What are the challenges of keeping the series fresh at this point?
Al Jean: “The biggest challenge, everybody who works on the series as well, is that having done 400 episodes and a film, we definitely don't want to repeat ourselves. We're always conscious of just how old the franchise is so everything we do, we just want to do it not because we want to keep it going just to keep it going. On the other hand, like Jim said, it was energizing. So many people from the show worked on the movie. I was here in the first season and I never thought I would see anything like this again and here we are.”
What were the voice tracking sessions like as opposed to the television show where everything has to get done relatively quickly?
Al Jean: “In TV it’ll be 23 years so the lesson is always you’ve got to let it go. And then in the film the lesson was you’ll never let it go.”
James Brooks: “We did some preliminary DVD commentary the other day and two of the actors were talking about how nothing has been more exhausting for them because of what they went through. Thank god they were also exhilarated by it.”
Matt Groening: “Marge’s big speech in the middle of the movie we did more than 100 takes and kept rewriting, and different kinds of performances and going through that and going in different ways.”
David Silverman: “We animated it at least twice completely and then the final animation was just kind of tweaked on additionally.”
Mike Scully: “We hope you like it. We were really trying to get to a woman who is completely broken and her spirit is defeated. I got there, I guess, by breaking the actress’ spirit. She worked so hard at it and she wanted it to be as good and that’s also a big impact Jim had on that whole scene. The whole goodbye scene, a lot of that was just we were just going to stop doing jokes and do something really emotional and change the rhythm slightly, and let the audience really care about this. It worked. Julie [Kavner] did a great job on it but it was probably 100, 150 takes for the scene.”
James Brooks: “I think one of my favorite shots of the movie is when Homer is sitting down in front of the television set - just that shot of David’s, which to me is a glimpse of Homer as we’ve never seen him.”
David Silverman: “The idea was he’s like a little boy watching TV.”
Could each of you tell us your favorite episode from the 400 Simpsons episodes?
Mike Scully: “37 (laughing).”
Al Jean: “Mine is next season’s premiere, September 20th. (Laughing) It’s called He Loves to Fly and He D’ohs and it guest stars Stephen Colbert and also Lionel Richie. Stephen Colbert plays a life coach who helps Homer achieve his dreams.”
James Brooks: “Bart the Genius comes to mind quickly. I just think that we did things with animation when that happened that just opened doors for us. And Lisa the Substitute Teacher is always meaningful to me on another level.”
David Silverman: “I think of all the ones I’ve had the good fortune to direct and I’ve always enjoyed Homey the Clown because it was so much fun to do and it came out very funny. One that jumps to mind is a second season one called Three Men and a Comic Book because I just love the whole notion of it. It was great format and the references to the Treasure of the Sierra Madre at the end always tickled me.”
Matt Groening: “I like when Homer ate the Guatemalan insanity pepper and then had a hallucination of a coyote spirit voiced by Johnny Cash. That was pretty great. I also like the Frank Grimes episode. And there was an episode from the last couple seasons where Homer was in the garage trying to kill spiders and the tables were turned on him. Do you remember what that episode was? Raymond Percy directed it. It was fantastic.”
Al Jean: “Tim Long wrote it. It was where Homer bought an RV and lived in the RV while Marge was in the house.”
Mike Scully: “I would say the episode where Bart sells his soul.”
David Silverman: There are so many. That’s a favorite. Lisa’s Wedding.”
Mike Scully: “There’s one that’s up for an Emmy this year that Al just submitted called The Ha Ha Couple. I think it’s a really terrific episode. It holds up against any of the classics.”
David Silverman: “I was going to say that one too. The other one that I really enjoy is Lisa on Ice where Bart and Lisa are rivals on a hockey team. The end of the second act particularly is hilarious.”
Al Jean: “My favorite Simpsons movie is The Simpsons Movie.”
Do you think The Simpsons Movie will reenergize the 2-D form?
Matt Groening: “I don’t know. That’s so great. They’re very eloquent about that. There is something about the hand drawn gesture. I think it’s why comic books are successful. Comic books are not drawn with computers. They’re people. Fans have their favorite artists. In The Simpsons I can see specific personalities of animators and directors. I can see David Silverman in basically everything that The Simpsons are today because of the rules that David and his cohorts established back in 1989.
Back in the very early days we were basically making it up from scene to scene and realized that the characters had to look the same if it were going to be professional. These days we still try to obey the rule of no unnecessary motion and no unnecessary lines. [Going over to the movie poster] Here’s Homer, very simple. In a regular animated character, in a conventional non-Simpson cartoon, if you’re going to indicate some kind of emotion of anger, it would probably be the lines would frown and there’d be lines up here and there’d be all sorts of extraneous lines. In The Simpsons, we try to do every single emotion without adding extra lines, maybe a line here. Even in this poster where Homer has his mouth full of donut, we debated this line [indicating a line near Homer’s mouth]. ‘What if he didn’t have that?’”
David Silverman: “That was two years by the way (laughing).”
Matt Groening: “And so I love it. That deer in the headlights look that we have from this poster is something that you don’t see in other movies.”