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Interview with Al Jean of "The Simpsons" on
FBC PUBLICITY: The Simpsonís Conference Call
September 25, 2012/12:30 p.m. PDT
Moderator Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for standing by
and welcome to The Simpsonís Conference Call. Now at this
time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we
will conduct a question/answer session. We do remind you
that todayís call is being recorded. Your host and speaker,
is Michael Roach. Please go ahead, sir.
M. Roach Good afternoon and thank you for participating in
this conference call today with The Simpsonís Executive
Producer, Al Jean. Just as a reminder, Season 24 of The
Simpsonís premieres this Sunday, September 30 at 8:00/7:00
Central on FOX.
In the season premiere episode, Zooey Deschanel makes a
guest voice appearance as Bartís long lost love, Mary
Spuckler; whose moved from Springfield to New York City to
reinvent herself and the Simpsons take a trip there, so Bart
can reconnect with her.
Also next week, the 23rd installment of the ďAnnual
Treehouse of HorrorĒ airs Sunday, October 7th at 8:00/7:00
Central, as well. And thatís about it, Kevin. Thanks, we are
ready to begin the call.
Moderator Okay and the first question will come from Adam
Buckman, Xfinity TV. Please go ahead.
A. Buckman Hi, Al, are you there?
A. Jean Yes, I am.
A. Buckman Hi, good to talk to you. I watched the premiere
episode twice and got a lot out of it as usual, lots of
interesting details. Sorry to come up with some trivial
questions, but these wonít take long. For one thing, you
have a sign in there indicating 1,007 miles to Springfield
from New York. Are you once again teasing us about the
location of Springfield?
A. Jean Yes, and it could be in the middle of the Atlantic,
too. So, who knows?
A. Buckman But that would be doubtful. Itís closer to
Springfield, Illinois which is 999 miles from New York. We
look these things up. Iím going to clarify something about
the clip thatís out there now with Homer Simpson voting for
A. Jean Yes.
A. Buckman A lot of people were under the impression this
was in the season premiere and this might sound like a
stupid question since Iíve seen the premiere twice; itís not
in the season premiere, correct?
A. Jean No, and itís not in the Halloween show either.
A. Buckman Okay, just something that got produced. Tell me
the story of that please.
A. Jean Yes, what happened wasóhonestly we were trying to
figure out a way to remind people the premiere was September
30th, and the Halloween show is early this year, October
7th. So I thought, hey, why donít we have Homer vote again
like he did in 2008 you know with the topical references to
this yearís election. So we wrote it about a month ago, and
then Dan Castellaneta came in, and he does all of the voices
except the woman on the voting machine as Tress MacNeille.
And Film Roman animated extremely quickly. Hey, it helped.
People were wondering why we sort of staged it the same way
since it wasnít part of an episode, and we wanted to do it
so quickly it helped that we were using the same basic set
up as we had the time before. Then, we want to do more
things where we release them online first. We may put it in
an episode. We have a third one that might air before the
election, but if that is preempted by baseball, then itíll
only be online.
A. Buckman Thanks for clearing that up.
A. Jean Yes.
A. Buckman Thank you.
Moderator We do have a question on the line of Joshua Maloni,
Niagara Frontier. Please go ahead.
J. Maloni Hi, Al, thanks for your time today.
A. Jean My pleasure.
J. Maloni You know Al, you guys have had so many great guest
stars over the years. I would think that everyone would want
to be featured on the show, be thrilled to be invited to be
in the show, but do you guys ever get anybody that says no I
donít want to go and be a voice on the show?
A. Jean Yes, occasionally. Iíve said before, there are
people that even asked to be on, and then we wrote them
apart, and then they declined. I wonít name them. Alright, I
will, Jon Bon Jovi.
J. Maloni When you guys are this many seasons into it, and
you have had the level of success youíve had; what goals
remain for you for this show?
A. Jean Well, the great thing about it is, as we were just
talking about that online Homer voting, you have this great
setting and this format that people are still really
interested in. So, you can express yourself. You know, I
like anybody, have opinions about this yearís election. So,
you can still write and a lot of people will see it if itís
on The Simpsonís, and thatís the great thing and thatís the
reason we do it.
J. Maloni Alright, thank you. Looking forward to the season
A. Jean Thank you.
Moderator Our next question is from the line of Bill Harris,
Sun Media. Please go ahead.
B. Harris Hey Al. I donít know if youíre a Seinfeld person,
but there was an episode, of course, back in the 90s where
he was talking about you reach a point in your life where
you just have your allotment of friends; and somebody might
seem very nice, but you just donít have any openings.
I sometimes think of The Simpsonís sort of starting this
little Golden Age of animation that weíre in, and along with
subsequently Family Guy and South Park. I think of those
three and I think, you know, they seem to have cornered the
market on just about every type of subject matter, every
type of animation, every type of story line, pushing
envelopes. I know you guys continue to do it, but do you
think to yourself, weíve almost cornered the market on
ourselves. Youíve kind of made it very difficult for people
following your footsteps, because youíve kind of done
A. Jean Well, I have a couple of answers. One is at the same
time The Simpsonís debuted there was a parallel boom in
feature animation starting with The Little Mermaid and
including Pixar. So, we certainly didnít have any corner on
that. Then, I think that there are still great new shows. I
think Bobís Burgers is a really funny show. Even with the
difficulty that itís a show about a family thatís animated;
I still think thereís fresh things to do.
I will admit, I donít watch other shows to much because I
hate feeling not only canít I do something because we once
did it, but then, if I see something on another show and
someone pitches it, Iíll be stymied if I have to watch 5,000
episodes of television and not repeat one thing thatís in
any one of them.
B. Harris I know certainly in terms of subject matter, and
yet in terms of the look of the show, too, how do you guys
push the envelope in terms of the look of the show? I know
in terms of everything going digital a number of years ago,
etc., but not just in story content, which has got to be
hard enough to come up with continuing story lines. How do
you guys continue to push the envelope visually?
A. Jean Well, we have a lot of great resources when it comes
to parodying other animation, whether its live-action
parodies orówe did a Pixar parody that was perfect, I
thought, a couple years ago. The basic style of the show
which came from Matt Groening, I think is so original and
intriguing to the eye that I think no matter what we stand
out. You know, flipping through the channels and you hit The
Simpsonís, you always know it.
Then, we just try to challenge everybody. Take a look at the
Halloween show this year, itís really ambitious. We have
this black hole moving through Springfield that I thought
they did a terrific job with. Within the format of The
Simpsonís, I think thereís still a lot of room for talented
people. The Annie Awards, which are animators only, we won
all three we were up for this year; directing, writing, and
best show, best television program.
B. Harris Well, thanks very much. Always nice talking to
A. Jean Thank you.
Moderator Next question is from the line of Rick Porter,
Zap2it. Please go ahead.
R. Porter Hi, thanks for your time today.
A. Jean My pleasure.
R. Porter Iím curious about returning to New York, and if
you guys saw that as an opportunity to revisit any of the
things from the old New York episode?
A. Jean We do, the cloud collage vendor makes a reappearance
in this and we see how much better heís doing. Since we did
such a memorable New York episode, we wanted to do it only
if we had a new story line. And it was basically doing a
Moon River type story with Zooey Deschanel and Bart looking
up this old girlfriend.
Also, we do locations that I havenít seen, not even in an
animated show, but even in films like they go to the High
Line, which wasnít there when they went to New York
previously. So, we try to do stuff like that. You know, New
York is a rich place full of interesting things. We just
tried, either if we repeated something it would be to say,
hereís what happened to that person. Or if we donít repeat
it, in general with the show, weíre trying to cover new
R. Porter Great, are there any other callbacks in terms of
Homer being a parking fugitive still or anything like that?
A. Jean No, no, thatís long been forgotten. There is a funny
thing where he gets his pocket picked, and he says, ďI
thought there was no more crime in this city, Giuliani.Ē
R. Porter Okay, thanks.
Moderator Alright, next question is from the line of Terri
Schwartz, Spinoff Online. Please go ahead.
T. Schwartz Hi Al, thanks so much for talking with us.
A. Jean My pleasure.
T. Schwartz You have some really exciting guest stars this
season with Steve Carell and Benedict Cumberbatch and Zooey
Deschanel, of course. Iím wondering if you guys have any
other big names lined up for the rest of the season that you
can talk about?
A. Jean We do, one that Iím really excited about is that
they have mock trial at the Springfield Elementary presided
over by Janet Reno who plays herself, and Lisaís always
trying to curry favor with her. We also have Edward Norton,
Tina Fey, and Jane Krakowski, just recorded the show all in,
those are three separate episodes.
T. Schwartz That sounds fantastic. Then, sort of a follow
up, The Simpsonís has been around for so long now and youíve
had so many big names on the show, looking back are there
any guest actors whoíve really set out as some of your
favorite that youíve had involved.
A. Jean Well, thereís a bunch. Iíd have to say Phil Hartman
was absolutely wonderful. Kelsey Grammar has been incredibly
memorable in every part that heís done for us. Anne Hathaway
won an Emmy for her role on the show. Kiefer Sutherland was
terrific. Thereís a really long list, and Iím just saying
four people there out ofóthereís a bunch.
T. Schwartz Awesome. Thank you so much.
A. Jean Thank you.
Moderator Alright, next question is from the line of Ben
Levesque, TV Guide. Please go ahead.
B. Levesque Hey Al, thanks for talking to us.
A. Jean Thank you.
B. Levesque So, itís pretty safe to say Seasons 24 and 25
would not have gone ahead unless there was some pretty tight
budget cuts across the board. Would you agree with that?
A. Jean Thatís true. Yes, I donít know the exact figures,
but it was 20% of the budget or more. We were a very high
budget show. Everybody, including myself and the cast,
agreed to take a cut because we love doing it so much.
B. Levesque And, just a New Zealand question, have you ever
thought about using any other New Zealand guest stars on the
show, after Flight of the Conchords anyone else?
A. Jean They were wonderful and it was a terrific
experience. They only predisposed me favorably towards other
B. Levesque Cool. And do you have any idea when you can
imagine The Simpsonís possibly ending? Twenty-five sounds
good, or would you like to go to thirty and onwards from
A. Jean Well, the pickup was definitely open-ended. Nobody
ever said weíre going to stop the show after we produce
these episodes. So, you know at the beginning I was hoping
for five years, much less twenty-five. I wouldnít even guess
where weíd end up.
B. Levesque Cool, thanks for your time.
A. Jean Thank you.
Moderator Okay. We do have a question on the line of Adam
Buckman, Xfinity. Please go ahead.
A. Buckman Hi Al, another question. It reminded of this
question when the other reporter asked about the New York
episode. And certainly they harkened back to the other
episode in the sense that Bart makes a joke about Homerís
two least favorite buildings not being in New York anymore
and thatís, of course, in reference to the World Trade
Center where the action took place.
A. Jean No, but thatís not what the building there that
A. Buckman I know that. But you know, and I know that the
joke is set up to at first indicate the Towers and then the
punch line is itís the Penn Station and the other building.
A. Jean The really bizarre thing about that other episode,
which you might be aware of where there was a pamphlet that
Bart holds up that says, New York on $9 a day with the two
Towers. Itís really bizarre; it came out years before 9/11.
People have used it to say thereís a conspiracy that somehow
The Simpsonís knew about it beforehand. I guess, I would say
just donít believe in conspiracy theories. Theyíre pretty,
A. Buckman That is interesting, but my question was going to
be is there a risk involved? Because comedians joke about
this with there too soon line about dealing with 9/11 in
comedy. Was there a risk in having any kind of line that is
even faintly comedic at all about 9/11?
A. Jean Well, the tragedy itself is horrible. You know,
thereís nothing funny about it. Certainly people have done,
gingerly done, material about it since then. I think a year
later we did a Bin Laden in a blender joke. But certainly
you always have to be sensitive to taste.
A. Buckman Okay, thank you.
Moderator Alright, next question from the line of Krista
Chain, the TV Megasite. Please go ahead.
K. Chain Yes, I was just wondering if you had a favorite
episode that you had worked on.
A. Jean Thereís too many to name at this point. I really
love; last year we did a Christmas episode set in the
future, where you saw Bart and Lisa as parents with problem
kids. That was great. The first Christmas show we did I
really loved doing and a lot of the ones in between.
K. Chain Okay, and what do you think are some of the reasons
why The Simpsonís has remained so popular for so many years?
A. Jean I think the main two reasons would be itís about a
family and everyone comes from a family, and usually not a
family thatís doing perfectly. And secondly, because we work
really hard and we really take care and care about the show.
K. Chain Okay, great. Thank you, and wish you luck on the
A. Jean Thank you.
Moderator The next question is from the line of Rick Porter,
Zap2it. Please go ahead.
R. Porter Hi, a ďTreehouse of HorrorĒ question. This is the
23rd one and with three segments per show that means youíre
approaching 70 of these things that you have produced so
far. Does there tend to be a struggle to find things to
parody at this point or do you always just go back to the
well of classic horror and Sci-Fi?
A. Jean Yes. The ďTreehouseĒ, because itís such a thriving
genre, I think a little easier to come up with ideas for.
Plus you donít have to come up with a full story line.
Thirdly, youíre often just saying Iím going to hop on the
shoulders of this original great story that people are
familiar with. Coming up with ideas and new story lines is
definitely the hardest thing that we can do, and the most
difficult aspect of the job now. But I would say with the ďTreehouseĒ,
itís actually easier.
R. Porter Okay. Is there something that youíve not done yet?
Some classic thing or something youíre sort of dying to do
in the ďTreehouseĒ?
A. Jean Well, we just recorded the ďTreehouseĒ for next
season and it included a very violent world resembling Dr.
Seussís and also the movie Freaks. This is airing in October
R. Porter Freaks, the classic Peter Lorre. Yes, okay.
A. Jean Yes, I donít think it was Peter Lorre, but it was
black and white in the early Ď30s.
R. Porter Yes, right. Thank you very much.
A. Jean Thank you.
Moderator Thank you, and next question is from the line of
Terri Schwartz, Spin off online. Please go ahead.
T. Schwartz Hi, again. I was just curious, we already see
that weíre going to see The Simpsonís take on the election
this season, but Iím curious what are some of the other
recent pop culture events from the past years you guys have
had fun playing around with and making fun of?
A. Jean Well, we always have that lead time which makes it
difficult except for Internet only, but in the Halloween
show it opens with the Mayan prediction that the world is
going to end in December of 2012. It also fortuitously deals
with the Higgs boson ďGod particleĒ, which was discovered in
July. So, we are hopping right on that incredibly popular
T. Schwartz Awesome, and then, Iím also curiousóThe
Simpsonís have had over 500 episodes, what do you find most
difficult about making sure you donít repeat yourself?
A. Jean Well, the hardest thing is that weíve done about
50,000 pages of dialog, and we have them all recorded. We
have a file that has them all in it, but we donít have a
computer that immediately spits out, oh you already did
this. So, itís generally me or Matt Selman, another of the
producers, that remembers. Iím not perfect so there have
been a couple of times like when we had Homer and Marge
watching fireworks saying, ďLetís make some fireworks of our
own.Ē Then theyíre actually making fireworks with powder and
putting stuff together. We did that in ďKamp KrustyĒ and we
also did it in an episode called ďSpecial EdnaĒ. So when
that happens, I get embarrassed.
T. Schwartz Well, great. Youíve done a great job, otherwise.
So, good job.
Moderator This question if from Bill Harris, Sun Media.
Please go ahead.
B. Harris Al, when you look back over the course of the
show, youíve obviously been able to add many, many layers of
characters. Can you think of a couple or point to a couple
where you look back and you think to yourself, I could not
have imagined we couldíve gotten as much mileage out of what
maybe started as a completely extraneous character who have
later on become characters that weíve all known and loved?
A. Jean Iíll tell you two. One is Cletus, who was originally
a man that got married right before Homer and Marge. You
know, was just like a hillbilly guy. Little did we dream how
popular hillbillies would become? Then Comic Book Guy, who
obviously we didnít even bother to name at the time, the
fact that heís had episodes devoted to him is unbelievable
B. Harris Okay, thanks.
Moderator Thank you. Now, at this time, we have no further
questions in queue.
M. Roach Great. Well, thank you so much everyone for taking
part in this conference call today, and thanks, Al, for
taking time out of your busy schedule. Just as a reminder,
The Simpsonís Season Premiere is this Sunday, September 30th
at 8:00/7:00 Central on FOX. Thanks, everyone.
A. Jean Thank you, my pleasure. Bye-bye.
Moderator Thank you, ladies and gentlemen that does conclude
your conference. We do thank you for joining and using AT&T
Executive Teleconference. You may now disconnect.
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