The Simpsons is an American animated television sitcom starring the animated Simpson family, which was created by Matt Groening. He conceived of the characters in the lobby of James L. Brooks’s office and named them after his own family members, substituting “Bart” for his own name. The family debuted as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. After a three-season run, the sketch was developed into a half-hour prime time show called The Simpsons, which debuted on December 17, 1989. The show was an early hit for Fox, becoming the first Fox series to land in the top 30 ratings in a season (1990).
The show was controversial from its beginning and has made the news several times. In the early seasons, some parents and conservatives characterized Bart as a poor role model for children and several United States public schools even banned The Simpsons merchandise and t-shirts. In January 1992, then-President George H. W. Bush made a speech during his re-election campaign in which he said: “We are going to keep on trying to strengthen the American family, to make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons.” In 2002, the show was nearly sued by the Rio de Janeiro tourist board for creating an unreal image of the city on the show.
The Simpsons Movie, a feature-length film, was released in theaters worldwide on July 26 and July 27, 2007. Previous attempts to create a film version of The Simpsons failed due to the lack of a script of appropriate length and production crew members. Eventually, producers Brooks, Groening, Al Jean, Mike Scully, and Richard Sakai began development of the film in 2001. They conceived numerous plot ideas, with Groening’s being the one developed into a film. The script was re-written over a hundred times, and this creativity continued after animation had begun in 2006. The film was a box office success, and received overwhelmingly positive reviews.
The Simpsons eventually became the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program, and in 2009 it surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running American primetime, scripted television series. Since its debut on December 17, 1989, the show has broadcast 602 episodes and its 27th season started airing on September 27, 2015.When producer James L. Brooks was working on the television variety show The Tracey Ullman Show for the fledging Fox network, he decided that he wanted to include small animated sketches before and after the commercial breaks. Having seen one of cartoonist Matt Groening’s Life in Hell comic strips, Brooks asked Groening to pitch an idea for a series of animated shorts, which Groening initially intended to present as his Life in Hell series. Groening later realized that animating Life in Hell would require the rescinding of publication rights for his life’s work, and passed on the offer. Richard Sakai contacted Groening to see if he had any other characters he would be willing to let Fox merchandise, and, in short, Groening developed a dysfunctional family that became the Simpsons. Garth Ancier contends that Groening created the characters at home and brought them the next day, while Phil Roman claims Groening sketched out the characters on the drive to Fox. Groening’s account states he hurriedly formulated The Simpsons while waiting in the lobby of Brooks’s office for the pitch meeting, which is the most common and famous story. He named the characters after his own family members, substituting “Bart” for his own name, adapting an anagram of the word “brat”.
Fox negotiated a deal which would prove extremely lucrative for Groening, in which he retained a large portion of revenue from merchandising. To animate the short segments, Brooks and company settled on Klasky Csupo, a small animation house who offered to produce the cartoons for cheap. Brooks initially just wanted to animate the shorts through the basic line drawings, and Klasky-Csupo offered color for the same cost. The studio only employed three young animators—CalArts graduates Bill Kopp, Wes Archer, and David Silverman—who adapted Groening’s scripts for animation in one week, doing layouts, animation and inbetweening by hand in the very short amount of time. Groening submitted only basic sketches to the three, and assumed that the figures would be cleaned-up in production. However, the animators merely re-traced his drawings, which led to the crude appearance of the characters in the initial short episodes. Colorist Gyorgyi Peluce was the person who decided to make the characters yellow.
Appearing initially alongside cartoons by M. K. Brown, The Simpson family first appeared in short subjects in The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987 and were featured the first three seasons. The actors who voiced the characters would later reprise their roles in The Simpsons. Dan Castellaneta performed the voices of Homer Simpson, Abraham Simpson, and Krusty the Clown. Homer’s voice in the shorts is a loose impression of Walter Matthau, whereas it became more robust and humorous on the half-hour show, allowing Homer to cover a fuller range of emotions. Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Yeardley Smith performed the voices of Marge Simpson, Bart Simpson, and Lisa Simpson respectively. The crew began to string the clips together on tape to play for the show’s live audience, and The Simpsons generated “the biggest laughs of the show” according to John Ortved, author of The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History. The writing staff of Ullman soon began to view The Simpsons as poor relations due to the popularity, and Brooks began to consider adapting the shorts for its own half-hour series. Brooks’ decision was partly inspired by the cheerleading of David Silverman, who drunkenly approached him at a Christmas party and suggested the idea, passionately emphasizing what a primetime series would mean for the animation industry.