The Simpsons opening sequence
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The opening sequence of the American animated television series The Simpsons is among the popularized opening sequences in television and goes along with one of television's most recognizable theme songs. The first episode to use this intro was the series' second episode "Bart the Genius".
The standard opening has had two major revisions. The first was at the start of the second season when the entire sequence was reanimated to improve the quality and certain shots were changed generally to add characters who had been established in the first season. The second was a brand-new opening sequence produced in high-definition for the show's transition to that format beginning with "Take My Life, Please" in season 20. The new opening generally followed the sequence of the original opening with improved graphics, even more characters, and new jokes.
- 1 The sequence
- 2 Development and variations
- 3 Other versions
- 4 Guest directed versions
- 5 Parodies within the show
- 6 Reception
- 7 References
This sequence opens with the show's title in yellow approaching the camera through misty cumulus clouds in a dark blue sky. The shot cuts through the counter in the letter "P" to an establishing shot of the town of Springfield.
The camera zooms in through the town and then through a window of a lavender Springfield Elementary, where Bart is writing lines on the class chalkboard as a punishment. When the school bell rings, Bart leaves in a hurry and skateboards out of the school doors.
The shot cuts to Homer working at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant wearing a safety mask while handling a glowing green rod of uranium with tongs. An unknown co-worker in the background eats a sandwich with a pair of tongs. The end-of-shift whistle blows, and Homer immediately takes off his mask and drops the tongs to leave work. As he does so, the uranium rod bounces into the air and falls down the back of his radiation suit.
The next shot shows Marge and Maggie checking out at a supermarket. Maggie, who is sitting on the conveyor belt, is inadvertently scanned along with the groceries as Marge reads a magazine, "Mom Monthly". Maggie is rung up at a price of $847.63 (representing the monthly cost of raising a child at the time) and bagged. As Marge looks around panicked for her child, Maggie pops out of a shopping bag sucking her pacifier, and Marge breaths a sigh of relief, leaving the supermarket.
Lisa is shown next at band practice. The opening theme coordinates with this shot, and is orchestrated as if it were played by the school band. Mr. Largo stops the rest of the band to order Lisa out of the rehearsal for her unorthodox saxophone playing. She continues to improvise on her way out of the room to grab her bike.
Shots of the family on their way home to 742 Evergreen Terrace are then shown. Homer drives in his car (whose steering wheel's spokes were then shown until 2009 when they were removed), feeling something down the back of his shirt. He retrieves the uranium rod and throws it out the window. As it bounces off the curb near Moe's Tavern, Bart skateboards by, noticing a bank of televisions in a store window he passes showing Krusty the Clown; he then passes a bus stop and steals the "bus stop" sign. The five unknown unnamed characters waiting at the stop then chase after a bus that fails to stop for them.
As soon as Bart crosses the road, a car drives past and Maggie is seen inside at the steering wheel; but when the camera zooms out, her wheel is revealed to be a children's toy and Marge is actually the one driving with Maggie mimicking Marge's movements as Marge and Maggie both honk their horns. Lisa is shown biking down the street with her books tied in the front basket and her saxophone case at the back. As she hits a bump, the books fly upwards but are restrained by the strap.
She passes a tree and arrives at home. She hops off her bike on the driveway and grabs her books and saxophone, all while the bike continues to roll unaided into the garage. She runs towards the front door as Homer drives up the driveway, parking his car in front of the garage. Bart bounces his skateboard off the roof of the car and then touches down and skates to the front door. As Homer steps out of the car, he screams at the sight of Marge's car coming towards him. The shot cuts to Marge's point of view as Homer runs from the car into the house through a door in the garage. Upon entering their house, they speed from different directions towards the living room couch, segueing into the couch gag. After the gag, the television displays the executive producer credits.
Notably in "Bart the Genius", the famous high-pitched scream of Homer's when he runs from Marge's car into the house is cut. The scream is added in the third episode, "Homer's Odyssey".
The TV version of this opening has the caption "In Stereo Where Available".
For the second season, the original opening was reanimated. Most shots were very closely copied (with some shots, such as Homer's first shot) appearing to be traced. The coloring was changed on most shots, and the characters and animation cleaned up.
Some scenes were replaced or modified: In Bart's chalkboard gag, the school is now orange with purple accents instead of lavender. In Homer's first shot at the power plant, Mr. Burns and Smithers study certain plans in the background in place of the unknown co-worker. When the end-of-shift whistle blows, Mr. Burns checks his wristwatch to see if it is working.
When Bart skateboards down the sidewalk, the scenery is different, the bank of televisions is changed and shorter, and Bart no longer notices them. Instead, he weaves in between a series of secondary characters who crowd the sidewalk. This segment is notably shorter than the original bus-stop segment.
Lisa's bike ride is cut, and instead, upon Marge and Maggie honking their horns, there is a "whip-pan" across the town, featuring a significant number of secondary characters, towards the Simpsons' house. Instead of Lisa arriving first, Homer arrives first. Bart then lands his skateboard on top of Homer's car and onto the tarmac towards the front door. Homer steps out and has to dodge Lisa on her bike (saying "D'oh!") after he gets out of his car as she cycles up the driveway, following Bart. Finally, the last shot of the family television features a totally different design for the television, which has a more retro look than Season 1's.
A new permanent opening sequence was animated for the show's transition to the High Definition format, premiering with the Season 20 episode "Take My Life, Please." This sequence is similar to the previous one, but features many visual changes that take advantage of the wider format.
The sequence opens as usual with movement through cumulus clouds, while a 3-eyed crow flies by. The crow is sometimes replaced by characters, like Shary Bobbins flying by using her umbrella, or also the Planet Express Ship from Futurama. The camera then zooms past the nuclear power plant and into the town square where Jimbo and Kearney saw off the head of the statue of Jebediah Springfield (a callback to "The Telltale Head") which falls onto the head of Ralph , who is holding an ice cream cone. As it falls on him, he inadvertently tosses the cone into the statue's eye. The camera then weaves through several buildings and structures, featuring a "billboard gag" towards Springfield Elementary and zooms through the familiar window where Bart writes lines as punishment on the chalkboard. The bell rings and Bart skateboards out of the school doors, plowing into a pile of leaves raked up by Groundskeeper Willie and exposing Barney underneath as he belches.
Homer is shown leaving the power plant and, as in the previous opening sequences, the green uranium bar falls into his clothing as he leaves. This time, in the background of this scene, Lenny Leonard is standing on a ladder trying to change the "days without an accident sign" from 2 to 3 days but then falls off the ladder onto Carl Carlson who is securing the bottom of the ladder. The scene changes to Marge at the supermarket check out. Among the products Marge is buying is Tomacco juice and Mr. Sparkle detergent. Maggie is scanned, and the price doubles from $243.26 to $486.52, before she is put in the shopping cart. When Maggie pops her head out of the paper bag, Marge looks relatively calm and does not panic, unlike in the previous sequences. Maggie shakes her fist at Baby Gerald, who is beside her in another shopping cart. In band practice, Mr. Largo dismisses Lisa, who plays a solo as she leaves and then pokes her head back in the door to finish it. One notable difference from the previous opening sequence is Sherri and Terri, who are texting messages instead of playing their flutes.
Homer is then shown driving home and discards the stuck uranium bar out the window; it lands in Otto Mann's lap and he eats it. Bart skateboards past Otto before weaving through several townspeople: a machete-swinging Sideshow Bob, Helen Lovejoy, Apu and his octuplets, Moe, Comic Book Guy, Disco Stu, the Crazy Cat Lady, the Rich Texan and Chief Wiggum, who shakes his baton at Bart as Bart crosses the road. Hans Moleman pokes his head out from a manhole, which slams down on him when Marge drives over it in her car. Marge is now driving an orange station wagon instead of a red sedan. Maggie is shown in a booster seat in the middle while Grampa sleeps next to her. When Marge and Maggie honk their respective horns, Grampa is startled awake and his dentures fall out.
The camera then pans across Springfield and then cuts to the driveway scene. Unlike the other two opening sequences, Marge's car now hits Homer and carries him on the hood until it stops short, flinging him ahead to smash a Homer-shaped hole through the door. The Simpsons run into the living room and a couch gag is shown, before the credits are displayed on a new widescreen flat panel television.
In the 500th episode, the opening sequence was a montage of all previous couch gags.
Development and variations
Creator Matt Groening developed a lengthy opening sequence for the first season of The Simpsons, in order to cut down on the animation necessary for each episode, but devised the two gags as compensation for the repeated material each week. In the first of the original gags, the camera zooms in on Springfield Elementary School, where Bart can be seen writing a message on the chalkboard. This message, which changes from episode to episode, has become known as the "chalkboard gag". The other gag is known as a "couch gag", in which a twist of events occur when the family meets to sit on their couch and watch television. Groening, who had not paid much attention to television since his own childhood, was unaware that title sequences of such length were uncommon by that time. The episode "Bart the Genius" was the first to feature the series' full title sequence. The theme, which plays over the sequence, was composed by Danny Elfman in 1989, after Groening approached him requesting a retro-style theme. The piece, which took two days to create, has been noted by Elfman as the most popular of his career.
The season two episode "Bart Gets an "F"" featured a revised opening sequence, which was shortened by fifteen seconds from its original length of roughly 1 minute, 30 seconds. The opening sequence for the first season showed Bart stealing a "Bus Stop" sign; whilst the new sequence featured him skateboarding past several characters who had been introduced during the previous season. Starting with this season, there were three versions of the opening: a full roughly 1 minute 15 second long version, a 45 second version and a 25 second version. This gave the show's editors more leeway.
"Take My Life, Please" (season 20) was the first episode of The Simpsons to air in 720p high-definition television, though not the first time The Simpsons appeared in high-definition, as The Simpsons Movie was rendered in HD. This episode was the first to feature the new opening sequence. It was the first major permanent change to the show's introduction since the opening added in season two; previous changes have included variations in the duration of the intro, and special one-shot introductions for the Treehouse of Horror Halloween episodes, as well as a handful of others. This new intro also includes some 3D animation when the camera pans over Springfield. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening told the New York Post: "The clouds at the very beginning of the main title were always unsatisfying to me. My original direction to the animators was to make the clouds as realistic as possible, and as we go through the clouds we enter this cartoon universe of The Simpsons. Finally, after a couple of decades, they've gotten closer to what I had in my mind. Not perfect, but better."
The two original variations were further expanded to these variations:
- Something different goes across the screen at the clouds (since 2009).
- The billboard in front of the elementary school changes (since 2009).
- Bart writes something different on the chalkboard in every episode.
- Lisa may play a different solo on her saxophone (or on a different instrument entirely), since 2009.
- Homer's scream changes as he dodges Marge (first two seasons only)
- The Simpson family attempt to sit on the couch as something goes awry in an often surreal manner.
The billboard gag is a running visual joke added to the opening sequence with the updated 2009 high-definition opening. In the gag, a billboard is seen on the roof of the building across the street from the elementary school as the camera pans through the town. The billboard changes every episode. The first episode with a billboard gag was "Take My Life, Please" where the billboard says "Krusty: Now Doing Funerals".
The chalkboard gag is a running visual joke that occurs during the opening credits of many episodes. In this gag, Bart Simpson is writing lines on the chalkboard as a punishment; when the school bell rings, he immediately stops writing and runs out of the classroom. The phrase he writes on the chalkboard changes from episode to episode. Chalkboard messages may involve political humor such as "The First Amendment does not cover burping", pop culture references such as "I can't see dead people" (The Sixth Sense) and "I was not the sixth Beatle", the Invader Zim pilot with Dib, and meta-references such as "I am not a 32-year-old woman" (in reference to Bart's voice actor Nancy Cartwright) and "Nobody reads these anymore". When possible, Bart is shown deliberately disobeying the line that he is writing on the chalkboard (e.g. squeaking chalk when asked to write "I will not squeak chalk", putting in ditto marks for "I will not cut corners", showing dis-coordination with "coffee is not for kids", or putting "I will finish what I sta" for a single line).  In The Simpsons Movie, the gag, "I will not illegally download this movie", is a reference to piracy. The animators are able to produce the chalkboard gags quickly and in some cases have changed them to fit current events. For example, the chalkboard gag for "Homer the Heretic" (season four, 1992) read, "I will not defame New Orleans." The gag had been written as an apology to the city for a controversial song in the previous week's episode, which called the city a "home of pirates, drunks and whores". Another such chalkboard line gave the creators stance on the threats made towards another popular animated sitcom, South Park, by the group Revolution Muslim, following the controversies with the episodes 200 and 201 and the depictions of Muslim prophet Mohammed (South Park- We'd stand beside you if we weren't so scared). Many episodes do not feature a chalkboard gag because they are cut to make more room for story, plot development and advertisements. In "Four Regrettings and a Funeral" (season 25, 2013), Bart writes "We'll really miss you Mrs. K" only once, in tribute to the recent death of Marcia Wallace, the voice of Edna Krabappel. In the first episode to air after Donald Trump won the United States presidential election in 2016, Bart writes "Being right sucks", a reference to the 2000 episode "Bart to the Future" where Lisa succeeds Trump as Commander-in-Chief.
During the opening sequence, Lisa is seen being ejected from band rehearsal due to her non-conformist saxophone playing. She exits the room playing a saxophone solo, which sometimes changes. Some of the solos have similarities with pieces by Donovan, Frank Zappa, James Brown, and Charlie Parker. The Simpsons composer Alf Clausen said that the session musicians who perform her solos do not try to play at the second grade level and instead "think of Lisa as a really good player". Lisa plays the baritone saxophone, but according to Matt Groening, "she doesn't always play a baritone sax because the animators don't know what it looks like, so it changes shape and color from show to show."
After the switch to HD production, Lisa has also performed occasionally her solo on an instrument other than the saxophone. As of Season 20 to 29, she has played a trumpet, violin or fiddle, tuba, baritone horn, clarinet, theremin, and harp. In this last instance, she drags the instrument with her and continues playing once Mr. Largo orders her out of the room. When Lisa rides home on her bike after she has played a different instrument, she is seen to still have it with her.
The "couch gag" is a running visual joke near the end of the opening credits. The gag generally changes from episode to episode, and usually features the Simpson family's living room couch. A typical gag features the Simpson family running into the living room, only to find some abnormality with the couch, be it a bizarre and unexpected occupant, an odd placement of the couch, such as on the ceiling, or any number of other situations.
In the syndicated version for the episodes from seasons 1 to 5, the couch gag for the episode is usually replaced with the one from season five's "Rosebud" where The Simpsons find an exact double of themselves on the couch (though the syndicated versions of the later episodes retain their original couch gags).
The couch gag is frequently used to make the show longer or shorter, depending on the length of the episode itself. For example, longer couch gags have been used to fill time in shorter episodes, such as in "Lisa's First Word" and "The Front" and "Cape Feare". An extended couch gag was also seen in the first episode to use the new opening sequence, "Take My Life, Please", where the family chases their couch on a tour across the world. Another long couch gag was in the show's 500th episode "At Long Last Leave," showing a montage of previous couch gags.
In 2006, the British television channel Sky 1 began advertising The Simpsons using a live-action recreation of the series' opening sequence directed by Chris Palmer. Except for the very first shot in which the logo appears out of the clouds, every piece of the opening is present in this version, with even multiple chalkboard and couch gags filmed. Attached to the end of this sequence is the message "Come home to The Simpsons on Sky One." The recreation was used instead of the regular opening titles in the season 17 episode "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife", first broadcast on the Fox network on March 26, 2006. The live-action opening had also become an Internet hit before it was aired in front of "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife", and it was Groening's decision to use it. Al Jean commented in a press statement that he was "just amazed there are people who want to be known for looking like the Simpsons."
A Christmas-themed version was animated for "Kill Gil, Volumes I & II" and later re-aired with "The Burns and the Bees". It begins with two lines of instrumental "O Christmas Tree" and then the normal theme music begins. This version is similar to the normal version, except for several key differences:
- Everything outside is covered with snow
- Bart's skateboard has been replaced with a snowboard
- Everyone is wearing winter attire
- Mr. Burns and Smithers have been replaced by a Scrooge-esque Burns and Ghost of Marley-esque Smithers, and there are several Christmas banners in the plant
- Lisa's saxophone solo is a jazz version of "Deck the Halls"
- Bleeding Gums Murphy, who is now deceased, has been replaced with Jasper in a Santa costume. Maude Flanders, however, remains in the pan across Springfield, despite having also died.
- Marge and Maggie's supermarket and car sequence have been cut
In the end, the couch gag is that the family sits on the couch and the camera then pulls out to reveal that the family was reflected in a Christmas ornament, which rests on a Christmas tree.
Another Christmas version of the opening titles appeared in "White Christmas Blues".
The Simpsons Movie and callback
A completely different sequence was created for The Simpsons Movie and features an orchestrated version of "The Simpsons Theme" as adapted by Hans Zimmer. The cumulus clouds are displayed in 16:9 television aspect ratio, with black matte bars at either end of the screen. As "The Simpsons" logo appears out of the clouds, Professor Frink flies past in one of his inventions carrying a banner marked "MOVIE" and proclaims "Moo-vie! On the big screen!" (On the movie's DVD menu he says, "On the small screen!" when the menu appears, but then "On the big screen" during the actual opening sequence.) Frink bumps one of the matte bars out of view, and the other one recedes as the camera zooms in on the town, with several major landmarks popping up. The scene changes to Mr. Burns, who collapses under the extra weight of the toothpaste on his toothbrush, which is dispensed by Smithers. The camera then zooms past Moe's Tavern into the Kwik-E-Mart where Apu is secretly changing the expiration date on a carton of milk from 2006 to 2008. The camera cuts to Springfield Elementary where Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney are hoisting Martin Prince up a flagpole by his underwear and saluting it as if it were a flag. The camera then zooms through a window of the school where Bart is doing the chalkboard gag which is "I will not illegally download this movie", a reference to piracy before quick-fading to Green Day who are hosting a concert at Lake Springfield, playing their rendition of "The Simpsons Theme".
"He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs" (season 19) was the first new episode to air following the release of The Simpsons Movie, and the episode's opening sequence is a callback to the film. Bart writes "I will not wait 20 years to make another movie" on the chalkboard and skateboards through Springfield, which is still recovering from the dome incident. Several movie characters reappear, including president Schwarzenegger, the Multi-Eyed Squirrel, Colin, Russ Cargill, and the Medicine Woman. We also see that the Simpsons' house is still under construction and the silo is strapped to Homer's car. Plopper the pig is also featured for the first time in the series, during the couch gag and Homer refers to him as "my summer love."
A special opening sequence, featuring the cast lip dubbing to Ke$ha's single "Tik Tok", was animated for "To Surveil with Love" to promote "Fox Rocks" week. This is the first canonical episode that does not feature "The Simpsons Theme" in any capacity, in the show's history. The sequence starts with Lisa waking up and then grabbing Milhouse's glasses. It then shows Groundskeeper Willie brushing his teeth with whiskey. He then gives it to Mrs Krabappel who drinks some while they walk into school before Mrs Krabappel grabs Willie and drags him into a classroom. In the hallway Sherri, Terri and Martin are having pedicures while Ralph is playing in the lost and found box. Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers walk past. The three bullies stick their heads out a classroom and blow up a phone causing coins to explode out of it. Then it shows the music room. Then the bus where Otto falls over. It then shows Nelson singing before showing inside Moe's bar where a group of people are fighting. Marge comes and drags Homer out of the bar and into her car where they drive home. It then pans over a few characters. Marge and Homer then come in where Lisa, Bart (dressed like a rapper) and Maggie are waiting. They all run into the living room and sit on the couch before a number of characters lift them up. The family then falls asleep.
Breaking Bad parody
An homage to the AMC drama Breaking Bad is used as an opening sequence for "What Animated Women Want", set to the tune of "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by Tommy James and the Shondells. The song is also used during a montage in the Breaking Bad episode "Gliding Over All", in reference to the blue-colored methamphetamine produced by the show's central character Walter White.
The sequence opens with a parody of the Breaking Bad title card, with The Simpsons displayed across the screen with the symbols for Thorium (Th) and Silicon (Si) appearing at the beginning of each word. Marge, aping the downtrodden demeanor of Walter's wife Skyler, sits on the couch drinking coffee. She goes into the kitchen to begin baking cupcakes, using food coloring to turn the batter blue and adding frosting and sprinkles in other shades of this color. She places one batch in a silver briefcase, which she gives to Bart before he leaves the house. Homer, dressed in the dark hat and sunglasses Walter dons for his "Heisenberg" persona, sneaks a taste of the batter while Marge is baking and is later woken from a nap by the smell. The scene cuts to a church bake sale, where Marge sells a cupcake to Milhouse as Homer watches from a distance. Back at the Simpson house, Marge runs her earnings through a currency-counting machine, bundles the money, and adds it to a large pile on the dining table. The camera zooms out to reveal a live-action scene (taken from the episode "Hazard Pay") of Walter White and his partner Jesse Pinkman sitting on a couch drinking beer and watching the sequence on a TV.
The crossover episode "Simpsorama" (season 26, episode 6) begins with a parody of the Futurama title sequence, which includes the Futurama theme music and a text reading "A show out of ideas teams up with a show out of episodes."It ends with a couch gag with the Simpsons sits on the couch, only to find out the couch is actually Hedonismbot.
"Bart Gets the Remote"
Used as an opening sequence for "Dad Behavior". The sequence opens as usual, until Bart skateboards out of the school and lands on the pile of leaves. He wakes up Barney in process, who then grabs his skateboard and breaks it in half, forcing him to walk home. At work, when Homer drops the tongs, the glowing rod bounces into his mouth and he swallows it, before collapsing. At school, when Largo dismisses Lisa, she hits the door with her saxophone and collapses; the saxophone then falls on her. Next, when Maggie is seen at the steering wheel, when the camera zooms out, it reveals that she is actually driving the car while Marge is sleeping in the backseat. She then wakes up, just when the car drives off a cliff and through a barn. In the process, a chicken gets in the car, and is sitting next to Maggie, clucking, before she sticks her pacifier into its mouth, before driving them all into the lake, where the car sinks. Marge and the chicken then surface, but Maggie does not. Finally, the couch is shown, and Bart walks into the room, alone, carrying his broken skateboard. After calling around for his family, but getting no notice, he takes their pictures and puts them on the couch as he sits there, remarking that "Finally, I get the remote."  
Guest directed versions
British graffiti artist and political activist Banksy is credited with creating the opening titles and couch gag for the season 22 episode "MoneyBart", in what amounted to the first time that an artist has been invited to storyboard the show. Jean first took note of Banksy after seeing his 2010 film Exit Through the Gift Shop. According to Jean, "The concept in my mind was, 'What if this graffiti artist came in and tagged our main titles?'" Simpsons casting director Bonnie Pietila was able to contact the artist through the film's producers, and asked if he would be interested in writing a main title for the show. Jean said Banksy "sent back boards for pretty much what you saw." Series creator Matt Groening gave the idea his blessing, and helped try to make the sequence as close to Banksy's original storyboards as possible.
Approximately the first half minute of the opening sequence remains the same, with a few oddities: the word "BANKSY" is sprayed onto a number of walls and other public spaces. The chalkboard gag ("I must not write all over the walls") is written all over the classroom walls, clock, door, and floor. After the Simpsons arrive at home, the camera cuts to a shot of them on the couch, then zooms out to show this as a picture hanging on the wall of a fictional overseas Asian animation and merchandise sweatshop. The animation color quickly becomes drab and gray, and the music turns dramatic à la Schindler's List. A large group of tired and sickly artists draw animation cels for The Simpsons among piles of human bones and toxic waste, and a female artist hands a barefoot child employee an animation cel, which he washes in a vat of biohazardous fluid. Small kittens are thrown into a woodchipper-type machine to provide the filling for Bart Simpson plush dolls. The toys are then placed into a cart pulled by a sad panda which is driven by a man with a whip. A man shipping boxes with The Simpsons logo on the side uses the tongue from a decapitated dolphin head to fasten shut the packages. Another employee uses the horn of a sickly unicorn to smash the holes in the center of The Simpsons DVDs. It is then revealed that the sweatshop is contained within a grim version of the 20th Century Fox logo, surrounded by barbed wire, searchlights, and a watchtower.
The Simpsons is storyboarded at Film Roman, a company based in California. The storyboards, voice tracks and coloring instructions are then sent to AKOM, a company in Seoul, South Korea. According to Nelson Shin, the founder of AKOM, they received the storyboard for the sequence in August 2010. Believing the sequence to be "excessive and offending" he pushed for some of the darker jokes to be removed. He was successful, though "not nearly as much as he had pushed for." For example, in the storyboards, the workers were wearing conical Asian hats, but these were removed. Fox's standards and practices department also demanded a handful of changes, but, according to Jean, "95 percent of it is just the way [Banksy] wanted." Banksy told The Guardian that his opening sequence was influenced by The Simpsons long-running use of animation studios in Seoul, South Korea. The newspaper also reported that the creation of the sequence "is said to have been one of the most closely guarded secrets in US television – comparable to the concealment of Banksy's own identity." Although conceding to the fact that The Simpsons is largely animated in South Korea, Jean went on to state that the scenes shown in titles are "very fanciful, far-fetched. None of the things he depicts are true. That statement should be self-evident, but I will emphatically state it."
After the positive response to the opening sequence by Banksy, creator Matt Groening and Jean came to Canadian animator and creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show, John Kricfalusi and asked him if he could do something similar for the episode "Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts". Originally, they only wanted him to do the storyboards and then let their regular crew animate it, but Kricfalusi insisted on doing the animation himself, explaining that "If we had done it that way, no one would even have known that I had anything to do with it because it would have ended up on model and all pose to pose". On The Simpsons, the animators draws key poses and then let tweeners interpolate between those poses. The interpolation however, is a straight A-to-B animation. That way the animation ends up having the characters just going from pose to pose. Kricfalusi explains that "On the Simpsons I wanted to try moving the characters in crazy fun ways, not just looking funny each time they come to a stop", and further elaborated "that the way things happened was even more important than what was happening in my work. You can’t write visual performance. You have to actually draw it."
He showed Groening and showrunner Al Jean his Adult Swim shorts and Groening responded by giving him a free hand to do the 35-second-long segment. Groening told him to break all The Simpsons rules, but Kricfalusi explains that he "tried not to break any rules in the characters’ personalities, just in the execution of the visuals. I didn’t follow any models—not even my own". The more rules he broke, the more pleased Groening and Jean were with the result. Contrary to Banksy, who lives a life in secrecy, Kricfalusi was involved in every detail and even oversaw the dubbing of the final soundtrack. While Kricfalusi animated the 2D parts, he had John Kedzie to help him with the computer graphics and Sarah Harkey and Tommy Tanner to do the assistant animation.
The couch gag for the episode was critically acclaimed by television critics. Amid Amidi of Cartoon Brew calls the opening revolutionary and explains that "in 35 short and sweet seconds, he liberates the animation of The Simpsons from years of graphic banality." He continued: "The visual look of the show, which has been so carefully controlled by its producers, becomes a giddy and unrestrained playground for graphic play, and the balance of creative authority is shifted from the writers’ room to the animators in one fell swoop." When comparing the segment to Banksy's, Amidi concluded that it is "in fact, far more subversive because he focuses almost exclusively on making a pictorial statement, relegating the show's dominant literary elements to the back seat." Similarly, Television Blend's Katey Rich wrote that she appreciates "The Simpsons always being willing to push the envelope in different ways", but admitted that "it's gonna take [her] some time to get the gangly-legged Marge Simpson and the leering Homer Simpson out of [her] brain."
Bill Plympton has written and animated six couch gags, one for "Beware My Cheating Bart" where Homer falls in love with the couch...until he meets Marge, one for "Black Eyed, Please" in which Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa are in a 1930s gangster story, armed with several weapons which are revealed to be gifts once Maggie turns the light on. The sixth comes from "3 Scenes Plus a Tag from a Marriage" which is a new version of his 1987 film "Your Face" with Homers face as a replacement.
The couch gag for the episode, "The Fabulous Faker Boy", which aired on May 12, 2013, was stop-motion animated by Seth Green's Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, which also works on the television series Robot Chicken.
Guillermo del Toro
The couch gag for the episode "Clown in the Dumps" which aired on September 28, 2014, was animated by the Academy Award-nominated surrealist animator Don Hertzfeldt, who was recommended to the show by Mike B. Anderson. It depicts Homer using a time-traveling remote control to regress to his original 1987 character model from The Tracey Ullman Show then accidentally going into a distant future incarnation of the show called The Sampsans where he and his family have evolved into grotesque, mindless, catchphrase-spouting mutants, which also say to 'buy their merchandise'. Homer (now named 'Homar') sees a window, triggering memories of when the show was more pure and genuine, and where in one of the three flashbacks, Marge says 'Still love you Homar'. Homer feels sad when he returns to the bastardized world he lives in. Al Jean deemed it "crazier than we thought" and "the most insane one we've ever done".
Rick and Morty
The couch gag for the episode "Teenage Mutant Milk-Caused Hurdles" which aired on January 10, 2016, features guest animator Steve Cutts LA-Z Rider with over 14 million views on YouTube. Fox had anticipated low viewing figures due to the NFL overrun pushing the start of primetime to 8:20 p.m. Despite this, the episode was the highest viewed of season 27 with 8.3 Million views.
Parodies within the show
The opening sequence has been parodied within six episodes of The Simpsons:
- A short parody as The Thompsons in the episode "Cape Feare", when the Simpsons go into a witness protection program to evade Sideshow Bob.
- As The Hurricane in the episode "Hurricane Neddy". Gray clouds appear, and the words "The Hurricane" in red letters come out in the same manner as the real opening. Similar vocals sing "The Hurricane", and then the letters are blown away to show parts of Springfield being destroyed.
- In "Simpsons Bible Stories", Bart is writing a chalkboard punishment in hieroglyphics when he hears Moses/Milhouse's horn being blown and leaves the classroom.
- As Three weeks later in "The Heartbroke Kid". Instead of writing on a chalkboard, a now overweight Bart is seen buying and eating chocolate from a vending machine. He cracks the pavement when he leaves the school, bends a lamppost, runs over pedestrians, hits Marge's car, sending it spinning off-screen, and crushes the roof of Homer's car, before stumbling into the living room having a heart attack.
- In "Little Big Girl", Bart is awarded a driver's license. Bart is seen at the chalkboard writing "So long suckers". He bursts through the school doors in Homer's car, instead of on his skateboard, and speeds away. Instead of dodging all the obstacles seen in the standard opening sequence, he runs them over. As Homer pulls into the driveway and steps out to enter the house, the other car lands on him, and Bart walks into the house.
- As The Outlands in "At Long Last Leave". In place of the chalkboard, Bart uses spray paint to vandalize a wall before leaving in a motorcycle. The family return home in a variety of ramshackle vehicles, before settling down on the couch to watch a sleeping fox.
The opening sequence has multiple times been picked as one of the best title sequences of all time on TV. In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, The Simpsons opening title sequence ranked #1 on a list of TV's top 10 credits sequences, as selected by readers. In 2017, James Charisma of Paste ranked the opening sequence #1 on a list of The 75 Best TV Title Sequences of All Time.
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