‘Fight, Fight, Fight, Bite Bite Bite’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Itchy & Scratchy’ from ‘The Simpsons’
The Itchy & Scratchy Show was mainly created so The Simpsons animators could parody the hell out of their own industry whenever they felt like it. That, and of course, spoof every other big pop-culture movie or show imaginable. The violent cat-and-mouse cartoon is more famous than some of its inspirations today, and the hilariously violent kids’ show has become as integral a part of The Simpsons universe as skateboards and donuts.
Read on about the origin, history and making of the cartoon featuring a psychotic mouse and one unfortunate kitty cat…
The Italian Comic Strip
While The Itchy & Scratchy Show clearly parodies the cat-and-mouse cartoon genre — we’re talking shows like Tom and Jerry and Herman and Katnip — it’s also believed that the 1982 adult comic Squeak the Mouse served as inspiration for the violent show within a show on The Simpsons. The black comedy comic created by artist Massimo Mattioli parodies Tom and Jerry, depicting gory violence and sexual content.
The Longest ‘Itchy & Scratchy Short’
The 2001: A Space Odyssey opener in The Simpsons Movie is the longest Itchy & Scratchy short produced to date. Al Jean told Vulture that the short was part of the script from day one but that the “scene with bombs filling Scratchy’s mouth came very, very late in the production process. We actually did a ton of rewrites between a screening of the movie in Portland and one in Arizona. And one of the things that got changed was the missiles (joke). It was one of the late additions. When it got a laugh, we were like, ‘Finally!’”
Almost Starring Quentin Tarantino
In the Vulture interview, Jean also revealed that they offered Tarantino the part of himself in their parody of Reservoir Dogs but that the director turned it down. “We assume he turned us down because we chopped him to pieces,” Jean mused.
How the Creators Got Away with Their Violent Show
It was all in the name of satire. “We could show horrendous things to the children at home, as long as we portrayed them being shown to the Simpsons’ children first,” writer John Swartzwelder said. “Somehow, this extra step baffled our critics and foiled the mobs with torches. We agreed with them that this was wrong to show to children. ‘Didn’t we just show it being wrong? And, look, here’s more wrong stuff!’”
It Existed Before ‘The Simpsons’
The Itchy & Scratchy Show debuted on one of The Tracey Ullman Show’s Simpsons shorts in 1988.
The Simpsons provided backstories for Itchy and Scratchy as two Hollywood cartoon characters who’ve been around for decades. In “The Day the Violence Died,” we learn that Itchy was created by Chester J. Lampwick, a homeless man Bart meets who sues Itchy & Scratchy Studios for stealing his creation. Lampwick shows Bart his 1919 short, Manhattan Madness, in which Itchy first appears and decapitates Theodore Roosevelt.
One for Every Season
The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season commentary revealed that executive producers Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein tried to include at least one episode revolving around The Itchy & Scratchy Show every season. Referring to Season Seven’s “The Day the Violence Died,” Oakley said it was “one of the craziest episodes ever, I would dare say. It is so packed with references and inside jokes, and the ending is so bizarre that a lot of people didn’t understand it.”
The Inspiration Behind ‘Manhattan Madness’
The creators also shared on the commentary track that “The Day the Violence Died” was based on one of the first-ever animated cartoons, Gertie the Dinosaur.
A Shoutout to the First X-Rated Animation
In the same episode, Bart and Lisa watch a never-before-seen episode titled “Itchy and Scratchy Meet Fritz the Cat” in a video store. The bit is a reference to Fritz the Cat, the 1972 animated adult film that became the first of its kind to get an X-rating (as the NC-17 rating didn’t exist yet).
The History of Scratchy
In the Season Four episode, “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie,” Bart learns the history of his favorite cartoon, and we, in turn, learn that Scratchy debuted in the 1928 film That Happy Cat. It’s the shortest short in animated history, featuring Scratchy just walking along and living his best pre-torture life. After it tanked, poor Scratchy was paired up with “a psychotic young mouse named Itchy” the following year. Steamboat Itchy became the pair’s first official outing.
First Appearance on ‘The Simpsons’
The diabolical cat and mouse show would first appear on The Simpsons’ fourth episode, “There’s No Disgrace Like Home.”
Parodies Within Parodies
The Producers on the Show’s Inspirations
The Simpsons producers Matt Selman and David Silverman explained to GQ that Matt Groening mostly looked at parodying Herman and Katnip, but Selman and Silverman wanted The Itchy & Scratchy Show to be a vehicle for animators to make jokes about their own world.
The Shorts Are Meticulously Scripted
Al Jean told Vulture that, while the Itchy & Scratchy segments are all carefully scripted, a specific part in their episode, “Butter Off Dead,” was improvised. “The portion where Scratchy was dissolved in the cow’s stomach was improvised by director Lauren MacMullan,” Jean revealed.
The show went full self-referential with the eighth season’s “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show.” The episode parodied the TV industry and cartoon business, fans of The Simpsons, and the show itself, and it all happened because Fox wanted The Simpsons to add another family member (a teenager) to Homer and Marge’s clan. “And we were like, ‘That smacks of desperation,’” former co-showrunner and staff writer Josh Weinstein told The Hollywood Reporter. “We were polite. They wanted to help. But we just ignored them.”
On the decision to do the episode, he added, “We weren’t thinking, ‘Oh, we’re making fun of executives, we’re never going to work in this town again.’ It was more, ‘Goddamn, this can be frustrating. Let’s make fun of it.’”