D’oh! It’s The Simpsons creator Matt Groening


Probably the most anticipated movie of the year, The Simpsons Movie  (July 27 release) has been 18 years in the making. Yes, that’s how long Fox TV’s animated series The Simpsons has been on the air, and creator Matt Groening reveals there was talk about a feature film since the show’s early days.

Groening says he held off doing a movie about his subversively funny cartoon family for as long as he could, but finally decided to do it because “I thought it would really be neat to do a movie while the fans were still clamoring for it.” He shrugs trying to find the words to explain how the movie is different from the TV show. “It’s all different things, different stories, other characters, using CGI, techniques we don’t use on TV. We showed some clips at various places, and it was really thrilling to hear a big crowd laugh. It’s fun.”

The Simpsons’ executive producer James L. Brooks, a serious filmmaker who has won three Oscars for writing, producing and directing Terms of Endearment, is also having fun doing the series, and notes that the idea of putting together a Simpsons movie was always being kicked around. Brooks says, “We had thought about it a long time. I think what happened is that we finally wanted to do it. We had a critical moment in the third year where we had an episode, ‘Kamp Krusty,’ that, if we added to it, we thought it would be a great movie. But then we just wanted to focused on the television show.”

Then, about two years ago, almost simultaneously, all the creative forces behind the show decided to explore the idea of a movie. Groening says it was the all-star “home team” of writers, animators, supervising directors and studios folks who were involved with bringing the Simpsons to the big screen.

Arguably the imaginative guru who has guided The Simpsons through almost two decades on the air, Groening gives credit to his team, and especially James Brooks. Groening explains, “I have to say, one of the reasons why the show has been on the air as long as it has, is because of the ambition that Jim inspired back at the very beginning when we were just doing little shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show.

When it came time to do the show as a series, Jim said he was interested in it only if we went for real emotion. That’s always been his ambition for the show, and it’s an ambition we share.”

Groening thinks The Simpsons is “plenty goofy and wacky and has some great side gags. But we try to return to some real emotion consistently. That’s actually been one of the things we’ve aimed for in the movie, as well. We’re trying to take advantage of the media of animation on the big screen. Also it gives us more time to explore the characters’ feelings in a way that is more difficult in a 22-minute weekly TV show.”

As long as he continues to have fun, Groening vows to continue to work on the popular weekly animated series, which made history this spring airing its monumental 400th episode. “We have writers now who are so young that they grew up watching the show, and they remind some of us who have been around longer that we’ve already done a joke that somebody is pitching at the writers’ table.”

The characters are like family to the 53-year-old Groening. In fact, his characters are his family. Groening was born in Springfield, Oregon, the son of Homer and Margaret. His sisters are Lisa and Maggie. Although he toyed with the idea of calling the trouble-making kid brother after himself, Matt decided on Bart, an anagram of brat.

Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.