Bartholomew JoJo “Bart” Simpson is a fictional character in the American animated television series The Simpsons and part of the Simpson family. He is voiced by Nancy Cartwright and first appeared on television in The Tracey Ullman Show short “Good Night” on April 19, 1987. Cartoonist Matt Groening created and designed Bart while waiting in the lobby of James L. Brooks’ office. Groening had been called to pitch a series of shorts based on his comic strip, Life in Hell, but instead decided to create a new set of characters. While the rest of the characters were named after Groening’s family members, Bart’s name is an anagram of the word brat. After appearing on The Tracey Ullman Show for three years, the Simpson family received its own series on Fox, which debuted December 17, 1989.
At ten years old, Bart is the eldest child and only son of Homer and Marge, and the brother of Lisa and Maggie. Bart’s most prominent and popular character traits are his mischievousness, rebelliousness and disrespect for authority. He has appeared in other media relating to The Simpsons – including video games, The Simpsons Movie, The Simpsons Ride, commercials, and comic books – and inspired an entire line of merchandise.
In casting, Nancy Cartwright originally planned to audition for the role of Lisa, while Yeardley Smith tried out for Bart. Smith’s voice was too high for a boy, so she was given the role of Lisa. Cartwright found that Lisa was not interesting at the time, so instead auditioned for Bart, which she thought was a better role.
Hallmarks of the character include his chalkboard gags in the opening sequence; his prank calls to Moe; and his catchphrases “Eat my shorts”, “¡Ay, caramba!”, and “Don’t have a cow, man!”
During the first two seasons of The Simpsons, Bart was the show’s breakout character and “Bartmania” ensued, spawning Bart Simpson-themed merchandise touting his rebellious attitude and pride at underachieving, which caused many parents and educators to cast him as a bad role model for children. Around the third season, the series started to focus more on the family as a whole, though Bart still remains a prominent character. Time named Bart one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century, and he was named “entertainer of the year” in 1990 by Entertainment Weekly. Nancy Cartwright has won several awards for voicing Bart, including a Primetime Emmy Award in 1992 and an Annie Award in 1995. In 2000, Bart, along with the rest of his family, was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The entire Simpson family was designed so that they would be recognizable in silhouette. The family was crudely drawn, because Groening had submitted basic sketches to the animators, assuming they would clean them up; instead, they just traced over his drawings. Bart’s original design, which appeared in the first shorts, had spikier hair, and the spikes were of different lengths. The number was later limited to nine spikes, all of the same size. At the time Groening was primarily drawing in black and “not thinking that [Bart] would eventually be drawn in color” gave him spikes which appear to be an extension of his head. The features of Bart’s character design are generally not used in other characters; for example, no other characters in current episodes have Bart’s spiky hairline, although several background characters in the first few seasons shared the trait.
The basic rectangular shape of Bart’s head is described by director Mark Kirkland as a coffee can. Homer’s head is also rectangular (with a dome on top), while spheres are used for Marge, Lisa, and Maggie. Different animators have different methods of drawing Bart. Former director Jeffrey Lynch starts off with a box, then adds the eyes, then the mouth, then the hair spikes, ear, and then the rest of the body. Matt Groening normally starts with the eyes, then the nose, and the rest of the outline of Bart’s head. Many of the animators have trouble drawing Bart’s spikes evenly; one trick they use is to draw one on the right, one on the left, one in the middle, then continue to add one in the middle of the blank space until there are nine. Originally, whenever Bart was to be drawn from an angle looking down so the top of his head was seen, Groening wanted there to be spikes along the outline of his head, and in the middle as well. Instead, Wes Archer and David Silverman drew him so that there was an outline of the spikes, then just a smooth patch in the middle because “it worked graphically.” In “The Blue and the Gray”, Bart (along with Lisa and Maggie) finally questions why his hair has no visible border to separate head from hair.
In the season seven (1995) episode “Treehouse of Horror VI”, Bart (along with Homer) was computer animated into a three-dimensional character for the first time for the “Homer3” segment of the episode. The computer animation was provided by Pacific Data Images. While designing the 3D model of the character, the animators did not know how they would show Bart’s hair. They realized that there were vinyl Bart dolls in production and purchased one to use as a model