The Simpsons shorts

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The Simpson family as they originally appeared in shorts from the The Tracey Ullman Show as their television debut in 1987.

The Simpsons shorts are a series of 48 one-minute shorts that ran on the variety show The Tracey Ullman Show for three seasons, before the characters spun off into The Simpsons, their own half-hour prime time show. It features the Simpson family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The series was created by Matt Groening, who designed the Simpson family and wrote many of the shorts. The shorts first aired on April 19, 1987 starting with "Good Night". The final short to air was "TV Simpsons", originally airing on May 14, 1989. The Simpsons later debuted on December 17, 1989 as an independent series with the Christmas special "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire".[1]

One marketing study found that only 14 percent of Americans were familiar with the shorts, compared to 85 percent in November 1990 who were familiar with the Simpsons family, 11 months after the full-length show began airing. [2]

Only a few of these shorts have been released on DVD. "Good Night" was included on The Simpsons Season 1 DVD. Five of these shorts were later used in the clip show episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" on the half-hour show, which was released on the Season 7 DVD. These five shorts were "Good Night", which was featured in its entirety, and portions of "The Perfect Crime", "Space Patrol", "World War III", and "Bathtime".[3] In "You Kent Always Say What You Want", the short "Family Portrait" replaces the entire opening sequence in celebration of the 400th episode. In June 2013, it was reported that FXX is trying to acquire the shorts for an October Simpsons app, "Simpsons World".[4]

The version of The Simpson family from the shorts was depicted as ghosts haunting The Simpsons house in the season twenty six episode "Treehouse of Horror XXV".[5]


When producer James L. Brooks was working on the television variety show The Tracey Ullman Show, he decided that he wanted to include small animated sketches before and after the commercial breaks. Having seen one of cartoonist Matt Groening's Life in Hell comic strips, Brooks asked Groening to pitch an idea for a series of animated shorts, which Groening initially intended to present as his Life in Hell series.[6] Groening later realized that animating Life in Hell would require the rescinding of publication rights for his life's work. He therefore chose another approach while waiting in the lobby of Brooks's office for the pitch meeting, hurriedly formulating his version of a dysfunctional family that became the Simpsons.[6][7] He named the characters after his own family members, substituting "Bart" for his own name.[6] Bart was modeled after Groening's older brother, Mark, but given a different name which was chosen as an anagram of "brat".[8] The stories were written and storyboarded by Matt Groening.[9] 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.[6] The animation was produced domestically at Klasky Csupo,[10] with Wesley Archer, David Silverman, and Bill Kopp being animators for the first season.[9] After season one it was animated by Archer and Silverman.[9] Georgie Peluse was the colorist and the person who decided to make the characters yellow.[9]

The actors who voiced the characters later reprised their roles in The Simpsons. Dan Castellaneta performed the voices of Homer Simpson, Grampa Simpson, and Krusty the Clown.[11] Homer's voice sounds different in the shorts compared to most episodes of the half-hour show, as Castellaneta originally tried to impersonate Walter Matthau. Although he would retain this characteristic through the early episodes of the regular series, it was gradually dropped as Homer's personality evolved away from that of a stereotypical sitcom father.[12] The producers of the show were in need of someone to do voiceovers, so rather than hire actors, they asked Castellaneta (who had already done some voice work) and Julie Kavner, both members of the Ullman Show cast, to do it.[13][14] The kids still needed voices, and Nancy Cartwright, a journeyman voice actress, came in to audition. She recalled that "I was already doing voicework for eight different shows at the time and thought this would just be another job. They originally wanted me for Lisa's voice, but I thought 'Nah, I don't want to be the boring middle child, I want to be a bratty 10-year old boy.' So as soon as I gave a demonstration, [Brooks and Groening] hired me on the spot." Some time later, Yeardley Smith, a 22-year old B-movie actress whose most notable accomplishment to date was featuring in the notorious 1986 Stephen King film Maximum Overdrive, was brought in to do Lisa's voice. [11] The recording of the shorts was often primitive; according to Cartwright, the dialogue for the Ullman shorts was recorded on a portable tape deck in a makeshift studio, which consisted of the video engineer suite, above the bleachers on the Ullman show set.[15] While most of the characters' personalities are similar to what they are in the series, Lisa is simply a clone of Bart and did not have a distinct personality until a few episodes into the regular series.

The shorts were featured on the first three seasons on The Tracey Ullman 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,[16] but in the third season they were played as a single story.[16] Tracey Ullman later filed a lawsuit, claiming that her show was the source of The Simpsons' success and therefore should receive a share of the show's profit. Eventually the courts ruled in favor of the network.[17]


Season 1 (1987)[edit]

# Title Original air date
1 1 "Good Night"
"Good Night Simpsons"
April 19, 1987 (1987-04-19)
Marge and Homer say goodnight to their kids, scaring them with philosophy and bedbugs and the lyrics of "rock-a-bye-baby".
2 2 "Watching TV" May 3, 1987 (1987-05-03)
Bart and Lisa quarrel over what channel to watch, but eventually agree that they need to stop Maggie from changing the channel.
3 3 "Jumping Bart" May 10, 1987 (1987-05-10)
Homer has Bart attempt to jump off a table and into his arms. Each time Bart jumps, Homer is distracted and fails to catch him.
4 4 "Babysitting Maggie" May 31, 1987 (1987-05-31)
Marge puts Bart and Lisa in charge of babysitting Maggie; however, they end up ignoring her.
5 5 "The Pacifier" June 21, 1987 (1987-06-21)
Bart and Lisa take Maggie's pacifier away to stop her from sucking on it, but Maggie refuses to kick the habit.
6 6 "Burping Contest" June 28, 1987 (1987-06-28)
Bart and Lisa compete in a contest, while Maggie watches to see who can make the most disgusting burp. Marge objects several times, but to no avail.
7 7 "Dinnertime" July 12, 1987 (1987-07-12)
Marge serves the family dinner and the family sits down for the meal. Marge insists that family should have table manners, but the family's crude eating habits are hard to stop.

Season 2 (1987/88)[edit]

# Title Original air date
8 1 "Making Faces" September 22, 1987 (1987-09-22)
Marge warns the kids that if they make scary faces, their faces will stay those ways forever. The kids continue to make scary faces and end up having horrible reflections in the end.
9 2 "The Funeral" October 4, 1987 (1987 -10-04)
The family attends the funeral of Uncle Hubert. Bart and Lisa both prove to be disruptive and Homer swears to never take them to another funeral, much to their dismay.
10 3 "Maggie's Brain" October 11, 1987 (1987-10-11)
Bart and Lisa wonder what is inside Maggie's mind when looking at her in her crib.
11 4 "Football" October 18, 1987 (1987-10-18)
Homer promises the kids chocolate milkshakes if Bart can catch one of his father's long football passes. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles to overcome, like falling down a cliff, but Bart finally manages to catch the football—with his mouth.
12 5 "House of Cards" October 25, 1987 (1987-10-25)
Bart tries to make a house of cards, but Lisa and Maggie make noises that cause the house to fall every time.
13 6 "Bart and Homer's Dinner" November 1, 1987 (1987-11-01)
Marge takes the girls out to watch a ballet, leaving Homer in charge of dinner. Bart cannot stomach it when he is forced to eat a mix of fish nuggets and pork-a-roni.
14 7 "Space Patrol" November 8, 1987 (1987-11-08)
Bart, Lisa and Maggie play a game of "Space Patrol" while Homer and Marge are out. Lisa plays a superhero with Maggie as her sidekick, while Bart puts a jug on his head with the pretense of it being the helmet of an alien warlord. However, his head gets stuck in the jug and Lisa "frees" Bart using a croquet mallet.
15 8 "Bart's Haircut" November 15, 1987 (1987-11-15)
Bart's hair is too long and he is sent to a barber. His hair cut is too short and he tries multiple ways to hide it.
16 9 "World War III" November 22, 1987 (1987-11-22)
Homer wakes up the family to practice for a nuclear drill. They manage to escape to a nuclear bunker in the basement in 18 seconds, but Homer says that if there will really was a nuclear war, they would be dead meat. After two more drills, the family gets tired of him and traps him in the basement. Bart asks Marge if this is good thing to do, but Marge says that they will let Homer out of the bunker in the morning.
17 10 "The Perfect Crime" December 13, 1987 (1987-12-13)
Marge bakes a batch of delicious cookies and Bart attempts to steal them, when everyone except him and Maggie leave the kitchen. Homer and Marge come back to find the tray empty, but Maggie guides them along a trail of cookies running across the floor. The family catches Bart lying bloated on his back in his bedroom amidst a pile of cookie crumbs.
18 11 "Scary Stories" December 20, 1987 (1987-12-20)
Bart tells Lisa and Maggie a series of scary stories in the dark, only to believe they're coming true.
19 12 "Grampa and the Kids" January 10, 1988 (1988-01-10)
Grampa tells the kids stories from the good old days. When the kids stop paying attention to him, he feigns his own death to recapture their attention.
This marks the first speaking appearance of Grampa Simpson.
20 13 "Gone Fishin'" January 24, 1988 (1988-01-24)
Bart and Homer go on a fishing trip. Homer asks Bart for a bologna sandwich, but Bart forgot the bologna. He puts the bait on the sandwich instead. When they get the boat in the water, they hit rapids and later fall off of a waterfall.
21 14 "Skateboarding" February 7, 1988 (1988-02-07)
Bart teaches his sisters how to skateboard, but is outdone every time he tries to show off.
22 15 "The Pagans" February 14, 1988 (1988-02-14)
When the family is on their way to church, the kids declares themselves pagans. After the car breaks down, the kids start acting like pagans, much to Homer's dismay.
23 16 "Closeted" February 21, 1988 (1988-02-21)
Bart tries to avoid to doing chores and ends up hiding in the closet. He finds himself locked in and must find a way to bust out.
24 17 "The Aquarium" February 28, 1988 (1988-02-28)
Homer takes Bart, Lisa and Maggie to the aquarium. Bart finds a way to get into the shark tank and swims with a shark.
25 18 "Family Portrait" March 6, 1988 (1988-03-06)
Homer has trouble taking a normal family portrait. Every time they are close to a good picture, the family sabotages the shot.
Features the first time Homer says Why You Little!.
26 19 "Bart's Hiccups" March 13, 1988 (1988-03-13)
Lisa and Maggie try to cure Bart's hiccups using some rather unorthodox methods.
27 20 "The Money Jar" March 20, 1988 (1988-03-20)
Marge warns the kids that they shouldn't steal from the money jar. Bart, Lisa and Maggie try to fight the temptation of stealing the money.
28 21 "The Art Museum" May 1, 1988 (1988-05-01)
The Simpsons go to an art museum. Bart stares at a nude painting and Lisa plays with an ancient vase. Marge realizes that the kids are too young to appreciate fine arts. However, Bart decides to become a collector by stealing an art piece.
29 22 "Zoo Story" May 8, 1988 (1988-05-08)
The family goes to the zoo and find a lot of similarities between them and the monkeys. Homer unwisely teases an orangutan at the zoo and gets a face full of chimp excrement for his trouble.

Season 3 (1988/89)[edit]

# Title Original air date
30 1 "Shut Up, Simpsons" November 6, 1988 (1988-11-06)
Maggie squeaks her toy, which causes a chain reaction of anger in the family. An attempt for reconciliation leads to even more anger. Lisa and Maggie discover they're more Bouvier than Simpson, especially when they see Homer, Bart and Grampa locked in a strangle match with each other.
31 2 "Shell Game" November 13, 1988 (1988-11-13)
Bart tries to hide one of the cookies he stole from the jar by distracting his parents with the shell game. Although his plan seems to succeed, he is busted by Maggie, who then eats the cookie.
32 3 "The Bart Simpson Show" November 20, 1988 (1988-11-20)
The kids are watching TV and Homer tells them to stop watching The Itchy & Scratchy Show because it's "too violent". Unable to watch cartoons, Bart puts on his own show, which eventually angers Homer even more because Bart took the inside of the TV off to do his show.
First appearance of The Itchy & Scratchy Show.
33 4 "Punching Bag" November 27, 1988 (1988-11-27)
Bart and Lisa take out their frustrations on a punching bag with a face of Homer on it. When Homer commands Marge to make the kids stop, he later finds her punching the bag.
Features the first time Homer says D'oh.
34 5 "Simpson Christmas" December 18, 1988 (1988-12-18)
Bart tells a story of Christmas with the Simpson family in the style of The Night Before Christmas.
35 6 "The Krusty the Clown Show" January 15, 1989 (1989-01-15)
The kids get to see Krusty the Clown's show live for the first time. Bart believes Krusty is an impostor and exposes it on television, much to his parents' dismay.
First appearance of Krusty the Clown.
36 7 "Bart the Hero" January 29, 1989 (1989-01-29)
When Bart is sent outside to exercise his legs by Homer's orders, he gets handsomely rewarded for stopping a burglar from robbing a candy store. But he asks for the reward to be in candy bars, much to Homer's dismay.
37 8 "Bart's Little Fantasy" February 5, 1989 (1989-02-05)
After the kids are ordered to clean their room by Homer and Marge; Bart tells a story about large kids who throw their small parents into a small room. However, Bart is caught red-handed by Marge and Homer makes him mow the lawn for his lack of involvement. Lisa ends his story with her and Maggie living happily ever after with a tidy room, while Bart watches them from outside in dismay being forced to mow the lawn.
38 9 "Scary Movie" February 12, 1989 (1989-02-12)
Bart, Lisa and Maggie go to the movie to see "The Return of the Happy Little Elves", but Bart convinces the girls to see "Revenge of the Space Mutants" instead. However, Bart ends up being scared by it because one of the space mutants looks like himself, as he screams, Lisa and Maggie try to comfort him.
39 10 "Home Hypnotism" February 19, 1989 (1989-02-19)
When Homer sees Bart, Lisa and Maggie going crazy and bouncing off the walls, he and Marge try using hypnotism to tame the kids. That only succeeds in turning the kids into zombies, that Homer stops using hypnotism.
40 11 "Shoplifting" February 26, 1989 (1989-02-26)
Bart gets in trouble when he is caught shoplifting candy at the supermarket. Homer and Marge are furious and makes him walk home for it, teaching Bart that crime doesn't pay.
41 12 "Echo Canyon" March 12, 1989 (1989-03-12)
The family drives to Echo Canyon and take turns making echoes. However, Bart is very disruptive and leads Homer to chase after him.
42 13 "Bathtime" March 19, 1989 (1989-03-19)
Homer makes Bart take his "Sunday Night Bath", but he ends up flooding the bathroom.
43 14 "Bart's Nightmare" March 26, 1989 (1989-03-26)
Bart ends up having a horrific nightmare about falling into a kitchen where he is 1'' tall after eating all of the cookies from the jar. Lisa smacks Bart and he wakes up and the family in Bart's room realized that it was only a nightmare. Homer gives Bart a cookie but Bart begins screaming.
44 15 "Bart of the Jungle" April 16, 1989 (1989-04-16)
The kids swing from the trees using Homer's neckties, and Homer, who is angered by this, ends up being caught in their trap.
45 16 "Family Therapy" April 23, 1989 (1989-04-23)
Homer takes the family to a psychologist because he claims they cannot laugh anymore. They end up being so disruptive that the psychologist kicks them out and they end up bursting into laughter.
46 17 "Maggie In Peril (Chapter One)" April 30, 1989 (1989-04-30)
After Maggie accidentally kicks her ball on Bart's face, he kicks it out of sight and she takes off to retrieve it back. She ends up being caught on a branch... and the story is to be continued.
47 18 "Maggie In Peril (The Thrilling Conclusion)" May 7, 1989 (1989-05-07)
Sequel to "Maggie In Peril", Maggie floats in the air hanging on to balloons and lands safely back in her playpen.
48 19 "TV Simpsons" May 14, 1989 (1989-05-14)
While Homer is watching his TV show, Bart flies a kite outside with Maggie and Lisa. The wind suddenly blows and the kite gets stuck on the TV antenna, which messes up the reception. Homer gets a ladder, climbs on the roof and he struggles to get the kite out of the antenna. Finally, he finally loses it and shreds the kite into pieces, causing him to lose his balance and fall off the roof, while Bart and Lisa laugh at their show, unaware of what just happened.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire". BBC. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Richmond & Coffman 1997, p. 191.
  4. ^ Jason Lynch (2014). "Here's how the new Simpsons app will change your life". Quartz. Retrieved 2014-07-22. 
  5. ^ A 'Simpsons' crossover with... 'The Simpsons'?
  6. ^ a b c d The Simpsons: America's First Family (television documentary). BBC. 2000. 
  7. ^ Groening, Matt (2003-02-14). Fresh Air. Interview with David Bianculli. National Public Radio. WHYY. Philadelphia. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  8. ^ Paul, Alan (1987-09-30). "Matt Groening" (Interview). Flux Magazine Issue #6. 
  9. ^ a b c d Cagle, Daryl. "The David Silverman Interview". MSNBC. Retrieved 2006-12-29. [dead link]
  10. ^ Deneroff, Harvey (January 2000). "Matt Groening's Baby Turns 10". Animation Magazine, Vol. 14, #1. pp. 10, 12. 
  11. ^ a b Richmond & Coffman 1997, p. 178.
  12. ^ Brownfield, Paul (1999-07-06). "He's Homer, but This Odyssey Is His Own". Los Angeles Times. 
  13. ^ Lee, Luaine (2003-02-27). "D'oh, you're the voices". The Age. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  14. ^ Elber, Lynn (2007-08-18). "D'oh!: The Voice of Homer Is Deceivingly Deadpan". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  15. ^ Cartwight, Nancy (2000). My Life as a Ten Year Old Boy. Bloomsbury. pp. 43–46. ISBN 0-7475-4748-3. 
  16. ^ a b Richmond & Coffman 1997, pp. 14-15.
  17. ^ Spotnitz, Frank (1992-10-23). "Eat my shorts!". Entertainment Weekly. p. 8(1).