The Simpsons (franchise)

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This article is about the media franchise. For the television show, see The Simpsons. For other uses, see The Simpsons (disambiguation).
The Simpsons franchise
The Simpsons Logo.svg
Creator Matt Groening
Original work The Tracey Ullman Show
Print publications
Books Book list
Comics Comics list
Magazines Simpsons Illustrated
Films and television
Films The Simpsons Movie
Television series The Simpsons
Games
Traditional Simpsons Jeopardy!
Video games Video games list
Audio
Soundtracks The Simpsons discography
Original music "The Simpsons Theme"
Miscellaneous
Simulator ride The Simpsons Ride

The Simpsons is an American animated comedy franchise whose eponymous family consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The Simpsons were created by cartoonist Matt Groening for a series of animated shorts that debuted on The Tracey Ullman Show on Fox on April 19, 1987. After a three-season run, the sketch was developed into The Simpsons, a half-hour prime time show that was an early hit for Fox, becoming the first Fox series to land in the Top 30 ratings in a season (1989–1990). The popularity of The Simpsons has made it a billion-dollar merchandising and media franchise. Alongside the television series, the characters of the show have been featured in a variety of media, including books, comic books, a magazine, musical releases and video games.

The Simpsons Movie, a feature length film, was released in 2007 and was the eighth highest grossing film of the year. A variety of merchandise, including T-shirts, DVDs, board games and action figures has been released. The Simpsons merchandise has sold well, generating $2 billion in revenue during the first 14 months of sales. In 2003, about 500 companies around the world were licensed to use The Simpsons characters in their advertising. In 2008, $750 million worth of The Simpsons merchandise was purchased worldwide. Peter Byrne, Fox executive vice-president of licensing and merchandising, called The Simpsons "without doubt the biggest licensing entity that Fox has had, full stop, I would say from either TV or film."[1]

Background[edit]

Creation[edit]

Matt Groening conceived of the idea for the Simpsons in the lobby of James L. Brooks's office. Brooks, the producer of the sketch comedy program The Tracey Ullman Show, wanted to use a series of animated cartoons as bumpers between sketches. Groening had been called in to pitch a series of animated shorts, and had intended to present his Life in Hell series. When he realized that animating Life in Hell would require him to rescind publication rights for his life's work, Groening decided to go in another direction.[2] He hurriedly sketched out his version of a dysfunctional family, and named the characters after his own family.[2][3]

Themes[edit]

The Simpsons takes place in the fictional American town of Springfield, without any geographical coordinates or references to U.S. states that might identify which part of the country it represents.[4] The Simpsons uses the standard setup of a situational comedy or "sitcom" as its premise. The series centers on a family and their life in a typical American town.[5] However, because of its animated nature, The Simpsons' scope is larger than that of a regular sitcom. The town of Springfield acts as a complete universe in which characters can explore the issues faced by modern society. By having Homer work in a nuclear power plant, the show can comment on the state of the environment.[6] Through Bart and Lisa's days at Springfield Elementary School, the show's writers illustrate pressing or controversial issues in the field of education. The town features a vast array of media channels—from kids' television programming to local news, which enables the producers to make jokes about themselves and the entertainment industry.[7] Some commentators say the show is political in nature and susceptible to a left-wing bias.[8] The writer and producer Al Jean admitted in an interview that "We [the show] are of liberal bent."[9] The writers often evince an appreciation for liberal ideals, but the show makes jokes across the political spectrum.[10] Religion also figures as a recurring theme. In times of crisis, the family often turns to God, and the show has dealt with most of the major religions.[11]

Main characters[edit]

Clockwise from top left: Marge, Homer, Bart, Santa's Little Helper (dog), Snowball II (cat), Lisa, and Maggie.

The main characters of the show is the Simpsons family. The Simpsons are a family who live in at 742 Evergreen Terrace in Springfield.[5] Although the family is dysfunctional, many episodes examine their relationships and bonds with each other and they are often shown to care about one another.[12]

  • Homer Simpson, voiced by Dan Castellaneta, is the father of the Simpson family. He embodies several American working class stereotypes: he is crude, overweight, incompetent, clumsy, thoughtless and a borderline alcoholic.[13] His voice started out as an impression of Walter Matthau but eventually evolved into a more robust voice during the second and third season of the half-hour show, allowing Homer to cover a fuller range of emotions.[14] Homer has since become one of the most influential fictional characters.[15] He has inspired an entire line of merchandise and his catchphrase, the annoyed grunt "D'oh!", has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary.[16]
  • Marge Simpson, voiced by Julie Kavner, is the well-meaning and extremely patient wife of Homer and mother of Bart, Lisa and Maggie.[17] Her most notable physical feature is her distinctive beehive hairstyle which was inspired by Bride of Frankenstein and the style that Matt Groening's mother wore during the 1960s, although her hair was never blue.[18][19]
  • Bart Simpson, voiced by Nancy Cartwright, is the eldest child in the family—at age 10. Bart's most prominent character traits are his mischievousness, rebelliousness, disrespect for authority and sharp wit. During the first two seasons of The Simpsons, Bart was the show's main character. The name "Bart" is an anagram of the word "brat".[20] In 1998, Time magazine selected Bart as 46th of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, and the only fictional character to make the list.[21] He had previously appeared on the cover the December 31, 1990 edition.[22] During the early episodes, Bart was rebellious and frequently escaped without punishment, which led some parents' groups and conservative spokespeople to believe he provided a poor role model for children. This prompted George H. W. Bush to rally, "We're going to keep trying to strengthen the American family. To make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons."[23]
  • Lisa Simpson, voiced by Yeardley Smith, is the elder daughter and middle child of the family. She is an extremely intelligent eight year old girl, one of the most intelligent characters on the show. Lisa's political convictions are generally socially liberal.[24] In the Tracey Ullman Show shorts, Lisa was more of a "female Bart" and was equally mischievous. As the series progressed, Lisa began to develop into a more intelligent and more emotional character.[25] In 2001 Lisa received a special "Board of Directors Ongoing Commitment Award" at the Environmental Media Awards.[26] "Lisa the Vegetarian", an episode from the seventh season, won both an Environmental Media Award for "Best Television Episodic Comedy"[27] and a Genesis Award for "Best Television Comedy Series, Ongoing Commitment".[28]
  • Maggie Simpson, is the youngest of the five main family members and is almost always seen as a baby. She was quite prominent in the Tracey Ullman Show shorts, often being featured alongside Bart and Lisa but has since become the least seen and heard of the five main Simpsons.[29] Maggie rarely speaks, but has been voiced by several actors including Elizabeth Taylor,[29] James Earl Jones,[30] Harry Shearer, who used his Kang voice, Jodie Foster,[31] Yeardley Smith,[32] and Nancy Cartwright.[33]

The five family members were given simple designs so that their facial emotions could easily be changed with little effort[34] and so that they would be recognizable in silhouette.[35] They made their debut on April 19, 1987 in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night".[36] In 1989, the shorts were adapted into The Simpsons, a half-hour series airing on the Fox Broadcasting Company. The Simpson family remained the main characters on this new show.[37]

Television[edit]

The Tracey Ullman Show[edit]

Main article: The Simpsons shorts

The Simpsons shorts debuted on The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987 were featured on the first three seasons of the show. By the fourth and last season of The Tracey Ullman Show the first season of the half-hour show was on the air. In the two first seasons the shorts were divided into three or four parts,[38] but in the third season they were played as a single story.[38] The stories for the shorts were written and storyboarded by Matt Groening.[39] The family was crudely drawn, because Groening had submitted basic sketches to the animators, assuming they would clean them up; instead they just traced over his drawings.[2] The animation was produced domestically at Klasky Csupo,[40] with Wesley Archer, David Silverman, and Bill Kopp being animators for the first season.[39] After season one it was animated by Archer and Silverman.[39] Georgie Peluse was the colorist and the person who decided to make the characters yellow.[39]

The actors who voiced the characters would later reprise their roles in The Simpsons. Dan Castellaneta performed the voices of Homer Simpson, Abraham Simpson, and Krusty the Clown.[41] Homer's voice sounds different in the shorts compared to most episodes of the half-hour show. In the shorts, his voice is a loose impression of Walter Matthau, whereas it is more robust and humorous on the half-hour show, allowing Homer to cover a fuller range of emotions.[42] Voices were needed for the shorts, so the producers decided to ask Castellaneta as well as Julie Kavner to voice Homer and Marge, rather than hire more actors.[14][43] Nancy Cartwright and Yeardley Smith performed the voices of Bart Simpson and Lisa Simpson respectively.[41]

The Simpsons[edit]

Further information: List of The Simpsons episodes

In 1989, a team of production companies adapted The Simpsons into a half-hour series for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The team included what is now the Klasky Csupo animation house.[44] The half-hour series premiered on December 17, 1989 with "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", a Christmas special.[45] "Some Enchanted Evening" was the first full-length episode produced, but it did not broadcast until May 1990 because of animation problems.[46] The Simpsons takes place in the fictional American town of Springfield, without any geographical coordinates or references to U.S. states that might identify which part of the country it represents.[47] For The Simpsons, Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria were added as cast members.[41] In addition to the main cast, Pamela Hayden, Tress MacNeille, Marcia Wallace, Maggie Roswell, and Russi Taylor voice supporting characters.[41] From 1999 to 2002, Maggie Roswell's characters were voiced by Marcia Mitzman Gaven. Karl Wiedergott has appeared in minor roles, but does not voice any recurring characters.[48] Repeat "special guest" cast members include Albert Brooks, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz, Joe Mantegna, and Kelsey Grammer.[49]

The Simpsons was the Fox network's first TV series to rank among a season's top 30 highest-rated shows.[50] While later seasons would focus on Homer, Bart was the lead character in most of the first three seasons. In 1990, Bart quickly became one of the most popular characters on television in what was termed "Bartmania".[51][52][53][54] On February 9, 1997, The Simpsons surpassed The Flintstones with the episode "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" as the longest-running prime-time animated series in the United States. In 2004, The Simpsons replaced The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952 to 1966) as the longest-running sitcom (animated or live action) in the United States.[55] In May 2007, The Simpsons reached their 400th episode at the end of the eighteenth season. Hallmarks of the show include the opening sequence;[56] its theme song, composed by Danny Elfman in 1989;[57] Treehouse of Horror episodes, which have themselves inspired an off-shoot of merchandise;[58] its use of cultural references;[59] sight gags;[60] and the use of catchphrases,[61] such as Homer's annoyed grunt "D'oh!".[62]

The Simpsons has won dozens of awards since it debuted as a series, including 24 Primetime Emmy Awards,[63] 26 Annie Awards[64] and a Peabody Award.[65] In a 1998 issue celebrating the 20th century's greatest achievements in arts and entertainment, Time magazine named The Simpsons the century's best television series.[66] On January 14, 2000, the Simpsons were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[67]

In September 1994, 20th Television began syndicating reruns of The Simpsons to local stations throughout the US.[68] As of 2003, syndication reruns of The Simpsons have generated an estimated one billion dollars in revenue for Fox.[1] In 2008, advertisers spent $314.8 million to advertise during the primetime show and subsequent reruns, down 16.8% from 2007.[69] Since August 2014, every episode of the show has aired on FXX and will become available on-demand via the Simpsons World website starting October 2014.[70][71]

Crossover with Family Guy[edit]

Main article: The Simpsons Guy

The season 13 premiere of Family Guy is an hour-long crossover with The Simpsons entitled "The Simpsons Guy". In the episode, the Griffins get stranded while on a road trip and discover the town of Springfield where they meet the Simpson family.[72] Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Hank Azaria, Yeardley Smith and Nancy Cartwright guest star as their Simpsons characters.[73] The episode also includes a cameo appearance by Bob Belcher of Bob's Burgers.[74]

Print publications[edit]

Books[edit]

Dozens of books featuring or about the Simpsons have been released by Fox. The Simpsons Library of Wisdom series each relate to a character from the show and two per year are released. A series of episode guides has been published, starting with The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. The guides feature quotes, trivia, and cultural references for each episode.[75]

Simpsons Illustrated[edit]

Simpsons Illustrated was a companion magazine to The Simpsons.[76] It was produced by Matt Groening, Bill Morrison, Cindy and Steve Vance,[77] and Katy Dobbs was editorial director.[76] It ran for 10 issues from 1991–1993. Welsh Publishing Company issued it four times a year.[78] The magazine had a circulation of 1 million.[79] Features included in-depth articles and interviews with the cast and crew, comics, and fanart.[78] The final issue of Simpsons Illustrated was a one-shot comic edition titled Simpsons Comics and Stories. The overwhelming success of this seemingly one-shot book led to the creation of Bongo Comics Group, which has gone on to publish numerous Simpson-related comic books since 1993.[80]

Comic books[edit]

Numerous Simpson-related comic books have been released over the years. So far, nine comic book series have been published by Bongo Comics since 1993.[81] The first comic strips based on The Simpsons appeared in 1991 in the magazine Simpsons Illustrated, which was a companion magazine to the show.[82] The comic strips were popular and a one-shot comic book entitled Simpsons Comics and Stories, containing four different stories, was released in 1993 for the fans.[83] The book was a success and due to this, the creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening, and his companions Bill Morrison, Mike Rote, Steve Vance and Cindy Vance created the publishing company Bongo Comics.[83] Issues of Simpsons Comics, Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror and Bart Simpson have been collected and reprinted in trade paperbacks in the United States by HarperCollins.[84][85][86]

Other media[edit]

Films[edit]

The Marquee from The Simpsons Movie's premiere, which took place in Springfield, Vermont.

20th Century Fox, Gracie Films, and Film Roman produced an animated The Simpsons film, entitled The Simpsons Movie, that was released on July 27, 2007.[87] The film was directed by long-time Simpsons producer David Silverman and written by a team of Simpsons writers comprising Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, George Meyer, Mike Reiss, John Swartzwelder, Jon Vitti, David Mirkin, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, and Ian Maxtone-Graham.[87] Production of the film occurred alongside continued writing of the series despite long-time claims by those involved in the show that a film would enter production only after the series had concluded.[87] There had been talk of a possible feature-length Simpsons film ever since the early seasons of the series. James L. Brooks originally thought that the story of the episode "Kamp Krusty" was suitable for a film, but he encountered difficulties in trying to expand the script to feature-length.[88] For a long time, difficulties such as lack of a suitable story and an already fully engaged crew of writers delayed the project.[89] After winning a Fox and USA Today competition, Springfield, Vermont hosted the film's world premiere.[90]

A Seattle 7-Eleven store transformed into a Kwik-E-Mart as part of a promotion for The Simpsons Movie.

The Simpsons Movie grossed a combined total of $74 million in its opening weekend in the United States, taking it to the top of the box office,[91] and set the record for highest grossing opening weekend for a film based on a television series, surpassing Mission: Impossible II.[92] It opened at the top of the international box office, taking $96 million from seventy-one overseas territories—including $27.8 million in the United Kingdom, making it Fox's second highest opening ever in that country.[93] In Australia, it grossed A$13.2 million, the biggest opening for an animated film and third largest opening weekend in the country.[94] The film closed on December 20, 2007 with a worldwide gross of $527,068,706, making it the eighth highest grossing film of 2007.[95]

A 3D short-film entitled The Longest Daycare, focusing on Maggie, was shown in theaters before the 2012 film Ice Age: Continental Drift.[96]

Milhouse makes a cameo appearance in the 2014 film, The Lego Movie as a Master Builder in Cloud Cuckoo Land.[97]

The Simpsons Ride[edit]

Main article: The Simpsons Ride
The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Florida which officially opened May 15, 2008

In 2007, it was officially announced that The Simpsons Ride, a simulator ride, would be implemented into the Universal Studios Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.[98] It officially opened May 15, 2008 in Florida[99] and May 19, 2008 in Hollywood.[100] In the ride, patrons are introduced to a cartoon theme park called Krustyland built by Krusty the Clown. However, Sideshow Bob is loose from prison to get revenge on Krusty and the Simpson family.[101] It features more than 24 regular characters from The Simpsons and features the voices of the regular cast members, as well as Pamela Hayden, Russi Taylor and Kelsey Grammer.[102] Harry Shearer decided not to participate in the ride, so none of his characters have vocal parts.[103] James L. Brooks, Matt Groening and Al Jean, collaborated with the Universal Studios creative team, Universal Creative, to help develop the ride.[104] The six minute ride uses 80-foot IMAX screens and Sony Projectors.[105] There are 24 ride cars, each seating eight people,[102] and approximately 2000 people can ride it per hour.[101] The animation in the ride uses computer generated 3D animation rendered by Blur Studio and Reel FX,[106] rather than the traditional 2-D animation seen on The Simpsons.[107] The Universal Studios Florida version of the ride hosted its one millionth rider on July 14, 2008, reaching the milestone faster than any other attraction in the resort.[108]

Music[edit]

Collections of original music featured in the series have been released on the albums Songs in the Key of Springfield, Go Simpsonic with The Simpsons and The Simpsons: Testify.[109] Several songs have been recorded with the purpose of a single or album release and have not been featured on the show. The album The Simpsons Sing the Blues was released in September 1990 and was a success, peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200[110] and becoming certified 2x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[111] The first single from the album was the pop rap song "Do the Bartman", performed by Nancy Cartwright and released on November 20, 1990. The song was written by Michael Jackson, although he did not receive any credit.[112] While the song was never officially released as a single in the United States, it was successful in the United Kingdom. In 1991 it was the number one song in the UK for three weeks from February 16 to March 9 and was the seventh best-selling song of the year.[113] It sold half a million copies and was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry on February 1, 1991.[114]

Video games[edit]

The video game industry was very quick to adapt the characters and world of Springfield into games. Some of the early games include Konami's arcade game The Simpsons (1991) and Acclaim Entertainment's The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants (1991). More modern games include The Simpsons: Road Rage (2001), The Simpsons: Hit & Run (2003) and The Simpsons Game (2007). Two Simpsons pinball machines have been produced; one that was available briefly after the first season, and another that is still available for purchase.[115]

Board Games[edit]

Many board game franchises have released a Simpsons themed edition. Clue,[116] Monopoly (both for The Simpsons and for Treehouse of Horror),[117] Chess, Checkers, Pictionary, Battle of the Sexes, Jeopardy, The Game of Life,[118] Don't Panic, Magic 8 Ball, Othello, Scrabble, SORRY!, Poker, Darts, and Wheel of Fortune are all examples of games that have release Simpsons related content. There have also been a few card games and board games unique to The Simpsons. Some examples are: The Simpsons Loser Takes All!,[119] the Don't Have A Cow dice game, The Simpsons Mystery of Life, The Simpsons Lost and Found!, and The Simpsons Guessing Game (similar to Guess Who?).

Merchandise[edit]

The popularity of The Simpsons has made it a billion-dollar merchandizing industry.[23] The Simpsons merchandise sold well and generated $2 billion in revenue during the first 14 months of sales.[23] In 2008, $750 million worth of The Simpsons merchandise was purchased worldwide.[69] In 2003, about 500 companies around the world were licensed to use Simpsons characters in their advertising.[1] In 2003, Peter Byrne, Fox executive vice president of licensing and merchandising, called The Simpsons "without doubt the biggest licensing entity that Fox has had, full stop, I would say from either TV or film."[1]

The Simpsons has inspired special editions of well-known board games, including Clue, Scrabble, Monopoly, Operation, and The Game of Life, as well as the trivia games What Would Homer Do? and Simpsons Jeopardy!. Several card games such as Top Trumps cards and The Simpsons Trading Card Game have also been released. Many official or unofficial Simpsons books such as episode guides have been published. A Lego set of the Simpsons' house was released in 2014.[120] In the early 1990s, millions of T-shirts featuring Bart were sold;[121] as many as one million were sold on some days.[122] Believing Bart to be a bad role model, several American public schools banned T-shirts featuring Bart next to captions such as "I'm Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?" and "Underachiever ('And proud of it, man!')".[23][123][124]

As a promotion for the The Simpsons Movie, the convenience store chain 7-Eleven transformed 11 of its stores in the U.S. and one in Canada into Kwik-E-Marts, at the cost of approximately $10 million.[125][126] 7-Eleven also sold Simpsons-themed merchandise in many of its stores. This included "Squishees", "Buzz Cola", "Krusty-O's" Cereal, and "Pink Movie Donuts".[126] This promotion resulted in a 30% increase in profits for the altered 7-Eleven stores.[127] McFarlane Toys released a line of action figures based on the film,[128] Samsung released The Simpsons Movie phone, however the quality of build on ths phone left it prone to screen damage although the company denied this and claimed any screen damage was 'user related' and denied warranty claims in Australia.[129] and Microsoft produced a limited edition The Simpsons Movie Xbox 360.[130] Ben & Jerry's created a Simpsons-themed beer and donut-flavored ice cream, entitled "Duff & D'oh! Nuts".[131]

On April 9, 2009, the United States Postal Service unveiled a series of five 44 cent stamps featuring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie, to commemorate the show's twentieth anniversary.[132] "The Simpsons" is the first television series to receive this recognition while the show is still in production.[133][134] The stamps, designed by Matt Groening, were made available for purchase on May 7, 2009.[135] Approximately one billion will be printed.[136]

DVDs[edit]

Main article: The Simpsons DVDs

Many episodes of the show have been released on DVD and VHS over the years. When the first season DVD was released in 2001, it quickly became the best-selling television DVD in history, although it was later overtaken by the first season of Chappelle's Show.[137] In particular, seasons one through fifteen have been released on DVD in the U.S. (Region 1), Europe (Region 2) and Australia/New Zealand/Latin America (Region 4) with more seasons expected to be released in the future.[138]

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Bibliography

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