The Disney-Fox merger is one of the biggest industry stories of the year, and it turns out “The Simpsons” saw it coming 19 years ago. The show has always managed to predict the future, be it Trump’s presidency or the FIFA corruption scandal, and it appears Matt Groening and company somehow knew their series would one day be owned by Disney.
In the 1998 episode “When You Dish Upon a Star,” Homer becomes the personal assistant to Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger after they leave Hollywood behind and move to Springfield. When Ron Howard comes to visit the actors, Homer pitches a time-tralveing robot movie. Later in the episode, Howard is seen pitching Homer’s script to 20th Century Fox, and the sign in front of the studio lot reads “a division of Walt Disney Co.” You can see the sign from the episode in the image below.
“Family Guy” executive producer Rich Appel, who wrote the episode (his final one for “The Simpsons”), admitted that he doesn’t quite remember how the gag came about, “other than to recall a general sense that soon Disney would own us all. Personally, I am not for sale — unless, you know, it’s a really good offer,” he quipped. Unfortunately, during the audio commentary of the episode, which the producers taped for the show’s DVD, Appel and then-executive producer Mike Scully don’t reference the quick site gag.
But on Thursday, Scully explained to IndieWire how the joke came about: “It was just one of those ‘we need a sign joke’ moments for an exterior shot of 20th Century Fox, where Ron Howard was inside pitching a movie idea he stole from Homer,” Scully wrote us. “Disney had bought CapCities/ABC a couple years earlier, so the joke was a reference to that, and, of course, to twenty years in the future when we knew we’d all wind up working for them. And when I say ‘them,’ I mean the greatest entertainment company in the world!”
“The Simpsons” executive producer Al Jean is now used to the conventional wisdom that “The Simpsons” has predicted the future, a notion that was cemented last year when Trump was elected, completing the show’s outrageous joke that America would somehow elect a boorish, bankrupt-prone New York real estate mogul (who hadn’t even become a reality star yet) president.
“I predict people will make far too much of this mere coincidence,” Jean wrote Thursday on Twitter — and this story, among countless others pointing out the joke, proves him right. Also, to mark the official announcement of the Disney/Fox deal, Groening created a new drawing of Homer Simpson strangling Mickey Mouse — which producers like James L. Brooks then shared on social media.
Disney has confirmed it’s buying a majority of 21st Century Fox’s properties in a $52.4 billion deal. The purchase includes 21st Century Fox’s movie studio, 20th Century Fox, and the company’s regional sports channels, among other buys. The deal gives Disney ownership of television series like “The Simpsons” and “American Horror Story,” plus film franchises like “X-Men.”