America’s favorite nuclear family has joined Disney, and it’s a surprisingly good fit. “The Simpsons” made its first-ever appearance at the D23 Expo on Saturday to inaugurate a new era of fox and mouse living in harmony after the acquisition of Fox by Disney in March.
On the panel for the D23 presentation in Anaheim, Calif., were Groening, executive producers Al Jean, Matt Selman, supervising director Mike B. Anderson, and stars Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson) and Yeardley Smith (the voice fo Lisa Simpsons), who also performed moderating duties.
Smith, wearing a tiara befitting her new Disney princess status, opened with a touching tribute to Russi Taylor, voice of Minnie Mouse and Martin Prince on “The Simpsons.” “Heaven is a lot more giggly right now. Russi, cheers to you,” said Smith.
The panel ranged from advice to future animators (“Take your prized possessions with you [when you leave home]. Do not leave you comic books … at home because they will disappear”) to behind-the-scenes stories. At one point, Groening revealed that the couch gag was inspired by the classic “Mickey Mouse Club” opening that concluded with Donald Duck banging a gong. The animation changed episode-to-episode, and Groening thought, “If I ever get my own show, I’ll do a Donald Duck-style gong gag.”
“The Simpsons” is a major acquisition for the Disney brand. Not only are Homer, Bart, and the rest of the Springfield gang adding a certain edge and legacy prestige to a brand that is known for reviving old titles. The irreverence, however, is what sets it apart from the usual Disney fare.
Selman was thrilled with the new overlords. “Isn’t this the most thrilling thing and craziest thing? We started out working for one evil corporation and then work for a nice one?”
The panel also dropped a few choice bits of news for the upcoming season:
Treehouse of Horror – The yearly tradition will pay tribute to “Stranger Things” called “Danger Things,” with plenty of homages ranging from the Demogorgon and Upside-Down to classic video games and New Coke.
Guest Stars – John Mulaney, John Legend and Chrissy Tiegen, Jane Goodall, Olivia Colman, and the return of Jon Lovitz as the voice of Marge’s ex-prom date, Artie Ziff.
“Thanksgiving of Horror” – Selman said, “Everyone loves the Treehouse of Horror episodes. The real world horror has gotten so real, it spills over into another holiday, right? This year we will have a Thanksgiving of Horror that is super scary.”
“Not unlike some people’s Thanksgivings,” quipped Smith.
“The Simpsons” began as a short on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in 1987 and ran for three seasons before it spun off into is own half-hour for Fox. Thirty seasons later, it’s still going strong and has found an additional home in the soon-to-launch streaming platform Disney+.
The cultural impact of “The Simpsons” cannot be understated. Besides surviving to be the TV show equivalent of a Millennial, the sitcom has earned 31 Primetime Emmys, 30 Annie Awards, and a Peabody. Its catchphrases have entered the everyday vernacular and even Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!” has been added to the OED (sans apostrophe).
“The Simpsons” will bring all 30 seasons to Disney+ when it launches on Nov. 12.