The Itchy & Scratchy Show
The Itchy & Scratchy Show (often shortened as Itchy & Scratchy) is a running gag and fictional animated television series featured in the American animated television series The Simpsons. It usually appears as a part of The Krusty the Clown Show, watched regularly by Bart Simpson and Lisa Simpson. Itself an animated cartoon, The Itchy & Scratchy Show depicts a sadistic anthropomorphic blue mouse, Itchy (voiced by Dan Castellaneta), who repeatedly maims and kills an anthropomorphic, hapless threadbare black cat, Scratchy (voiced by Harry Shearer). The cartoon first appeared in The Tracey Ullman Show short "The Bart Simpson Show", which originally aired November 20, 1988. The cartoon's first appearance in The Simpsons was in the 1990 episode "There's No Disgrace Like Home". Typically presented as 15-to-60-second-long cartoons, the show is filled with gratuitous violence. The Simpsons also occasionally features characters who are involved with the production of The Itchy & Scratchy Show, including Roger Meyers Jr. (voiced by Alex Rocco, and, later, Hank Azaria), who runs the studio and produces the show.
The Itchy and Scratchy characters are grotesque, extremely violent parodies of Tom and Jerry and Herman and Katnip; the names were inspired by "Pixie and Dixie", who were mice on Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks. The Italian comic strip Squeak the Mouse is also considered as an apparent inspiration for the characters. The mouse (or mice) are almost always the aggressors and, as in Tom and Jerry, are almost always the victors, killing Scratchy and any other cats around. The cartoons became popular among the show's writers and animators, and they are often added when an episode needs expanding. As the shorts became popular with fans, the writers decided to have full episodes that centered on the production of The Itchy & Scratchy Show and featured multiple shorts. The first was "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" (season two, 1990), which was a commentary on censorship. Other episodes to feature the show in a prominent role include "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie" (season four, 1992), "The Front" (season four, 1993), "Itchy & Scratchy Land" (season six, 1994), "The Day the Violence Died" (season seven, 1996) and "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" (season eight, 1997) and "Treehouse of Horror IX" (season ten, 1998).
Role in The Simpsons
The Itchy & Scratchy Show is a show within a show that appears occasionally in episodes of The Simpsons. They typically appear in the form of 12-60 second cartoons that are filled with gratuitous violence, usually initiated by Itchy the mouse against Scratchy the cat; Itchy is almost always the victor. Itchy & Scratchy airs as a segment on The Krusty the Clown Show, and also aired on its brief replacements, Sideshow Bob's Cavalcade of Whimsy and Gabbo.
Itchy & Scratchy is usually a parody of traditional cartoons or takeoffs on famous films, but the plot and content are always violent. The most direct and obvious example is Tom and Jerry, an animated series which was also about a constant battle between a cat and a mouse, with the mouse usually victorious. Itchy & Scratchy also includes shorts such as Scratchtasia, a parody of Fantasia, and Pinitchio, a parody of Pinocchio. Animation-related jokes are prevalent in the show, such as the Manhattan Madness cartoon in "The Day the Violence Died", which is based on very early animated cartoons such as Gertie the Dinosaur. The cartoons also occasionally serve to play out an exaggerated form of the conflict in the surrounding episode. For example, in "Deep Space Homer" (season five, 1994), Homer is recruited by NASA, and later watches an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon which directly (and gruesomely) parodies the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien.
Fictional production history
Chester J. Lampwick created Itchy for the now-lost silent cartoon Manhattan Madness, in which the mouse brutally attacks and kills an Irishman and Theodore Roosevelt, in 1919 (the year of the first Felix the Cat cartoon). However, the character was later stolen by Roger Meyers. Scratchy starred in his first cartoon in 1928, titled That Happy Cat. The film, a 13-second-long animation showing the cat whistling and tipping his hat, was a commercial failure. Later that year, Itchy and Scratchy starred in their first cartoon together, Steamboat Itchy, a violent parody of Disney's Steamboat Willie. Along with the cartoon shorts, Itchy and Scratchy were featured in a World War II-era radio series, at least two films — Pinitchio and Scratchtasia (parodies of Pinocchio and Fantasia), and television commercials for Laramie Cigarettes.
Itchy & Scratchy Studios is run by Roger Meyers Jr., the son of Roger Meyers, the cartoon's "creator." The studio was bankrupted after it was sued by Lampwick for $800 billion, but was saved after receiving a large cash settlement from the government over its use of Mr. ZIP. The show underwent a brief, non-violent retooling following a protest campaign led by Marge Simpson, but returned to its original violent format after Marge was later discredited. Itchy & Scratchy has spawned an Academy Award-winning film adaptation, amusement parks, and a musical, and like Krusty's show, localized versions are produced for other countries, such as Jamaica's The Itchem and Scratchem Blow.
The Itchy & Scratchy Show
Itchy and Scratchy are the main characters in the show. The duo first appeared in The Tracey Ullman Show short "The Bart Simpson Show," which aired November 20, 1988. Their first appearance in The Simpsons was "There's No Disgrace Like Home." Itchy, voiced by Dan Castellaneta, is a blue mouse, and usually the aggressor and the victor over the hapless Scratchy in their battles. An exception is in "Homer Goes to College" (season five, 1993). Bart and Lisa watch a cartoon called "Burning Down the Mouse", as Lisa puts it, "This is the one where Scratchy finally gets Itchy". However, due to the Simpsons' television being accidentally unplugged, the viewer does not see the end of the cartoon and Krusty proclaims that the network will never let it be shown again, to Bart and Lisa's fury. Scratchy, voiced by Harry Shearer, is a threadbare, dim-witted black cat and the victim of relentless abuse from the sadistic mouse, Itchy. The writers often forget which character is which; a trick they use is that Scratchy contains the letters c, a and t.
Poochie, voiced by Dan Castellaneta and Alex Rocco, is an anthropomorphic dog that appeared in "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" (season eight, 1997). In the episode, the producers of The Itchy & Scratchy Show believed the cartoons were getting stale, and needed a new character to reinvigorate the show. Homer Simpson gets the job of voicing Poochie, who is introduced in the cartoon, "The Beagle Has Landed". A product of marketing department thinking, Poochie was near-universally despised, and was killed off in his second appearance, despite Homer's objections. The episode was both a reference to TV shows which added new characters purportedly to reinvigorate the show, and a commentary on the growing complaints of fans of The Simpsons. The original idea for the episode was that Poochie would be obnoxious because he was so rich, rather than because he was so cool. Poochie would later make brief speaking cameo appearances in "Treehouse of Horror IX" and "Little Big Mom."
Disgruntled Goat, Uncle Ant, Ku Klux Klam, an anthropomorphic goat, ant and clam, respectively, were characters introduced in a short-lived "Itchy and Scratchy and Friends" show. Bart and Lisa find plush toys of them in a gift shop in the "Itchy and Scratchy Land" episode.
Roger Meyers Jr., voiced by Alex Rocco and Hank Azaria, is the Chairman of the Board of Itchy & Scratchy Studios and son of Roger Meyers. He first appeared in "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" (season two, 1990). He distributes the cartoon and is a jaded and selfish businessman who has nothing but contempt for the children who comprise his audience. He also possesses an extremely obnoxious personality, where he only cares about people who can help him. This is displayed in his contempt for the writers of The Itchy & Scratchy Show.
Alex Rocco also voiced Meyers in "The Day the Violence Died" and "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show." He said that he liked voicing Meyers because "I get to be a big-shot." He professed being nervous when voicing the character for the first time in "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" because he said that he had never done a voice-over before. At first he tried doing a special voice, but was told to "just be yourself." Rocco was one of Bill Oakley's and Josh Weinstein's favorite guest stars, and they liked including him in their episodes so they could "have a little fun with him." On occasions when Rocco was unavailable to do a voice over, Meyers was voiced by Hank Azaria in "The Front" (season four, 1993), "Lady Bouvier's Lover" (season five, 1994) and "Itchy & Scratchy Land."
The spelling of Meyers' name has been inconsistent in the show. His last name was spelt both Myers and Meyers in "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge," and Myers the later episode "The Day the Violence Died." His name is spelt Meyers in "The Front," as well as in the book The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family.
Roger Meyers Sr. first appeared in video footage in "Itchy & Scratchy Land" and has never had a speaking role. He was created because the writers felt it would have been "tortured logic" to have the Roger Meyers Jr. be the creator. Roger Meyers Sr. has similarities to Walt Disney. For example, Disney's alleged antisemitism is spoofed when it is revealed that Meyers made a cartoon called Nazi Supermen are Our Superiors.
June Bellamy, voiced by Tress MacNeille, is the actress who portrays both Itchy and Scratchy. Her only appearance was in "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show." It is assumed she is a reference to veteran voice actress June Foray, based on the same first name. In the episode, Bellamy states that a woman voiced the characters, although Itchy and Scratchy are voiced by male actors.
Chester J. Lampwick, voiced by Kirk Douglas, is the creator of Itchy and only appeared in "The Day the Violence Died." The producers' first choice for the character, William Hickey, declined. Douglas's recording session was fraught with interruptions because he refused to wear the supplied earphones, and said the maximum he would do was two takes.
Writing staff: In several episodes revolving around the production of The Itchy & Scratchy Show, caricatures of the show's staff are used as the staff of The Itchy & Scratchy Show. This first occurred in "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" where caricatures of animators David Silverman, Wes Archer and Rich Moore can be seen. In "The Front" many of the show's writers were used, this in-joke was purely an idea of the animators. John Swartzwelder, George Meyer, Jeff Martin, Al Jean, Sam Simon, Jon Vitti and Mike Reiss all appeared in the episode. This joke returned in "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show". Almost all of the writers shown are caricatures of the actual staff of The Simpsons. At the production table, David X. Cohen, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein are shown, while Meyer speaks out and gets fired. The animator shown designing Poochie is Silverman. Others who appear include Dan McGrath, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Donick Cary, Ron Hauge, Ned Goldreyer and Mike Scully.
The Itchy & Scratchy Show first appeared in The Tracey Ullman Show short "The Bart Simpson Show," which originally aired November 20, 1988. They were the first major recurring characters outside of the Simpson family to appear. They are based on Tom and Jerry and other cat and mouse cartoons. As a child, series creator Matt Groening and his friends would fantasize about an ultra violent cartoon and how much fun it would be to work on a show like that. The names "Itchy" and "Scratchy" were inspired by "Pixie and Dixie," who were mice on the cartoon show Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks. The comic strip Squeak the Mouse is also considered as an apparent inspiration for the characters. The show is also based on Herman and Katnip, a show that, according to director David Silverman, "is hilarious because it's just bad." As a child, Groening really liked the 1961 Disney film One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and it was one of the reasons to why he got into cartooning. In the film, the puppies watch television, and the idea that it is possible to have a cartoon within a cartoon thrilled Groening. From that idea he got the inspiration for The Itchy & Scratchy Show.
David Silverman states that Itchy and Scratchy cartoons are "an ironic commentary on cartoon mayhem in the sense that it's taken to a more realistic level. The kids on The Simpsons are laughing at it, and we're laughing too, but part of what you're laughing at is the over-the-top excessiveness of the violence."
Itchy and Scratchy cartoons are often added when a show needs expanding or when there is an issue that the writers wish to satirize. In some cases, notably in "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show," the writers use Itchy & Scratchy as a way to comment on The Simpsons. The shorts are often difficult for the writers, and take much time to develop and devise a title, and in the end they fill little time. Writing the Itchy & Scratchy cartoons is quite often a group effort, with it being pitched out one gag after another. Itchy & Scratchy are a favorite of John Swartzwelder, who has written many of the episodes that center on them and quite often pitches the ideas for the shorts. In the early seasons, fans wanted more Itchy & Scratchy, so the writers decided to do "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge," an episode also dealt with censorship issues which would allow them to show several cartoons. The cartoons are often kept short, because according to David Silverman, "it doesn't really work as a long cartoon."
During his tenure as showrunner (season five and six) David Mirkin was asked by the Fox network not to do any more Itchy & Scratchy cartoons due to the amount of violence in them. In response, the show produced "Itchy & Scratchy Land." The network asked them not to do the episode, and threatened that if the episode was produced, they would cut the Itchy & Scratchy parts out themselves, but relented when Mirkin threatened to tell the media. The writers nevertheless promised to try not to overdo the violence and in some scenes the violence was cut.
During their tenure as executive producers, Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein tried to fit in one episode relating to The Itchy & Scratchy Show every season. They note that as the seasons progressed, it became increasingly difficult for them to create new Itchy & Scratchy episode ideas. Although the episode was difficult to animate, "Itchy & Scratchy Land" was "a dream come true" for the animators, as they enjoyed animating scenes filled with violence.
In a 2006 article, IGN ranked Itchy & Scratchy in tenth position on their list of the "Top 25 Simpsons Peripheral Characters," citing that "the Itchy & Scratchy Show shines a nice mirror on cartoons, showing just how funny cartoon violence really is." In 2003, Entertainment Weekly named "Itchy & Scratchy Land" and "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" the 7th-best and 23rd-best episodes of The Simpsons, respectively. In 2007, Vanity Fair named "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" the sixth-best episode in the show's history, describing it as "a classic satire of network influence, obsessed TV fans, and programs that survive long after the shark has been jumped, the episode is a meta-celebration, a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal to everyone who claimed that the quality of The Simpsons had declined over the years." Todd Gilchrist called it a masterpiece, stating it "could easily be packaged and sold by [itself]." Robert Canning of IGN writes that "it's always fun to see an 'Itchy and Scratchy' cartoon" but believes that the shorter and simpler cartoons are better than the longer more complex ones. In his book Planet Simpson, author Chris Turner describes Itchy & Scratchy as "by far the most gleeful visual riffing on The Simpsons [...] each snippet of "Itchy & Scratchy" packs as much frenetically paced action, sight-gaggery and physical humor into its half-minute of screen time as a half-dozen Road Runner cartoons and a dozen Tom & Jerrys." In a 2014 Vulture article, the Simpsons writers ranked their nine favorite Itchy and Scratchy cartoons. Season-wise their choices ranged from season 4's "Steamboat Itchy" to Season 14's "Bleeder of the Pack", while also including the opening scene of The Simpsons Movie and the safety video "Safety First" that plays before The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios, both from 2007.
Itchy and Scratchy have appeared in various products and other media relating to The Simpsons. A video game named The Itchy & Scratchy Game was released for Genesis, Game Gear, Super NES and Game Boy. Another game, Itchy and Scratchy in Miniature Golf Madness, was released for Game Boy. Itchy, Scratchy and Poochie play roles in the "Grand Theft Scratchy" section in The Simpsons Game. Itchy & Scratchy have also appeared in commercials for various products, including a 1999 Butterfinger advert where Bart watches a short called "500 Easy Pieces". They appear in the very first scene of The Simpsons Movie. The writers of the film knew from the beginning that they were going to start with an Itchy & Scratchy short and the segment was the first scene that was storyboarded by the animators.
The duo also appear in the pre-show video for The Simpsons Ride. They host a video called "Safety First" that shows riders what can happen to them if they do not follow ride requirements. Only Itchy has a speaking part in the ride, because Harry Shearer chose not to participate in the ride, so none of his characters have speaking parts.
British based street-wear label Drop Dead released the first ever Itchy & Scratchy specific clothing line on May 31, 2014. The collection includes both men's and women's wear including leggings, sweat pants, hoodies, T-shirts, and crew-necks. The collection pays homage to classic Simpsons, with a vintage theme throughout. Itchy & Scratchy feature on all almost all the garments, aside from a handful that feature Krusty the Clown.
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