Rosebud (The Simpsons)
"Rosebud" is the fourth episode of The Simpsons' fifth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 21, 1993. The episode begins by showing how on the eve of his birthday, Mr. Burns starts to miss his childhood teddy bear Bobo. The bear ends up in the hands of Maggie Simpson and Burns does everything in his power to get Bobo returned to him.
"Rosebud" was written by John Swartzwelder and was the first episode to be executive produced by David Mirkin, who was the show runner for the fifth and sixth seasons of the show. Directed by Wes Archer, supervising director David Silverman describes the episode as "one of the more challenging ones" to direct. The Ramones (Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, C. J. Ramone and Marky Ramone) guest star in the episode as themselves. The episode is largely a parody of the 1941 film Citizen Kane and the title references Charles Foster Kane's dying word "Rosebud". The episode also contains references to The Wizard of Oz, Planet of the Apes, actor George Burns, Charles Lindbergh, and Adolf Hitler.
Critical reaction to "Rosebud" was largely positive and in 2003 Entertainment Weekly placed the episode in second place on their list of the 25 best episodes of The Simpsons.
Smithers finds Mr. Burns having a nightmare in which he constantly murmurs the name "Bobo". In a flashback, it is revealed that as a child, Burns lived with his family and cherished his teddy bear Bobo, but he dropped it in the snow when he left to live with a "twisted, loveless billionaire". Meanwhile, preparations for Burns' birthday are underway and, after the Ramones perform, Homer is chosen to entertain the party guests with a comedy routine; however, Burns finds Homer's routine offensive and angrily orders his security guards to break up the party.
Burns reveals to Smithers that he misses his cherished bear Bobo and desperately wants it back but has no idea where it is. Another flashback reveals Bobo's history: after Burns leaves it behind, the bear eventually finds its way to Charles Lindbergh, who tosses the bear into a crowd, where it is caught by Adolf Hitler. In 1945, Hitler blames Bobo for losing World War II and tosses him away. Bobo is seen again in 1957 on board the USS Nautilus headed for the North Pole. Bobo becomes encased in a block of ice until picked up by an ice-gathering expedition in 1993. The bag of ice with Bobo in it is sent to the Kwik-E-Mart in Springfield. Bart buys the bag of ice, finds Bobo inside and gives it to Maggie to play with.
Mr. Burns starts looking for his bear, and Homer finally realizes that Maggie's new toy is Bobo. Homer negotiates with Burns and agrees to give it back in exchange for "a million dollars and three Hawaiian islands. The good ones, not the leper ones." However, when Maggie refuses to give Bobo up, Homer decides to stick up for his daughter and sends Burns away. Mr. Burns is outraged and promises vengeance on Homer unless he gets his teddy bear back.
After many failed attempts to steal the teddy bear, in desperation, Burns has Smithers literally beg Homer for the bear. Homer tells Burns that it is Maggie's now, and she is the only one that can return it. Burns decides to talk to Maggie and becomes deeply depressed and asks Maggie to look after his bear. Maggie, in an act of pity, lets the desperate Burns have the bear.
"Rosebud" was written by John Swartzwelder and was the first episode to be executive produced and run by David Mirkin. Mirkin enjoyed working on the episode so much that he spent "an enormous amount of time on post production" experimenting with various elements of the episode. Originally, the backstory for Bobo included several much darker scenes, including one where the bear was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The scenes were cut because the writers felt it was in bad taste. The ending of the episode was originally longer, but two segments were cut. The first saw Washington D.C. destroyed by invading Canadian troops, who found Bobo. The second featured the entire planet being overrun by giant Redwoods and spotted owls.
David Silverman describes the episode as "one of the more challenging ones" to direct. Guest stars The Ramones were "gigantic obsessive Simpsons fans" and their characters were designed by Wes Archer. Marky Ramone later called their appearance "a career highlight".
The episode is largely a parody of the 1941 Orson Welles film Citizen Kane. The title is a reference to Charles Foster Kane's dying word "Rosebud"; the teddy bear Bobo is a substitute for Rosebud in this episode, even down to the fact that Burns discards it in the snow when offered a new life of riches and power. The scene where he drops a snow globe, while whispering the name of his lost toy, also parodies Kane's death scene at the start of the film. The guards outside Mr. Burns's manor chant and march similarly to the Wicked Witch of the West's guards from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The last scene where Mr. Burns's robotic body runs off with Bobo is a reference to the film Planet of the Apes in which herds of humans are enslaved by humanoid apes. Burns and Smithers' attempt to steal Bobo from the Simpsons mirrors Mission: Impossible, and their sitcom is similar to The Honeymooners. Both Mr. Burns and Homer make references to the cancellation of the TV series The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. Mr. Burns' brother is revealed to be comedian George Burns, and both Charles Lindbergh and Adolf Hitler were once in possession of Bobo. During the tribute to Burns, the curtain portrays his visage in a more youthful manner, evoking the characteristic style of illustrator Al Hirschfeld.
In its original American broadcast, "Rosebud" finished 33rd in the ratings for the week of October 18–24, 1993. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 11.9. The episode was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week after Married... with Children.
In 2003, Entertainment Weekly's placed "Rosebud" second on their top 25 The Simpsons episode list, writing that "despite being one of The Simpsons' most spectacularly overstuffed episodes, "Rosebud" has plenty of heart". IGN.com ranked The Ramones's performance as the fifteenth best guest appearance in the show's history. In 2007, Vanity Fair named it the best episode of the show, calling it, "A perfect episode. Mr. Burns's lamentations for his childhood bear, Bobo, lead to a show-long parody of Citizen Kane. At once a satire and a tribute, the episode manages to both humanize Mr. Burns and delve deep into Homer's love for his oft-forgotten second daughter, Maggie."
In his book Planet Simpson, author Chris Turner listed "Rosebud" as one of his five favorite episodes of The Simpsons, calling the episode "genius". He added that the Ramones gave "possibly the finest guest musical performances ever." David Silverman and Matt Groening describe the sequence where Homer eats 64 slices of American cheese as "one of the most hilarious segments ever done". The episode's reference to Rosebud was named the 14th greatest film reference in the history of the show by Total Film's Nathan Ditum.
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- Groening, Matt. (2004). DVD Commentary for "Rosebud", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Ditum, Nathan (June 6, 2009). "The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References". Total Film. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
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- Turner, Chris (2004). Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation. Foreword by Douglas Coupland. (1st ed.). Toronto: Random House Canada. ISBN 978-0-679-31318-2. OCLC 55682258.
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