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It’s an inside job when ‘Simpsons’ do Disney

By Hal Boedeker | Sentinel Television Critic
Posted January 4, 2003

When savoring the Orlando jokes Sunday night on The Simpsons, be aware that executive producer Al Jean used to work for Disney, that he has visited Epcot many times and that his parents live in Central Florida.

So when the animated characters stop at EFCOT, whose motto is “when every other place is booked,” they will find the Enron ride (a roller coaster that only goes down) and an attraction called Great Moments with Mr. Eisner.

“The F doesn’t stand for anything,” Jean says from Spain, where he’s vacationing. “We’re always trying to satirize pop culture, and at this point, Disney World has been around 30 years. You think everyone has been there. It’s a wide target to parody where most people will get the jokes.”

His family has been to Disney World often and Jean knows the target he’s satirizing, says his mother, Myrna. She and husband Al live in Poinciana.

In the episode, to air at 8 p.m. on WOFL-Channel 35, Bart nominates Edna Krab- appel for Teacher of the Year, and Little Richard hands out the award. Edna gets engaged to Principal Skinner, although they won’t marry until next season.

The harshest jab at Disney, Jean says, comes when Homer gets into the Magic Kingdom and is charged $14 for a churro.

Jean left The Simpsons for several years in the 1990s to work for Disney on the sitcom Teen Angel. He has been running the animated show the past year, when it gained 2 million viewers and received a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy.

The Simpsons marks its 300th episode Feb. 16 with Bart learning that he was a baby star, named Baby Stink Breath, and that Homer squandered his earnings. In another episode, Ned Flanders dates a movie star (voice by Oscar winner Marisa Tomei) in a sendup of Notting Hill. Still another episode features David Byrne singing Homer’s song about how he hates Ned.

“They just closed a deal to do two more years,” Jean says. “You get to do quality work. Here in Spain I see it on television. People love it. It’s the best TV job I can think of. I just signed on to do another two or three years, depending on how long the show goes. I’d be happy to stick with it until the show goes off.”