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The Simpsons’ Impact: A Historic Day & Trip Down Memory Lane

If you can’t complete The Simpsons Sporcle character quiz in three minutes or less, we are no longer friends.

The Simpsons is in its 24th season on network television, and yesterday, news broke that the show concluded a five-network bidding war, with FXX landing cable and VOD/non-linear rights to the show. It will be available on the new FXNow app, which will be free (most likely) to most all cable and satellite subscribers in August.

There will be 530 episodes total when the show becomes available this year, and current and upcoming episodes will be immediately available on the FXNow platform.

The longest-running comedy in TV history just sealed the deal on the most-expensive off-network agreement in TV history. Lots of TV history. The exact #s have yet to be disclosed, but it is expected to be at least $750 million, and could potentially reach $1 billion if FOX continues producing new episodes.

There are estimations FXX will be paying approximately $1.25 million A WEEK for rights to the show.

The power of The Simpsons continues to be unmatched in TV and pop culture, even in the on-the-go, binge-viewing, digital age –this recent deal is just one piece of evidence, among many.

I could go on for days and weeks and months and years about the impact The Simpsons has had on pop culture as a whole–Americana and otherwise. The family unit, political aptitudes and attitudes, hell, The Simpsons made me and countless others much of who we are today. Kids of the 80s and 90s, your up and coming leaders of tomorrowland, can thank a cartoon yellow family for our sarcastic, rather nihilistic outlook, our use of satire in nearly all spectrums of life, more open view on what constitutes “morality” than previous generations, the list goes on and on, and I’ve spoken of it before here and here. The tech boom of the late 80s and early 90s, 9/11, the economic downturn of 2007, and lastly–The Simpsons. I am who I am because of these pivotal events and moments. (Kurt Cobain helped us out too, I didn’t forget about him.)

OK, I’m getting more than redundant– millennials, The Simpsons, etc. etc., you get the picture.

David Silverman aka @tubatron may not be the name you (or I) associate with America’s original animated family–that would be its creator Matt Groening, but Silverman is The Simpsons‘ preeminent animator, and has been “largely credited with creating most of the “rules” for drawing [the show.]”

Silverman has been there since the beginning, the early days of 1987, when the cartoon satire targeted at adults (oh, the humanity!!) first aired on The Tracey Ullman Show in SNL ‘short’ form .

He is the man who directed numerous episodes of this incredible show, along with the somewhat less incredible 2007 The Simpsons Movie. Silverman additionally has worked continuously with the show in a variety of creation and animation roles, especially in sketching out many of the most complicated, detailed scenes including the first of Homer’s many “rants, freak-outs, and heart attacks” (“Marge, you’re my wife. I love you very much. But you’re living in a world of make believe, with flowers and bells and leprechauns and magic frogs with funny little hats”).

Silverman also directed and animated one of the most iconic scenes in Simpsons’ lore, Homer’s imaginary Land of Chocolate, as shown above; he even drew Poochie. Yes, POOCHIE. What a legend.

@tubatron is active on Twitter on and off, occasionally tweeting out old sketches or fun facts from the production of The Simpsons. Over the past few weeks, Silverman took it to another level–he must have been cleaning out his garage (perhaps for yet another g** d*** clip show) but he hath blessed us, the Internet nerds of the 90s, with a treasure trove of Simpsons art. It gives fans a glimpse of the intricate process of creating an animated show like The Simpsons, scene by scene. It’s not stop-motion complex, but it is no jelly donut (this analogy worked better in my head.)

I will share with you, the Internet nerds of Funkhouser, Silverman’s tweets of the weekend, (along with a few older ones because I can.)

These roughs of Homer, where he appears to be somewhat enraged… (perhaps?) are from the ‘Bart the Genius’ episode, which you of course already knew, was the second full episode of the series. Directed by David Silverman, it centers around young Bartholomew, who switched his aptitude exam with that of Martin Prince, resulting in Bart being classified as a genius and sent to the Enriched Learning Center for Gifted Children.

It’s a classic, and introduces us to many significant characters (Principal Skinner, Martin Prince, Edna Krabappel) and also introduced Bart’s “Eat my shorts” catchphrase.

AND Silverman+’Bart the Genius’ brought us the well-known opening sequence complete with couch gag, chalkboard, skateboard, saxophone, and all. I’m fangirling so hard right now…

[Original Ms. Krabappel model for ‘Bart the Genius’]

[Milhouse sketch for ‘Bart the Genius]

On the 205th birthday of Edgar Allen Poe, the same glorious weekend as most of the tweets I’ve shared thus far, David Silverman showed off his influence on some of the more complex and unique Simpsons animation, with several Treehouse of Horror–The Raven sketches.

The Treehouse of Horror tradition is a favorite of Simpsons fans, beginning in 1990, it was initially dubbed “The Simpsons Halloween Special,” it became known annually as the Treehouse of Horror because of the first special’s original opening scene–featuring Bart and Lisa telling stories in a treehouse.

There have been 23 seasons of The Simpsons and 23 ToH specials. Many television programs also air holiday specials, and they have The Simpsons to thank, not for originating the concept–but mastering it.

The Simpsons’ ToH has (fun fact) included the homicidal, green aliens from Rigel VII–Kang and Kodos in all 23 episodes (if you missed Kang/Kodos on the Simpsons Sporcle quiz then FOR SHAME.)

Many classic horror and science fiction films/shows have been parodied by The Simpsons ToH–The Shining, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, To Serve Man, Living Doll, It’s a Good Life, A Kind of a Stopwatch, The Little People, Little Girl Lost, Twilight and 28 Days Later. “No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy.”

The Raven sketch from the first Simpsons Halloween episode brought Edgar Allen Poe’s style of doom, gloom and a macabre obsession with burying humans/cats/evidence inside walls, floors, fireplaces–whatever’s lying around, to the layman.

Homer narrates the reading of the entire 18 stanza poem, longing for the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore, while having her memory mocked by a Bart-like Raven–resulting, of course, in madness. Because it’s Poe. All things end in madness, or in Poe’s real life, dying in a gutter.

For kids who grew up on The Simpsons and the Treehouse of Horror specials like I did, we are a generation morbidly obsessed with Poe and particularly–the Raven. For example, I memorized the entire 108 line, 18 stanza poem for a course in high school. I could have picked a shorter poem, but clearly I had time fo’ that. I can still recite much of it, to the delight of no one.

[Homer looking to Lenore]

[Treehouse of Horror, Raven, storyboard doodles]

[Some Raven Bart (aka Woody Woodpecker Bart) sketches]

The storyboard sketches above are from the Hulu clip I posted up top (down low, too slow.)

‘Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk, in English, the less catchy, ‘Burns Sells the Powerplant,’ was an episode that aired in The Simpsons’ third season in 1991. The storyline is pretty clear from the title as C. Montgomery Burns sells the Springfield Nuclear Powerplant and employer of much of the Kentucky Illinois Missouri “Oregon” town to a German company.

Well, the always free-spirited Germans running the plant make a few changes to improve efficiency/output at the plant, and morale is low for Lenny, Carl, Homer, and Company. The ‘Land of Chocolate’ scene is an iconic one, drawn by David Silverman, in which Homer Walter Mitty-ies himself into a magical Wonka land while speaking to his German superiors about snack machines. As a stand alone, and in the episode as a whole–‘The Land of Chocolate’ exemplifies Homer–the overweight, over-alcohol-ed, working American lower-middle class male, in brilliant, absurd satire.

It’s a perfect Simpsons moment, almost as flawless as “My son’s name is also Bort.” Almost.

Homer eats Guatemalan Insanity Peppers, things get weird, Johnny Cash makes an appearance as a singing coyote, all that good stuff. In the words of the immortal Hunter S. Thompson, “[he was] somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.”

I’m like…’Eminem at a college football broadcast’ level scared right now.

Butterfinger and Butterfinger BB’s (may they rest in peace) are synonymous with The Simpsons. I’m not saying I did, but I’m not saying I didn’t, have an entire bulletin board covered in Butterfinger BB’s wrappers featuring Simpsons characters… despite the fact I don’t even like whatever that substance is inside Butterfingers..

PS: Why does no one say Neat-O anymore? 21st century swearing is baaAaaAad.

Silverman advertising fun fact from David Silverman: “Wes Archer & I spent 2 wks boarding ideas for JELLO/Simpsons ad, Aug ’88 (at K/C). Dunno why, but didn’t pan out.”

‘See My Vest’, was an epic Simpsons song and dance moment set to the tune of Beauty and the Beast‘s ‘Be Our Guest,’ but slightly darker. The Cruella de Vil of the show, Mr. Burns, plotted to turn the greyhound puppies of Santa’s Little Helper into clothes, and naturally, through song. The 1995 episode aired in season 6–the finale of which was the ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns?’ two-part episode. A nation on edge was forced to wait until the premiere of season 7 to find the culprit (spoiler alert it was the baby. It’s always the baby.)

(Click below for more art, comments, and links)

My doodles are a bit more.. stick-figure vogue.

Vin Diesel?

Homer drunk dancing. No description necessary.

Homer’s heart attack. Who could ever forget? I wanted to rip my own heart out and give it to my father Homer.

We’ll miss you Ms. K.

I credit The Simpsons with 85% of the random trivia facts I remember today; it’s a much better party trick than quoting The Raven ever was..

Below are some more sketches shared by the great David Silverman. Want more Simpsons history, fan-gasms, or discussions? Let me know on Twitter.

[Homer Simpson “ruff” from Tracey Ullman Show]

[Season One Marge ‘turnaround’]

[Early Maggie sketch]

[Space coyote sketch]

[Original Grampa Simpson sketch]

[Some Homer chili pepper sketches on the back of scripts (SO COOL)]

[Maggie in peril sketches ’89]

[Homer living in a world of make believe]

Article written by Brennan English

Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have. @BrennanKSR

2 Comments for The Simpsons’ Impact: A Historic Day & Trip Down Memory Lane

  1. Homer J. Simpson
    9:08 am February 1, 2014 Permalink

    I’m sorry, we were talking about chocolate?