The Simpsons made the leap from a funny animated clip on the Tracy Ullman Show in 1987 to television’s longest-running cartoon. Even as cast members have left and returned, and creator Matt Groening ventured off into additional animated realms – such as Futurama and his secretive Netflix show – The Simpsons continues on its tried and true course. The show, now halfway through season 27, is scheduled to march on for at least one more season as well.
Despite its longevity, the show continues to innovate and inspire, as evident from Vulture’s recent Making a Simpsons Murderer mashup. The Simpsons has often made use of new technologies into the show throughout the years – such as Homer’s CGI Treehouse of Horrors special – and now, the prolific series will check another first off its list: the first real-time cartoon event.
Homer Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) will take to the air during the last three minutes of the May 15 episode, according to FOX (via THR). During the segment, Homer will apparently answer fan-based questions live. Fans are encouraged to tweet questions to the beloved TV oaf using the hashtag #Homer, from Sunday May 1 until Wednesday, May 4. During the episode's closing moments, Homer will answer the best questions, according to showrunner Al Jean, in a way he “could only be saying live on that day."
And how exactly will a live Homer work? Typically, animation takes months to prep and air. According to Jean, the animators will use motion capture technology to animate Dan Castellaneta, much like Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) in The Force Awakens or Ultron (James Spader) in Age of Ultron. For those unfamiliar with the technique, mo-cap typically involves attaching electrodes to specific strategic points and filming the actor with multiple cameras against a green screen. The objective is to capture the movements, speech, and nuances of the actor and integrate an animated version of them into live action productions. However, as showrunner Jean says:
“As far as I know, this is the first time that's been done by any animated show. And Dan is a great improviser.”
Certainly, Castellaneta's improv skills will be called upon, since theoretically, anything can happen during live television – even an animated version of live television. And a real time Homer Simpson won’t merely be a cartooning coup; it also promises to bring Simpson’s fans about as close to an actual interaction with one of their favorite characters as possible. What Simpsons devotee wouldn’t be absolutely ecstatic to have Homer field their question?
The move is also likely part of FOX’s agenda to capture more live viewers. The network has been upping the ante in an effort to woo viewers away from streaming televion and back to their advertisers by producing live programs like Grease Live and rebooting their popular in-real-time actions series 24, as 24: Legacy. No matter how you view the live Q&A, though, having an opportunity to watch Homer come to life is an enticing premise.
The Simpsons airs Sunday nights @8pm on FOX.
Source: THR, FOX