When it comes to ranking the most important TV shows of all time, The Simpsons must surely be up there. Not only is it the longest-running sitcom in American history – animated or otherwise – it’s also racked up dozens of awards and left an unparalleled imprint on Western pop culture.
It’s no surprise, then, that when Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie – along with the rest of the town of Springfield – made the leap to the big screen back in 2007, the end result was a commercial and (mostly) critical success. By the time it had finished its theatrical run, The Simpsons Movie had amassed $527,068,706 in box office sales, and several award nods – including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Animated Feature Film.
As you might expect with a film so long in the making – it spent nine years in development – based around such an influential TV series, The Simpsons Movie boasts some pretty interesting trivia. In honor of this flick’s 10th anniversary, we’ve filtered through the many fascinating factoids available, compiling the best in this list of 15 Things You Never Knew About The Simpsons Movie.
15. “Kamp Krusty” Nearly Became The Simpsons Movie
Season 4 episode “Kamp Krusty” – which features Bart and Lisa attending a dreadful summer camp run by Krusty the Clown – is rightly considered a classic. But did you know its plot almost served as the basis for The Simpsons Movie?
When “Kamp Krusty” was completed, Executive Producer James L. Brooks became convinced that the episode should be re-worked into a feature-length story. While attempts were made to transform “Kamp Krusty” into The Simpsons Movie, there were several creative and logistical roadblocks that ultimately made this an impossibility.
For starters, the original script already ran short, and efforts to expand the narrative proved fruitless. Then there was the little matter of the position of “Kamp Krusty” within the season’s broadcast schedule – if it were to be shelved in order to accommodate plans for a big screen version, the producers would have had to scramble to replace their premiere episode!
14. Russ Cargill Was Originally Supposed To Be Hank Scorpio
In The Simpsons Movie, everyone’s favourite four-fingered family find themselves pitted against a new enemy: Russ Cargill, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. What fans might not know is that Cargill’s role was initially going to be filled by a familiar face – supervillain (and Homer’s former boss) Hank Scorpio!
A fan favorite since his appearance in season 8 episode “You Only Move Twice”, Scorpio is an evil genius in the “Bond villain” mould; somewhat paradoxically, he’s also a friendly and considerate employer. Given his status as a supervillain, it makes sense that the head of the Globex corporation would be considered for the antagonist role in The Simpsons Movie.
Although the movie’s producers claimed these plans didn’t last longer than “around a week”, things did get serious enough that Scorpio’s voice actor, Al Brooks, was signed on to appear in the film. When the decision was made to axe Scorpio from the script, Brooks – widely considered one of the finest guest performers to ever grace The Simpsons – was retained, playing Cargill instead.
13. It Was Briefly A Musical
The Simpsons is no stranger to big musical numbers – the series has included enough song-and-dance spectaculars to warrant several albums and at least one “greatest hits” compilation episode (season 9’s aptly named “All Singing, All Dancing”).
It therefore won’t come as too much of shock that some early drafts of The Simpsons Movie’s screenplay cast the flick as a musical. However, with each successive draft, the songs were shortened, eventually reaching the point where they were omitted entirely.
Tunes composed for the film included a song about Alaska – including musical involvement by the Eurythmics Dave Stewart! – which made it as far as the animation stage of production before being cut.
The rationale for trimming all the musical numbers? The creative team was worried that every time the narrative stopped to introduce a song, the audience would grow bored waiting for the story to kick-off again.
12. Over 320 Characters Make Cameo Appearances
Since it first debuted in 1989 (not counting the animated shorts which appeared on The Tracey Ullman Show), The Simpsons has built a massive supporting cast to fill the town of Springfield. Of these characters, over 320 appear in cameo roles in The Simpsons Movie, with a whopping 98 given speaking parts!
To accomplish this feat, large crowd scenes – including a long dolly shot through an angry mob – made use of established characters rather than generic fill-ins. Furthermore, in order to try and squeeze every single Springfield resident into the film, a promotional poster featuring the full roster of characters was used as reference when planning scenes like these. Factoring in this kind of effort, that nine year production cycle is really starting to make sense now!
11. It’s The Highest Grossing PG-13 Animated Film Of All Time
Whereas adult-oriented animation goes over great guns in places like Japan – where anime films regularly clean up at the box office – on the world stage, it’s been predominantly family fare that rakes in the big bucks.
In typically subversive fashion, The Simpsons Movie managed to buck this trend, and its worldwide haul not only made it the eighth most successful film of 2007, but the highest grossing PG-13 animated movie ever, too!
It’s also the only non-G or PG-rated cartoon to score a Golden Globe nomination, which it lost to the admittedly-sublime Ratatouille.
Although The Simpsons Movie failed to convert this nomination – and potential gongs at the Annies and BAFTAs as well – thanks to the popularity of Pixar’s vermin chef, there aren’t likely to have been too many hard feelings, as Ratatouille was directed by The Simpsons alumnus Brad Bird!
10. The Script Was Rewritten Over 100 Times
Virtually every film goes through script rewrites – but few screenplays are rewritten as many times as The Simpsons Movie’s was! All told, the script – which was officially started in 2003 – was revised a staggering 153 times, by a team of 11 writers!
One of the key driving forces behind these edits was the desire of series creator Matt Groening to deliver a story that broke new dramatic ground for the characters. He was also committed to giving long-time fans of the TV series “something that [they hadn’t] ever seen before.”
Not only was the script subjected to constant scrutiny, it was treated with utmost secrecy, too. At the end of every voice recording session, each and every page was shredded personally by the producers, to prevent any leaks to the media.
9. Several High Profile Guest Appearances Were Cut
With The Simpsons Movie’s script in a near-constant state of flux, it was inevitable that some guest stars would get cut. Somewhat unusually for an animated feature, many of these edits took place long after animation was underway – which meant that these high profile slots had already been filled prior to being excised.
This meant that Minnie Driver’s turn as a condescending guidance counsellor, and appearances by other celebrities like Erin Brockovich and Isla Fisher (as themselves), were recorded, but ultimately never made the final cut.
Additionally, Kelsey Grammar originally had a cameo as psychotic clown Sideshow Bob, while Edward Norton was actually replaced after the producers felt the Woody Allen-inspired vocals he provided for a poor slob crushed by Cargill’s dome were too over the top.
8. Russ Cargill And Colin Were Redesigned Multiple Times
As already mentioned, The Simpsons Movie was being changed even after the animation process had commenced, and this extended as far as actual character designs! While the look of Springfield’s previously-seen denizens was never really going to change, newcomers Cargill and Lisa’s love interest Colin took a little work to nail down.
Of these, Cargill proved the hardest to get right. While Colin was completely redrawn at least once, ol’ Russ underwent numerous redesigns, so much so that by the time Burger King had produced a tie-in action figure, it was already off-model!
Cargill’s earlier designs portrayed the EPA head honcho as a much older gent, with a snowy white mane and rather fierce monobrow! This would later evolve into the more middle-aged, salt-n-pepper buzzcut-sporting character we know and love (to hate), but it’s interesting to see what might have been.
7. The “Spider-Pig” Song Had To Be Translated Into 32 Languages
The Simpsons Movie might not have ended up a musical, but it does contain at least one minor jingle, in the form of Homer’s “Spider-Pig” song. Funnily enough, when it came time to translate the film into different languages for overseas distribution, one of the hardest aspects involved converting this little ditty into Spanish!
Even more amusingly, the choral version of “Spider-Pig” – which started life as joke by composer Hans Zimmer, never intended for inclusion in the movie – actually charted in several countries!
In Sweden it made it to #53, in the UK it peaked at #23, while in Norway it reached #14 and in New Zealand it actually hit the #9 slot!
Not bad for a largely throwaway gag based around a pig dressed like Spider-Man!
6. There’s An Orc In It (Among Other Pop Culture Shout Outs)
A time-honored tradition within The Simpsons TV series is the inclusion of random pop culture figures as part of large crowd scenes. The Simpsons Movie continues this noble custom, inserting an Orc from The Lord of the Rings into the angry mob that marches on the Simpsons’ home.
Of course, this being The Simpsons, there are plenty of other cultural references both obvious and subtle littered throughout the film. These include parodies of the works of Disney Studios, James Cameron’s Titanic, the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise, Star Wars, and even Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth!
There are also several callbacks to key moments from the show. These included the crashed ambulance still abandoned atop Springfield Gorge from “Bart the Daredevil”, and the use of “(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters, which had previously accompanied heartfelt moments between Homer and Marge.
5. The Premiere Was Held In Springfield, Vermont
When it came time to settle on a location for The Simpsons Movie premiere screening, hosting it in the real-life town of Springfield was a no-brainer. The only question was: which one?
The “Springfield” name is famously widespread across the United States, so much so that Fox ran a competition for premiere hosting duties between no less than 16 different towns sharing the name.
Springfield, Vermont was the winner, and a “yellow carpet” event was held there to mark the film’s first official screening on 21 July 2007.
Incidentally, after years of teasing hardcore fans over which state the Springfield of The Simpsons is located in – including several contradictory clues – The Simpsons Movie throws out yet another curveball.
4. The Springfield Anthem Makes Its Debut During The Credits
The earlier entry on “Spider-Pig” alludes to the existence of more than one song surviving The Simpson Movie’s musical phase. Viewers who sat through the film’s credits will be able to vouch for this, as they have already been treated to a rendition of the (delightfully terrible) Springfield anthem.
In true Springfield style, it seems that the town doesn’t actually have an anthem proper. The townsfolk apparently paid a “short guy” to compose them one, but he skipped town without delivering the goods!
And so they stole the tune to “La Marseillaise”, and first improvised some lyrics relating how they were swindled, followed by some grudging compliments for the French. This is then capped off with a fairly blunt assessment of their situation – Cargill’s bomb is about to detonate – making it an oddly fitting ode to a place once labelled “America’s Crudbucket”.
3. The Creative Team Cut Enough Material To Make Roughly Two Movies
In case the point hasn’t been hammered home enough by now, The Simpsons Movie was undergoing constant – and in some cases – significant revisions throughout production. In fact, by the time the last round of changes were made in May 2007 (only two months prior to the film’s release date!), the creative team estimated enough material had been cut to make an additional two movies!
While some of this footage was seen in the trailers – producer James L. Brooks remarked that 70% of what was seen in one early preview was canned – plenty more didn’t even make it that far. This included a madcap car chase between Homer and the EPA, where the former lobs flaming mummies at the latter (seriously!), and a run in between the Simpson patriarch and sausage truck driver.
Additionally, after test audiences reacted negatively to Homer’s overly jerkish behaviour at certain points in the movie, these scenes were re-visited, in order to make the big lug come across more favorably.
2. It Nearly Had A Sequel
After the success of The Simpsons Movie, Fox reached out to James L. Brooks in order to get the ball rolling on a sequel. While nothing came of that meeting, production on a follow-up film did very nearly kick-off in 2012!
In a nice bit of symmetry, the producers behind The Simpsons once again weighed up whether the plot of an already completed, then-upcoming episode – season 26’s “The Man Who Came To Be Dinner” – might not work better on the silver screen.
For this reason, the episode was held back from its original air date (it was originally slated to appear as the finale to season 24), while the creative debated the cinematic pros and cons of the story.
In the end, “The Man Who Came To Be Dinner” – which involved the Simpson family visiting the home of planet of the series’ resident aliens, Kang and Kodos – was deemed unsuitable for a movie adaptation, and the sequel plans were shelved. Fans eager for another film shouldn’t get too upset, though: given the negative critical reception to the episode’s bizarre plotline, this was probably for the best!
1. The TV Show’s Opening Credits Were Changed Following The Movie’s Release
Generally speaking, The Simpsons has employed a fairly “hard and fast” approach when it comes to continuity, and most episodes tend to conclude by resetting the status quo. Even so, the events of The Simpsons Movie – which saw the entire town pushed to the brink of dystopia after being encased in colossal dome – were so monumental, they couldn’t be entirely ignored.
And they weren’t – in the very next episode to air following the release of the film, the creative team subbed in a new, one-off opening credits sequence, addressing many of the movie’s major developments.
Among the callbacks to The Simpsons Movie in the revamped credits are a noticeably beat-up looking town landscape, cameos by new characters such as Russ Cargill, the Medicine Woman and Plopper the pig, and the Simpson family home shown still under re-construction following its destruction.
True, things quickly settled back to normal once the actual episode itself began – but from a fan perspective, it was nice to see the show acknowledge its big screen sibling (however briefly).
What are some other little known facts about The Simpsons Movie? Let us know in the comments!
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