The Simpsons Folder

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The Simpsons Folder


Home Sweet Homer
August 14, 1997 © Las Vegas Sun, Inc. By Melissa Schorr

If you build it, they will come. Or will they?
Would anyone really be willing to drop everything and move cross-country if they won a free home in Henderson?

Sure, if it were a replica of the Home Sweet Home of America’s favorite subversive cartoon family, “The Simpsons” — accurate down to the yellow and “safety orange” exterior, authentic mouse holes and high arched doorways for Marge’s blue beehive.

At least, that what the master marketing minds behind two promotional powerhouses, Fox-TV and Pepsi-Cola, are hoping — and remember, these are the same marketeers who made “Cowabunga, man” and “Don’t Have a Cow” household slang, spun the “Bartman” onto the dance floors, and in the process sold around a million T-shirts a week during the height of Simpsonmania in the early ’90s.

Cynics might see the house-giveaway stunt as a move to revitalize TV’s longest running prime-time cartoon well after its heyday, but Fox executives are billing it as a celebration of the show’s decade mark.

“For the past nine years, America has loved ‘The Simpsons,’ ” states Jon Richmond, President of Fox Interactive. “Now, Fox is offering the chance to live ‘The Simpsons.’ “

The question remains: Who asked them?

After all, if we’re to be given the chance to live anywhere in TV land, who’d choose the Simpson’s home in Springfield?

If there’s any cartoon home worthy of replicating, it’s a no-brainer: let’s see designers replicate “The Jetson’s” space-age pad, with Rosie, the dusting robot, and those nifty insta-dinner machines.

Or what about Barbie’s Dream House, with a swimming pool out back and a hunky Ken grilling steaks in the backyard?

But no.

Had someone been watching one too many “Simpsons” reruns? Well, yes. In fact, Kaufman and Broad’s architects sat through a whopping 96 of them during one weekend brainstorming session.

The designers, led by head architect Michael Wodley, discovered what “Simpsons” deconstructionist fans have known for years — there simply is no rhyme or reason in cartoonland.

First of all, the home has little continuity, with the refrigerator changing colors from episode to episode.

Then there is the minor matter that cartoon houses tend to be, well, structurally unsound.

Rooms don’t logistically stack up, support beams are non-existent.

Then there was the “mystery door,” a door prominently shown in the front foyer which no one has ever gone though.

Architects had to make some minor adjustments, shrinking the house down to 40 feet wide, the standard size of the adjacent houses. They eliminated the basement, and moved the laundry room adjacent to the garage.

Still, keeping in mind those notoriously persnickety fans, Wodley hopes to make the house “as accurate as possible,” reproducing everything from the grease spot from Homer’s car in the driveway to his barbecue in the backyard.

And from the outside, the attention to detail has paid off.

As you turn into South Valley Ranch and approach the 2,200-square-foot, four-bedroom cartoon home, it is easy to feel you have crossed the border into Toon Town.

The bright orange exterior lures gaping motorists to #712 Red Bark Lane, where the two-story house sits above a green manicured lawn, with an improbably painted clear blue sky shimmering behind it and freshly planted magnolia trees swaying in the front and backyard.

The stuccoed exterior is painted bright orange and yellow tones with blue trim, covered with a dark brown flat tile roof and topped off with a cheery yellow chimney.

The interior furnishings, such as painted-on throw rugs and corn cob curtains, were described by Wodley as “eclectic clutter.” Most will be used only for display — but then removed when the family moves in.

That isn’t the only catch — from early August until September 21st the house will be open to the public to traipse through as part of the promotion.

Pepsi will swing its promotion into full gear on Friday when eager “Simpsons” fans can begin flooding stores, jostling for the lucky 12-pack or 2-liter of Root Beer Mug, Lipton Iced Tea, Orange and Lemon-Lime Slice or Josta, hoping for the one that will match the winning number flashed on the screen during the season premiere on September 21st.

The company is prepared that not everybody may be interested in a fantasy come true.

Though the house’s value is estimated at about $150,000, the winners “may opt for a $75,000 cash award instead,” said Melissa Robinson, Director of Corporate Communications for Kaufman and Broad. “Or they may use it as a second home. It all depends on their personality.”

If the winning family does decide to accept, before they move in, probably in March, the exterior will be repainted to blend in with the rest of the community — and thus fade into a footnote of marketing history.