15 Swell Stories Behind The Making Of ‘The Simpsons Movie’
The Simpsons Movie is not only one of the most successful adaptations of a TV show, but it also managed to produce a song about a Spider-Pig that was so popular it made multiple charts around the world. That’s legendary, or as Homer would say: “Whoo-hoo!” It’s been 15 years and the movie still holds up, so let’s look at what it took to (finally) bring the big-eyed family to the big screen.
The Movie Took A Near Decade To Make
Fox gave the greenlight for a film back in 1997, but casting only started happening in 2001, and finding the right story proved to be the most challenging of all. At one point, the idea was to base the movie on the episode “Kamp Krusty,” and a total of around 160 stories were written before finally settling on the one we got.
An Early Pitch Featured Steven Spielberg Trying To Blow Up Springfield
Mike Scully suggested a plot where Spielberg comes to Springfield to shoot a film with Tom Hanks, and “for whatever reason, he would have to blow it up.” Sounds more like something Michael Bay would do.
The Spider-Pig Song Was An Instant And Spontaneous Creation
Director David Silverman said that David Mirkin pitched the idea of a conversation between Lisa and Marge getting interrupted by Homer and his pet pig. Everyone immediately dug it. “And Al Jean said, ‘Yeah, he could be the amazing Spider-Pig!’ and that inspired me to come up with the lyrics to the song off the top of my head: Does whatever a Spider-Pig does/Can he swing from a web?/No, he cant, he’s a pig.”
The Movie Was Almost A Parody Of Fantasia
Called Simpstasia at the time, the idea was to make a live-action movie using Phil Hartman’s character Troy McClure. The plot would basically have been that of “A Fish Called Selma,” in which McClure tries to bolster his acting career by marrying Selma Bouvier, with a Planet of the Apes musical thrown in for good measure. The idea was scrapped in 1998 after Hartman passed away.
Hurricane Katrina Headlines Almost Changed The Plot Of The Movie
In 2005, reports about the terrible conditions inside the Superdome that was sheltering displaced folks from New Orleans made the creators worry about their own dome plot. Al Jean explained: “At that time, there were a lot of headlines like ‘People trapped under dome,’ and ‘Horrible conditions inside dome,’ so we were worried that people would go, ‘Oh my god, this is tasteless. So (then-studio chairman) Tom Rothman who hadn’t read the script yet, in 2005, read the script, and said, ‘Two years later, this will be fine. Nobody’s going to make the connection.’”
The EPA Guy Originally Looked Way Different
Russ Cargill, the EPA guy and the movie’s main villain, was originally less villainy and looked completely different. Said Silverman: “He was a pear-shaped potbellied guy with a higher waist and no shoulders and a big nose and receding hairline. He was more of a design like Kirk Van Houten. Old Cargill looked like ‘Okay, here’s the wimpy guy, here’s the nebbish, downtrodden hardluck case.'”
That version of Cargill, however, was simply too depressing, so the creators changed his physique along with his attitude (which they based on former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld).
Many Celebrity Voices And Cameos Were Ultimately Cut
While Tom Hanks managed to make the final cut of the film, others weren’t so lucky. Edward Norton had a part as the man crushed by the dome. Isla Fisher, Minnie Driver (a grief counselor), Kevin Bacon, and Erin Brockovich had their parts cut, too.
Shredding In The Name Of Secrecy
After every recording session, the voice actors were asked to shred their scripts to keep the movie's plot from leaking to the public. The actors also weren't told about their scenes in advance, and only got to read the scripts on recording days. Said Harry Shearer, responsible for the voices of Mr Burns, Ned Flanders, and Reverend Lovejoy: “If the security around the Los Alamos nuclear lab had been as good as the security around this movie I’d sleep a lot better at night.”
Rejected Movie Pitch: The Truman Show Parody
The meta idea of having the Simpsons family realize they’re being filmed for a TV show was floated around at first, but James L. Brooks and Matt Groening wanted a more emotional storyline for the movie. They did, however, include plot elements of the idea in the 2007 The Simpsons Game.
The Krusty The Clown Bit We Almost Got
Silverman said that one scene in particular pained him to cut. It involved Krusty the Clown putting on a show to cheer up the kids of Springfield because the electricity went out. “He was doing a live show in the darkened theater and he was going to tell a funny story. He shines a flashlight under his face and the kids get really scared by the scary shadow being projected and the scary lighting on his face as he’s trying to go (imitates goofy Krusty laugh). Then Sideshow Mel runs in with Mr. Teeny on his shoulders, yelling ‘Return to your seats!,’ and his and Mr. Teeny’s shadows about the size of King Kong and the kids all run out screaming. I thought that was pretty funny.”
The Mob Scene Was One Helluva Job
The scene in which the Springfield residents march with burning torches to deal with Homer Simpson’s pig-poop betrayal consisted of a whopping 3,600 drawings. Silverman said: “I wanted to push all the way through the crowd. It took us the longest time: ‘Well, what happens at the end of this push-in?’ We originally ended up on Lenny and Carl and Moe, and they say some joke. And then they pushed in and we ended with Sideshow Bob saying ‘Kill Bart! Kill Bart!’ ‘No, we’re killing Homer!’ ‘Oh.’ And he walks away disgusted.”
The Scene That Had The Most Rewrites
Al Jean said that the hotel scene where Homer reveals his plan to move his family to Alaska had the most rewrites of all. There was also originally a song about Alaska — done by Dave Stewart of the Eurhythmics — but the tune was ultimately dropped.
Spider-Pig Almost Had A Whole Spider-Man Sequence
If it weren’t for all the promotional ads jumping on the joke of Homer’s pet pig having a supposed alter-ego, the creators would’ve included a sequence with Pig in an actual Spider-Man suit. Silverman said that they cut it out of Homer’s epiphany sequence: “In the background, you had Spider-Pig in a full Spiderman outfit, sans the head, so you could see the pig face because his face was so funny, and he was swinging from web to web, shooting out of his hoofs as he’s going from totem pole to totem pole in the background. And Al was like ‘Oh, I think we’re tired of Spider-Pig at this point.’ Yeah, you’re probably right.’”
A Don’t Look Up Moment?
A scene that was written but never recorded had Marge make an appearance on The View to tell people what was happening in Springfield. Although we do not have the details on how exactly the scene went down, we can imagine it playing out like something from Don’t Look Up, only Simpsonified.
Bart’s Naked Skateboard Scene
The creators were worried that the sequence in which Bart rides around Springfield naked on his skateboard — his “doodle” covered by surrounding elements, except for that one time — would get the movie an R-rating. Luckily, it didn’t, but in the family-friendly version of the film Bart’s penis is covered by a black circle that says: “Only available in European versions.”
(This movie clip is not that version.)
Thumbnail: 20th Century Studios