Faulting a dying DVD market, Simpsons showrunner Al Jean announced yesterday that the show’s DVD and Blu-ray sets will be discontinued:
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Shocking news for Simpsons fans concerned about the artistic integrity of an episode based entirely around a name-brand product: it turns out The Simpsons‘s upcoming 30 minute LEGO commercial was partially funded and essentially proposed by The LEGO Group.
Entertainment Weekly casually mentioned The LEGO Group’s financial stake in the episode in an interview with producers Matt Selman and Brian Kelley:
Lego helped pay for the episode. How much input did the company have into the creative side? I understand that there was a sex scene between Lego Homer and Lego Marge that they wanted to tone down.
Let’s say we had a lot of fun with the Lego sex scene, and I’m not surprised that it was a little too risque. But we’ll always treasure the memory. [Laughs] They were good partners. Our audience is slightly older than their audience, so they would occasionally have concerns, but all the words in the episode are ours. If they had an objection, which they did on very rare occasions, we’d find a way around it.
Good to know that a show with “a near-total absence of network interference” (virtually unheard of in the industry) is now taking notes from a toy company.
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In news sure to excite lovers of brands, The Simpsons Brand Entertainment Franchise is joining forces with Sanrio’s Hello Kitty, a Japanese anime cat who exists mostly as merchandise, which seems fitting. As the press release states, this HISTORIC collaboration is to “celebrate” two meaningless milestones:
Announced today, the two iconic pop culture brands are partnering to introduce a product line in 2014 in celebration of two milestone anniversaries: the 40th Anniversary of Hello Kitty and 25th Anniversary of THE SIMPSONS.
As a reminder, The Simpsons once insinuated Hello Kitty products were made from actual cats.
Apparently Sanrio will be making “supercute” versions of the Simpsons that will delight “fans of every age” to be sold alongside its other flagship characters Hello Kitty, Dear Daniel, Badtz-Maru, Chococat, and Mutated Panda.
Frankly, I’m disappointed The Simpsons didn’t go with Lisa Frank. Maybe for the 30th anniversary?
[Fort Mill Times]
As reported here last September, Fox tried to stop a German brewer from producing an unauthorized version of Duff Beer, but were unsuccessful because their trademarks on Duff Beer “weren’t registered for an actual beverage.” So now that a Fox-approved Duff Beer actually exists (despite creator Matt Groening being publicly against it as recently as a year ago), their legal department should have no problem winning future trademark disputes, right?
The Simpsons and Butterfinger brand chocolate bars had a long and fruitful endorsement deal – one that began even before the series started – generating over a hundred (!?!) commercials over a period of 13 years. Then, for unknown reasons, Butterfinger terminated the partnership in 2001. Not one to leave bridges unburned, The Simpsons poked fun at their former corporate partner in the 2002 episode Sweets & Sour Marge, as described in Chris Turner’s book Planet Simpson:
In a Season 13 episode, the Springfield court imposes a total ban on sugar. A giant bonfire is built to burn all the sugary treats in Springfield, and some police officers attempt to throw a pile of Butterfingers onto the blaze. As they hit the fire, though, a sort of force field surrounds them, and they’re thrown back, unburned. “Not even the fire wants them,” Chief Wiggums notes ruefully.
A later episode, Half-Decent Proposal, featured the chalkboard gag “I will not bite the hand that feeds me Butterfingers,” indicating Butterfinger was unhappy with the joke and made their displeasure known.
And so, for over a decade, Bart Simpson never so much as laid a finger on a crispety, crunchety, peanut-buttery Butterfinger. Spokespeople including Seth Green, Lou “Iron Man” Ferrigno, and Jaime Pressly were brought in as replacements for Bart, but things just weren’t the same. Could those two bar-crossed brands ever reconcile and form a new advertising partnership?
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Last season there was a Simpsons episode where Bart becomes a street artist with the help of special guest star Shephard Fairey, because it’s impossible for a Simpson to develop a new skill without meeting the most famous people associated with that skill. Fairey’s perhaps best known nowadays for making that weird Soviet propaganda-ish Barack Obama “Hope” poster in 2008, but back in “the day” his claim to fame was the OBEY Giant campaign where he’d plaster stickers or spraypaint images of deceased wrestler Andre the Giant (later redesigned to avoid copyright infringement) everywhere – without permission! – with the word “OBEY” under it, which may have provided the inspiration for such cultural touchstones as internet memes and Microsoft advertising. For the episode, The Simpsons cleverly “mashed up” Fairey’s two pieces into a “parody” (using the term very lightly) featuring Homer’s face and the word “Dope.”
Anyway, the Associated Press sued him over the “Hope” poster (apparently they own the rights to Obama’s likeness??) and won. Last September a federal court sentenced him to two years’ probation and fined him $25,000. Now where’s an avant-garde street artist supposed to get scratch like that??
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Hey, uh, do you own that pair of slippers that look like Homer’s face? Are you perhaps wearing them right now?? Well, you’ll no doubt be thrilled to learn they were produced with state-sponsored Chinese slave labor.
Al-Jazeera has a 30-minute documentary on their site (use YouTube if it’s not loading) that uncovers how China throws political and religious dissidents into prison camps and forces them to manufacture consumer goods. It specifically highlights these Homer slippers, which were manufactured in Nanjing Prison near Shanghai for the New Jersey company SG Footwear. The company claimed (via Fox for some inexplicable reason) “it has never knowingly utilized involuntary labor.” Ha ha not only do they not deny it but they made their comment through a second company. Anyway, just something to think about next time your browsing the novelty slipper aisle at your local shoe store.
[Al Jazeera via Tumblr]
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post’s headline mistakenly said “atom” instead of “at them.” IN THE NEWS regrets the error.
The most critically underrated component of the enormous Simpsons media empire is the Radioactive Man spin-off comic book series occasionally put out by creator Matt Groening’s Bongo Comics, which after 18 years is finally being collected in a deluxe hardcover anthology.
First, a little backstory. The premise of Radioactive Man is simple but ingenious: each issue was purported to be a random issue from the fictional comic book series’ nearly 50-history, satirizing different comic book eras (Golden Age, Silver Age, etc.) and all the superhero conventions and gimmicks that come with it. There was initially a six-issue run in 1994, starting with #1 (mostly consistent with what we saw of it in the Simpsons episode “Three Men and a Comic Book”) and ending with a Spawn-tastic #1000, followed by an “80 page colossal” the following year. A second run debuted in 2000, this time written by the remarkable Batton Lash, with a noticeable improvement in the artwork. Each issue also featured faux ads from the Simpsons universe and letters from readers playing along with the joke (however, the letters in the second series were all fictional; i.e. #222 features a letter from a young Marge Bouvier). Everyone at Bongo is a giant comics nerd (the first issue of Simpsons Comics is a Fantastic Four reference, for example) and Radioactive Man really let them go hog-wild, sort of like how The Critic allowed Simpsons writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss do all the movie parodies they wanted.
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Simpson creator Matt Groening went to Egypt to check out the pyramid and he foolishly ignored all the hieroglyphic warnings and trespassed into the forbidden zone when all of a sudden The Mummy appeared and cast a big curse on him. As karmic retribution for all his brazen merchandising and capitalist crimes, Mr. Groening was turned into a piece of merchandise himself, how ironic. Now he is no longer human, he is just a doll and can’t do human things anymore, rip.
OK but seriously now, for just fifty American dollars you can buy a toy version of the guy whose signature appears on all your other Simpsons toys. Here’s what the solicitation says:
Created by legendary “Life is Hell” cartoonist Matt Groening, THE SIMPSONS is celebrating its 500th episode in February 2012, and Kidrobot is honoring the father of primetime animation in the only way we know how – making him into a 6-inch vinyl toy! Complete with goatee and glasses, director’s jacket, and pad and pencil accessories, it is the first EVER Simpsons Matt Groening toy.
Essentially, if you cut out the middlemen, you can pay a guy money and he will give you a doll version of himself. This is so weird and messed up that I needed to lie down to fully contemplate the many levels of Meta this object encapsulates.
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Yeardley Smith, voice of Lisa Simpson, is launching a new line of designer shoes called Marchez Vous (that’s French for “you walk”) YS, with the goal of marrying comfort and style.
That’s all nice and good… but can she compete with these kicks???