Parents: Mr. and Mrs. MacDougal
William "Willie" MacDougal, is a recurring character on The Simpsons, voiced by Dan Castellaneta. He is head groundskeeper at Springfield Elementary School. Willie is almost feral in nature and is immensely proud of his native Scotland. He is easily identifiable by his flaming red hair and beard, as well as his aggressive temperament and thick though inaccurate Scottish accent.
Role in The Simpsons
Groundskeeper Willie (who was once originally called "Groundskeeper Louie") is the groundskeeper at Springfield Elementary School and lives in squalor in a shack on the school grounds. He is a Scotsman with an aggressive temper. He is an uncouth and unpleasant, though essentially harmless, character. His personality is depicted as being incompetent, quick to anger for little or no reason, slow-witted, and a heavy drinker. Willie has shown antipathy to both his employer, Principal Skinner, and Bart Simpson, who plays pranks on him.
Due to the deliberately inaccurate continuity of the series, he has claimed to be from various parts of Scotland during the series, most recently Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands in the 2012 episode 'The Daughter Also Rises'. This settled the previous continuity problem in which Willie had been stated to be a fan of Aberdeen Football Club, and to have been a resident in Glasgow. In early episodes Willie's father was said to be deceased. However, his parents were later introduced in "Monty Can't Buy Me Love", and lived near Loch Ness. In "The Girl Who Slept Too Little", it is revealed that he has a cousin, 'Grave Digger Billy'.
On two occasions, Willie frames Bart for pulling pranks that Bart would normally pull. In "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star", he unleashes a giant pie of rats on the Springfield Elementary medieval festival to get revenge for being cast as the village idiot and his cruel treatment. Skinner is quick to blame Bart and expels him. Willie is never shown being found out as the culprit, but it can be assumed that he eventually is and punished after Bart is enrolled in Catholic school and earns his way back into Springfield Elementary. In "Dark Knight Court", Willie causes hundreds of eggs to be splattered at the Springfield Easter celebration out of inbred hatred for the holiday. Bart is put on trial for the incident, only to be acquitted when Willie is caught and turned in by Lisa and Mr. Burns (as Fruit Batman).
Groundskeeper Willie's first appearance was in the season two episode "Principal Charming", first broadcast on February 14, 1991. Originally, the character was written just as an angry janitor; his Scottish accent was added during a recording session. Dan Castellaneta, who voices several other characters including Homer Simpson, was assigned to do the voice. Castellaneta did not know what voice to use and Sam Simon, who was directing at the time, told Castellaneta to use an accent. He first tried a Spaniard's voice, which Simon felt was too clichéd. He then tried a "big dumb Swede", which was also rejected. For his third attempt, he used the voice of an angry Scotsman, which was considered to be appropriate and was used in the episode. Originally thought by the directors to be a one-shot appearance, Willie has since become a common recurring character. Matt Groening later revealed that the character was based partially on Angus Crock, a kilt-wearing chef from the sketch comedy show Second City Television, who was portrayed by Dave Thomas and Jimmy Finlayson, the mustachioed Scottish actor who appeared in 33 Laurel and Hardy films.
A recurring joke, which was first shown in "Radio Bart", is that Groundskeeper Willie appears to have a pot belly, but whenever he takes off his shirt, he is very muscular. One of Groundskeeper Willie's trademarks is a gruffly-spoken insulting retort, which take the writers a long time to come up with, although they do not consider them that funny.
Groundskeeper Willie's description of the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" from the episode "'Round Springfield" has become widely used, particularly in the run-up to the war in Iraq. The newspaper New York Post used the phrase "Surrender Monkeys" as the headline for its December 7, 2006 front page, referring to the Iraq Study Group and its recommendation that U.S. soldiers be withdrawn from Iraq by early 2008. The line was "most likely" written by Ken Keeler. The phrase "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys" has also been used by Jeremy Clarkson and Anthony Bourdain.
In 2009, Willie was added to the "Famous Glaswegians" webpage of Glasgow City Council, based on his line in "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious". A spokesman for Aberdeen F.C. disputed Glasgow's claim to the character, citing the episodes "Scuse Me While I Miss The Sky" and "The Dad Who Knew Too Little". In Season 23 Episode 13 "The Daughter Also Rises", first aired in 2012, it was finally stated that Groundskeeper Willie is from Kirkwall in Orkney, therefore ending this dispute.
In September 2014, Groundskeeper Willie featured in an official video in which he endorsed the option of independence in an upcoming Scottish referendum, and put himself forward to lead a potentially independent Scotland while standing in front of the St. Andrew's Cross with a tattoo on his chest that read: 'Aye or Die!'. Following the result of the referendum that the Scottish people had decided to remain as part of the UK, the producers released an image of Willie now standing in front of a Union Jack flag, looking depressed with his "Aye or Die!" tattoo replaced with a picture of the Queen and empty bottles of whisky with a newspaper featuring Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was widely credited with giving the No campaign a last minute boost.
In 2006, Groundskeeper Willie was named the fourth best peripheral character in the history of the show by IGN, who said "high-points for the character were being trained to be civilized, wrestling a wolf that was let loose in the school and becoming a substitute for the French language teacher - 'Bon jourrr! You cheese-eating surrender monkeys!'" IGN also named "My Fair Laddy", the only episode which centers around Willie, the best episode of the seventeenth season. Jim Slotek of Sun Media called Willie the ninth best Simpsons supporting character, and also made a Top Ten quotes list, which included Willie's quote "Och, back to the loch wi' ye, Nessie", from "Selma's Choice". The Times reported in late 2005 that "he is the most instantly recognisable Scot in the world: better known than Billy Connolly or Ewan McGregor, even Sean Connery." The same article quotes Simpsons creator Matt Groening as saying "We wanted to create a school janitor that was filled with rage, sort of our tribute to angry janitors all over the world".
Three Willie action figures were created by Playmates Toys for the World of Springfield series: Willie depicted in his usual appearance, released in 2001 in wave 4; "Ripped Willie", released in 2002 as part of wave 8; and "Kilted Willie", released in 2003 in wave 14.
- Reiss, Mike (2002). The Simpsons season 2 videocassette commentary for the episode "Principal Charming" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Kirkland, Mark (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Principal Charming" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Horne, Marc (July 21, 2007). "Groening lifts toilet lid on the real-life Groundskeeper Willie". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- Simon, Jeremy (1994-02-11). "Wisdom from The Simpsons' 'D'ohh' boy" (Interview). The Daily Northwestern.
- Weinstein, Josh (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Jean, Al" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Weinstein, Josh (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Badassss song" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Sound recording of Groundskeeper Willie's line About: Political humour. Retrieved on December 27, 2006
- Wimps, weasels and monkeys - the US media view of 'perfidious France' The Guardian. Retrieved on December 27, 2006
- Lathem, Niles (December 7, 2006). "Iraq 'Appease' Squeeze on W.". New York Post. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
- Mentioned in The Simpsons Season 6 DVD Commentary for the episode "'Round Springfield".
- "Famous Glaswegians". Glasgow City Council. Retrieved June 16, 2009.
- Horne, Marc (May 24, 2009). "Civic war centres on Simpsons star". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved June 16, 2009.
- "Groundskeeper Willie finally reveals his Orcadian roots". The Scotsman. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
- Gye, Hugo (13 September 2014). "Groundskeeper Willie says Yes: Scottish Simpsons character 'comes out for independence' in joke campaign video". Daily Mail. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
- Eric Goldman; Dan Iverson; Brian Zoromski (2006-09-06). "Top 25 Simpsons Peripheral Characters". IGN. Retrieved 2007-06-08.
- Goldman, Eric; Dan Iverson, Brian Zoromski (2006-09-08). "The Simpsons: 17 Seasons, 17 Episodes". IGN. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- Slotek, Jim. "'Simpsons' makes jump to big screen". Sun Media. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- Turpin, Adrian (October 23, 2005). "The strange world of Oor grown-up Wullie". London: The Times. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- "Series 4". The Simpsons Action Figure Information Station. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
- "Series 8". The Simpsons Action Figure Information Station. Retrieved 2008-11-04.
- "Series 14". The Simpsons Action Figure Information Station. Retrieved 2008-11-04.