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The Simpsons Folder

July 26, 2007
Groening: ‘No end in sight’ for Simpsons

LONDON, England (CNN) — The most eagerly anticipated animated film this year hits big screens this weekend, as “The Simpsons Movie” opens worldwide. The Screening Room spoke to creator Matt Groening and writer Al Jean in London about everyone’s favorite two-dimensional yellow family.

Groening and Jean hope “The Simpsons Movie” will delight both long-standing and new fans.

Matt Groening told the Screening Room that fans had driven the demand for the movie. “We’ve had fans clamoring for a movie for the past 18 years,” he said.

The film has taken four years to come to fruition, as writer Al Jean explained. “What really held us up for a long time was to have enough people to do the show and the movie,” he said. “We talked for a while about doing the movie after the show is done, but the show is never done! So it really started in earnest in 2003, when we started working on this story that became the movie.”

Technology has also played its part. Jean continued, “The technology to do this film really wasn’t even around five years ago. For example, there was this joke I once pitched and David Silverman, the director, started drawing and as I was pitching it, it went into the film and it was cut a day later. To go from pitch to cut in two days is pretty impressive.”

Its creators hope that “The Simpsons Movie” will both satisfy long-term fans and bring Homer and Marge’s family to a new audience. Groening told the Screening Room, “This movie is designed to both honor the people who have loved the show all this time, so there’s lots of little details for them in the movie, little characters and stuff who they know and love, but we also want people who don’t know the family to not be completely confused. It is a complete movie experience, but again, we have a lot of little details that only the really, true die-hard fans are going to get.”

And fans can expect to be entertained by plenty of cartoon mishaps. Groening said, “When you see somebody fall off the roof in a live-action film, it’s funny — we all love it. But it’s not as funny as when Homer falls off the roof. I don’t know what that says about humanity, but we do like to see cartoon characters hurt themselves and there’s quite a bit of that.”

But how have Springfield’s finest led the field for so long? Groening believes that a large part of the Simpsons’ success is down to the traditional animated techniques used to create it — and that its hand-drawn charm puts the movie ahead of its CGI rivals. He told CNN, “The difference between our film and these other films is that we have no penguins, okay? So that’s the big difference. (Although we do have one penguin.)

“But the other thing is, our film is done the old fashioned way. It’s got a lot of errors and flaws in it. These computer-animated films — and I love them — are perfect. They’re spooky, they’re so good. Ours is a way for us to honor the art of traditional animation.”

Al Jean thinks that the series’ success is also down to its wide appeal. He says, “I have a two year old and she loves the Simpsons already, just because of the way it looks and the family. And then on the other hand, we do satirical references that only an adult would get.”

A large part of the appeal of “The Simpsons” comes from its ability to portray the more touching moments in family life, like Jean’s favorite moment in the movie. “It’s a scene where Bart is really mad at his father,” he told CNN. “He’s sitting in a tree outside the Simpson house at night. He looks over and sees the Flanders house and thinks how wonderful it would be if he lived there. It’s just really sweet: there’s something really warm about that scene.”

Groening, who has been meeting fans worldwide while promoting the movie, said that the Simpsons phenomenon has excelled his wildest dreams. “It’s not just the numbers,” he told CNN. “The numbers are good, but it’s the intensity and the tattoos. The tattoos are freaky. You know? And it’s not all just Bart and Homer. You’d think it would be just Homer. I talked to this one guy and he had Millhouse, and I said, ‘Oh my god, Millhouse!’ and he said, ‘Yeah, everybody gets Bart.'”

While Groening never expected the series to run for so long, he told the Screening Room he has no plans to quit while it’s ahead. “The answer is, ‘No end in sight! No end in sight!'” he said. “We’re having fun, we hope the audience has fun, and as long as that’s true, we’ll continue doing the show.”

Jean believes the show has proved it has longevity. “I’m sure [it], like Mickey Mouse, will live on and on,” he said. And he also hopes the Simpsons’ success will continue. “In terms of new episodes, we’re doing another season after the movie comes out for sure, and then the casts’ contracts expire, but I’d love to get another three seasons and maybe another movie,” he said.

But what is the legacy of this much-loved yellow family? Matt Groening sees the film as the culmination of two decades of hard graft. He says, “I want to make sure that everyone who’s ever worked on this show is proud of their work on this movie, so this rewards the writers, the animators, the actors. It’s basically a celebration of twenty years of The Simpsons.”