The Simpsons Folder
The road to Homer
February 10, 2002, By Samantha Amjadali, Herald Sun
Jerry Lerma is not particularly obsessed with The Simpsons, yet he watches the show at least twice, sometimes three times a day, and he always takes notes.
The 52-year-old from Los Angeles can rattle off the name of every shop, every street, every location and every building mentioned on any one of the show’s 200-plus episodes, but he maintains that he is an “occasional fan”.
For Lerma, watching the longest-running animated series is merely an “intellectual exercise”, but one that is necessary if you are going to create the best, most accurate map of Springfield, the imaginary town where Bart Simpson and his yellow, four-fingered family and friends reside.
“They (the Simpsons) are very amusing, and irreverent and I do enjoy the program — it appeals to my sense of humour,” he said. “But I’m more interested in how cities grow and develop, their history and urban planning, so I thought I’d apply those principles to Springfield.
“I’ve seen every episode at least once, but I’m not really watching it for the humour. It’s more to see what places they show, to see what places are next to other places. Sometimes you can see out of a window to a building across the street.”
Lerma’s impressively detailed guide to Springfield (which Homer is holding in the illustration above) shows the location of more than 600 Springfield landmarks. Central to the map is 742 Evergreen Terrace, the Simpson home, which sits south of Miss Tillingham’s School for Snooty Girls and Mamma’s Boys and north-west of Painful Memories Party Supplies and the Screaming Monkey Medical Research Centre.
All well-known Simpsons landmarks are accounted for, from Homer Simpson’s work place, the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and Mr Burns’ palatial estate to Apu’s infamous Kwik-E-Mart.
Lesser-known locations, including La Snotteria, an Italian restaurant mentioned in a 1997 episode, and the Merry Widow Insurance company have also been documented.
“I’d become familiar with the stores and schools and various institutions in Springfield by watching the show,” Lerma said. “One day I realised how many things there were in Springfield and I thought there must be a map in print or on the Web. But all I found were screen captures from The Simpsons and a few panoramic views of the city, but they weren’t as detailed as I wanted.
“I felt compelled to put them into some sort of order. When I couldn’t find a map in print and online I decided to do it myself.”
So far the map has taken Lerma, a graphic artist, only about 60 hours to create. He started the project at work in March last year when he was “between” projects and needed to “appear like I was busy”. His boss is now one of his biggest fans.
“I’ve always had a fascination with maps, especially maps of imaginary places like Middle-earth (The Lord Of The Rings) or Atlantis, and I’ve always been interested in cities, and urban planning,” said Lerma, who counts Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi’s Dictionary Of Imaginary Places among his favourite books.
The 750-page tome describes and maps famous places that never existed, such as L. Frank Baum’s land of Oz, Homer’s Aiaia and J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Harry Potter) among others.
“When I started this map I began by putting in the streams and mountains,” he said. “Then I started with physical features, like filling in the lakes and trees, the rivers and the seashore and it took from there. Before I knew it I was putting in major streets and then buildings.
“I’m not a trained cartographer, but it’s fun for the most part. Sometimes I just get a little too involved and want to make things just so.”
While the map enthusiast and his work colleague, rabid Simpsons fan Terry Hogan, strive for accuracy, Lerma says that a lot of the time they have to apply common sense to the placement of various buildings and streets because “there are so many inconsistencies in the different episodes that I think even the producers of The Simpsons would have a hard time making a truly accurate map”.
“I apply my ideals of city planning to the map,” said Lerma who created the guide in Adobe Illustrator.
“If there’s any conflict I put them where they would be in real life. You wouldn’t have a residential area next to a nuclear power plant, would you?”
Lerma spends about 30 minutes a week updating the map and conscientiously ignores insignificant places that may have been mentioned only once or those that make no sense, such as the Springfield tyre yard fire, which is shown prominently in the centre of town in early episodes.
“We’ve chosen to remove it to the outskirts of town, because I can’t think that Springfield would be a very pleasant place to live with a fire that’s been burning since 1966,” he said.
Lerma has received thousands of e-mails from Simpsons’ fans in the six months he has made the map available on the Internet.
He says “99 per cent” of the feedback has been positive, and that only “once or twice we’ve heard from real fanatics who cite episode numbers to point out inaccuracies in the map”.
He hopes to re-map Springfield in 3D showing the city in a panoramic view, with every street, building and tree represented as an isometric projection. After that he will concentrate on making the guide interactive so fans can click on a location and see its history or a picture.
“Clearly, Springfield would be a wonderful town in which to live,” Lerma said. “It is a culturally rich and diverse city with lots of museums, parks and urban amenities. I think it looks like Adelaide, don’t you?”