The Simpsons: Couch Gag

Don Hertzfeldt (2014)

Academy Award-nominated animator/filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt (http://www.bitterfilms.com) answers the question of what it would look like if THE SIMPSONS went far, far into the future!

The Don Hertzfeldt couch gag is the first couch gag of Season 26, and appeared in Clown in the Dumps.

“Oh, definitely. What was interesting was, TheSimpsons was something that I was talking to, I think it was Bill Plympton, many years ago, because he did a couch gag for them. I think he’s done a couple actually. But the first one he was telling me about, he mentioned the pressure of it. He’s another independent animator and he said more people saw his opening for The Simpsons in that one night than had seen his previous independent work for 20 years combined. [Laughs.] It was just this massive, like, “My God, the pressure of doing something like that.” Of course, back then I thought, “What would I do if they ever asked me to do something?” It’s just an idea you turn around in your head for awhile. And the weeks went by, and I was like, “There’s nothing. I can’t think of anything I would do. I’m kind of glad they haven’t asked because I’d be paralyzed. I have no clue.” Fast forward years later when they did ask, I was like, “Oh, man, this again.” I don’t want to say no, but I don’t have any ideas. Within 24 hours, the whole thing was almost fully formed. It’s amazing what real-world pressure can do to something in your head to keep the creative engine going. I have to imagine also it was partially because I had started “World Of Tomorrow” and I had the futurism stuff on my mind. It’s such a weird TV show. When you break it down, it’s a show that’s been on for 20—what is it, 25 years?

“Yeah, and the characters don’t age. It’s very unique because it’s animated and they don’t age, but they evolve. They look very different than they did in the 1980s. Thinking about memories, Bart is a character who is 10, I think, in this show, but does he have memories from events from 20 years ago? Because it does seem to happen in real time, in a sense. I remember when Bob Dole was on during the election from like 1996. So, very freaky thing when you kind of break down how the show operates in time. What would happen if this longest running show on television just never ends? The original talent is long dead and buried and it just turns into this corporate nightmare where Marge is spouting fascist political things. It was just so much fun to do that. I’m still surprised that it actually happened. They were completely hands off. It just seems unheard of.

“It was super fun. The pressure of it didn’t get to me until the day of the airing. Like, for some reason it didn’t bother me while I was working on it, maybe because I was drawing Homer the way I draw stuff and it just didn’t look like… You know, when I did the first bit, when Homer runs in and sits down, that was animated over at the Simpsons traditionally and I just directed that bit. That felt more weird to me, because that’s actually Homer Simpson that I’m directing. Rather than the squid thing that I’m drawing. It felt more like a short film I was doing for them. On the day of the airing, I started getting kind of freaked out and my friends made me do a couple shots to relax. You’re wondering what could possibly go wrong right now. Is it going to air with no sound? [Laughs.] Did the Fox censors step in and change everything and they forgot to tell me? I think that was the only moment where I kind of felt the weight of it.

“I don’t know. [Laughs.] I feel like most viewers experienced a weird gentle seizure and just forgot about it. It’s really hard to tell how this stuff is perceived. They told me like 8.5 million people saw that premiere, so it did something. But I’m so isolated from it. I’m not in every living room.”

-Don Hertzfeldt

This animated comedy focuses on the eponymous family in the town of Springfield. The head of the Simpson family, Homer, is not a typical family man. A nuclear-plant employee, he does his best to lead his family, but often finds that they are leading him. The family includes loving, blue-haired matriarch Marge, troublemaking son Bart, overachieving daughter Lisa, and baby Maggie. Other Springfield residents include the family’s religious neighbor, Ned Flanders, family physician Dr. Hibbert, Moe the bartender, and police chief Clancy Wiggum.

Leave a Reply