be? Winnipeg? Yes, Winnipeg!” Good enough for us.

Given what’s happened to their hockey team since it moved to Phoenix, I’m inclined to give this to them.

Ken Griffey Jr: The Forgotten Superstar – This rather schmaltzy article praises Griffey, mentions that the Simpsons was still good in 1997 and . . . doesn’t mention Griffey on the Simpsons.  How is that possible? 

Trinity Mirror gives away Simpsons comic – Some Scottish newspaper readers will get some free Simpsons comics this weekend. 

Awesome Pictures: The Simpsons do Abbey Road – It’s that Simpsons/Abbey Road picture I loathe.  (Just to be clear, I understand why people like this, it’s just sad that there’s a better one that is almost completely ignored.)

You know i love you – Well, at least one person’s doing that scavenger hunt thing.  Look at that entry form!  I don’t see a space for Social Security # and a blood sample, so those are probably on the next screen.

The WWE is a lot like The Simpsons – Simpsons characters with their professional wrestling equivalents. 

Panel offers comic relief for comic strips in distress – A brief recap of Groening’s appearance in Chicago last weekend. 

XUP – The faces behind some famous cartoon voices, including some Simpsons people and Mel Blanc, one of the all time greats. 

Simpsons Come to the Springfield Museum – One of those big couches from the movie is moving into the Springfield Museum in Springfield, Oregon. 

Real Life Kwik-E-Mart – Much like the giant couch, this appears to be from two years ago for the movie.  But it’s got pictures from inside the Kwik-E-Mart/7-11 and since I never went to one it’s kinda neat (via Twitter).

Best Simpsons Poker Scenes Ever – Only one of these scenes is from Zombie Simpsons (it’s from Season 12 when Krusty bets his daughter’s violin because the plot needed to move along), the rest are gold.  Also, there’s a clip of Homer winning at poker and not realizing it that has the image reversed and is in German.  Worth clicking just to hear Moe choke on his own rage in another language.

10 Best TV Neighbors – This list was obviously compiled by someone who watched a lot of television  from approximately 1985-1995, but Flanders is here so it makes the grade (via Twitter).

Can’t Sleep, Clown Will Eat Me – Ever Google the phrase at left?  Someone did and now you can see the horrifying results, especially the picture of the cat in the homemade clown bed. 

Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, and Cyndi Lauper get the Mattel treatment – Some ladies of the 80s (hey, that rhymes!) are getting the Malibu Stacy treatment.  Also, nice WordPress theme. 

Sam Sifton and ‘Meh’ – I don’t think “Meh” originated on The Simpsons, but it’s use on the show most certainly pre-dates Season 6.  

The Simpsons Plateau. – And finally, I get to end the way I like to, with another person who agrees with us:

The best closing line to any episode of The Simpsons has got to be: “Tell him I’m going to the backseat of my car with the woman I love, and I won’t be back for 10 minutes!”  This, astonishingly, was released in 1990, titled “Life On the Fast Lane“.  20 years ago.  What happened since then?  If I were to graph out my liking the Simpsons since it debuted back then to now, it would probably look like a plateau with steep ridges coming up from a valley, with hills to the East (fairly steep incline up to a fairly flat peak, fiarly sharp decline down to a low point, then up only a smudge).

That’s a little more credit than I give Zombie Simpsons, but I’m always happy to find another person who knows how bad the show’s gotten (and loves Season 1!). 


Simpsons Evolutionary Theroy Part 1: From Homer to Punching Bag

“Let’s ask an actor portraying Charles Darwin what he thinks.” – C. Montgomery Burns

I think it is fair to say that the principles behind natural selection and evolution can be applied to televisions shows. The Simpsons was once a great show, and then it wasn’t so good, and then bad, and now even worse. With each episode representing an intermediate in the evolutionary chain that is The Simpsons, we can compare episode traits from different parts of the lineage to hopefully figure out what the hell went wrong, and maybe try to reason why this series won’t die. Today I will focus on the needless physical comedy that has made its way into Homer’s life.

I think I can do this with only three examples. In these examples we will see a distinct change; the occasional physical harm Homer suffers will go from an afterthought to the main source of Simpsons jokes. My first example comes from season 4, “Brother From The Same Planet “. In the end of this episode Homer gets into a fist fight with Tom, Bart’s ‘Bigger Brother’. The fight ends when Homer is knocked out and falls backwards over a fire hydrant. It lasts all of a few seconds, it is only punctuated with one witty remark, and then it is over. This is an appropriate use of physical comedy.
The second example comes from season 8, “Homer’s Phobia”. At the end of this episode Homer and Bart are trapped in a reindeer farm. As the reindeer get ready to trample them, Homer holds Bart up over his head, as to save his son from certain doom. The Reindeer pummel Homer for a little while before the rest of the crew saves the pair. In this example, you can see that the physical pain lasts a little longer and is accompanied by an extra line or two (“Homer you feel softer than before” “I’ve been tenderized”) as opposed to just a single phrase from Homer. The scene was still relevant, but you wouldn’t have seen it a few seasons before.

Finally we can look at modern day, or as we say, Zombie Simpsons. There are way too many examples from which to choose, so to make this example as accessible as possible I will use a scene from The Simpsons Movie. This particular scene was even in the trailer (a statement unto itself?). I am, of course, speaking of the thirty seconds or so that Homer spent on the wrecking ball. Here we see a physical scene that was completely unnecessary, wayyy too long, and more than physically impossible. On top of that, they should have shelled out the extra few bucks to make the building a Hard Rock Cafe as opposed to just something named A Hard Place, but I digress.
This evolutionary end-product could have been from a number of crappy episodes of late, and that makes me wonder what is keeping this premise in the show? It is clearly detracting from the entertainment value, but it just won’t go away. One theory I have is people feel that since its The Simpsons, and it’s in its 20th season, we just have to accept that the physical comedy is here. But a more likely theory it is that the fan base that has been added during the last ten years or so doesn’t know that there was a before time, a long-long ago, where this wasn’t the case. Homer’s evolution into slapstick wouldn’t have been noticed by those watching religiously now, and therefore is a trait that would not have been de-selected, which leaves us with what we have today.

One last point: I know you are all thinking “What about ‘Bart the Daredevil’! Homer fell down the cliff twice!” And you are right to do so. This episode would appear to be a wrench in my explanation, but consider this: That episode was based on physical comedy in general, not just Homer getting needlessly beaten. A Zombie Simpsons episode with the same basic plot line would not have had Captain Lance Murdock or Bart get hurt, but would have had their actions injure Homer in some way. I guarantee it.


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