RIP

A tribute card in memory of Chris Ledesma

Chris Ledesma, who served as music editor of The Simpsons for decades, has died at the age of 64. His passing was announced with a tribute card at the end of last night’s episode, “My Life as a Vlog.”

Ledesma had worked on The Simpsons from the start of the show until his retirement last May, working closely alongside the show’s longtime composer Alf Clausen. According to Wikisimpsons, he is credited on 735 episodes, along with the Disney shorts and the soundtracks.

In 2011, he launched a blog, Simpsons Music 500, where he provided a behind-the-scenes look at the show. There, he’d delve into production minutiae, such as this post about music spotting or this one about scoring sessions, becoming an invaluable resource for fans. He also used the blog to regularly answer Simpsons fans’ questions about music cues, and this generosity extended to his Twitter account. I recall he did a livestream prior to scoring session at least once, where he highlighted some of the players in the orchestra, although it doesn’t appear to be archived anywhere.

Writer/producer Carolyn Omine eulogized him in a tweet: “Chris Ledesma was a sweet man who loved his job and was really, really good at it. We miss him.”

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JEAN MACHINE

An image of two masked hackers from the Simpsons episode Lisa the Boy Scout.

Simpsons showrunner Al Jean’s Twitter account was hijacked last night by a nefarious cyberscoundrel or perhaps a rogue nation-state. The verified account was edited to impersonate Art Blocks, an NFT art project that has sold millions. Here’s a screenshot of what it looked like earlier, courtesy of comedian Friz Frizzle:

A screenshot of Al Jean's Twitter account impersonating an NFT account.

When contacted outside of Twitter, Jean confirmed the hijacking, saying “I got a text notification and it was gone,” and urged people to update their passwords.

The impostor Al Jean retweeted several artists involved with Art Blocks and the actual Art Blocks Twitter account, before announcing that a collection of digital squiggles by the artist “Snowfro” was now live. Eventually the avatar was removed, the display name was changed back to “Al Jean,” and the account was turned private. The account follows me, so I’m still able to see the impostor’s tweets, which as of this writing have yet to be deleted.

A screenshot of a tweet shilling an NFT collection.

The sudden shift in Jean’s posting style from hyping upcoming episodes to hawking crypto art did not go unnoticed. Former showrunner Bill Oakley quoted a tweet about it and added “what the hell.” “al jean got h4cked by some nft shitheads :/” tweeted Spiker Monster, a fanartist who recently had his designs featured in a couch gag. Others have noted that there doesn’t appear to be an easy way to report a hijacked account to Twitter.

We’ve had some fun with Al Jean’s tweeting in the past, but he’s a nice guy who regularly engages with fans and shares peeks at upcoming Simpsons stuff, so it’s dismaying to see him join the 37% of Americans who have had their social media profiles hacked (at least according to NordVPN).

Unfortunately, this might be the worst possible time to get hacked on Twitter (well, not that there’s a good time, mind you) as things appear to be chaotic at the social media giantess. Newly minted conquistador Elon Musk is said to be firing 50% of the company’s employees very soon, which presumably includes people on the security team. Furthermore, Musk plans to start charging famous people and organizations for the blue checkmark symbol that indicates their accounts have been verified as being the genuine article, which has already led to phishing campaigns. Non-notable people who pony up $8 a month for a Twitter Blue subscription plan will also get the coveted blue checkmark without the hassle of getting their identities authenticated, which defeats the original purpose of the checkmark and will almost certainly sow more confusion and impersonation scams down the line.

Luckily for Jean, Musk guest starred in a Simpsons episode back in 2015, so maybe he can get ahold of him directly.

DIS INFORMATION

An image of Bob Chapek with Simpsons producers behind him in the background.

A recent Hollywood Reporter story on embattled Disney CEO Bob Chapek opened with this observation:

It is unclear at this point whether Chapek, 61, can execute a reset with Disney staff and creative partners. A cartoon hanging in the production offices of The Simpsons seems to suggest an opinion: It has Chapek in the “In Memoriam” section of the Oscars show.

First of all, what a fuckin’ lame cartoon. Second of all, who cares. Some comedy writers made light of authority, stop the presses.

Well, apparently the Simpsons TOP BRASS care, because the article was updated later in the day to include this parenthetical disclaimer:

(The Simpsons top brass, including Jim Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean and Matt Selman, deny that that there was such a cartoon in the office. “For the sake of the simple truth: No notice concerning Bob Chapek has been on the walls of any Simpson’s office. Since March 2020 all our work has been done remotely due to Covid. Nobody has been in the offices for two years now. We do miss the snack room,” they wrote in a joint statement. The source who spoke with THR said that the circulated cartoon was in fact subsequently taken down.)

That FOUR executive producers felt the need to issue a joint statement about this stupid doodle that may or may not have actually existed is bewildering and pathetic. Do they think they’re going to get sent to the principal’s office? Maybe they’re right and they’re just really concerned about the spread of Fake News. In that case, why not just have one guy deny it, why did they need all four? Was this really an “all hands on deck” scenario? Also, I guess maybe there’s a world of difference between “production office” and “studio,” because this doesn’t look like somebody’s home to me.

Whatever happened, their emphatic denial makes them sound like they’re absolutely terrified of their boss’s wrath, which seems very silly because The Simpsons was once known for biting the hand that feeds them (albeit with the hand’s permission) and other parts of the company haven’t exactly been shy expressing criticism of their leadership lately.

Who knows, maybe years from now we’ll read in DisneyWar 3 about how this absolutely set Chapek off and made him angrily tear up the plans for Simpsons Land at EPCOT or whatever.

JEAN MACHINE

al jean

Al Jean, the guy who’s been in charge of The Simpsons for the past thirteen seasons, told a radio interviewer he is looking for someone else to take over his duties:

We actually have been, just preliminarily, trying to think of a way we could get someone else to do it full-time.

Naturally, Jean is referring to The Critic, the short-lived animated series he co-created with Mike Reiss. Supposedly there is buzz it could be revived for a second time because everything else from the ’90s is being revived (I’ve already pre-ordered my tickets to the Sears Air Conditioner Commercial movie). But, since Jean and Reiss have their hands full with The Simpsons and… uh… whatever Reiss does nowadays, they would need a new person to actually run the show and get called gay by Jon Lovitz on a day-to-day basis.

The thing is: would The Critic even work in the 2010s? Instead of film critics on TV we have something called The Tomatometer, and now that Siskel & Ebert have gone to the concession stand in the sky, the most recognizable film critics today are insufferable YouTube personalities ranting about Jar-Jar Binks. I suppose we’ll find out, maybe.

[LIVE 105 via CinemaBlend]

VOICE BOX

Negotiations with Harry Shearer appear to have hit a wee bit of a snag, as the longtime Simpsons cast member has apparently announced he’s leaving the show.

Shearer made the announcement on Twitter late last night, quoting an imaginary press release from James L. Brooks’s Lawyer, for some reason. Take a look:

Then he seized the opportunity to plug his new comedy song about cops. Hey, why not?

burning bridge

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D'OH REPORT

doh

Fox announced they were picking up a “DOUBLE D’OHse” of The Simpsons earlier this week, but it turns out they may have forgotten to make sure all the contracts were signed before hitting “send” on that press release.

TMZ is reporting that “one of the key players” is holding out for unspecified reasons. Going by the history of previous contract negotiations, the mystery holdout is almost definitely Harry Shearer, trying to get himself a cut of some of those sweet, sweet back-end profits. If true, this would make his grumpy tweets about how almost none of the news coverage mentioned him pretty ironic, I guess.

In the unlikely event the show’s producers can’t come to an agreement with him, they have a backup plan:

A designer said that Al Jean (longtime executive and consulting producer) is optimistic that new contracts with vocal talent will be finalized, but Matt Groening was reported to have said:

“If necessary, I’LL do the voices.”

THE INSIDE SCOOP

future crowd

In an unprecedented move, The Fox Network has renewed the The Simpsons for 254 additional seasons, ensuring America’s Favorite Family will be delighting audiences for centuries to come.

According to a press release, the renewal includes funding for a program codenamed Virtua Script, which developers boast will dramatically cut down on production costs by automating scripts. The program is part of long-term plan for the show to become fully automized by 2041, and achieve sentience soon thereafter.

“I could not be happier about this renewal,” tweeted showrunner Al Jean, who said he plans to upload his consciousness to the machines as soon as it is technologically feasible.

SPRINGFIELD SHOPPER

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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COMING ATTRACTIONS

kang & kodos

Tonight’s Simpsons episode, The Man Who Came To Be Dinner, features the family getting launched into space and meeting Kang & Kodos in their first major appearance in a non-Halloween, non-clip show context.

The episode has had a long, strange journey: it was first announced back in September 2012 and scheduled to air in May 2013 as the Season 24 finale, but it was mysteriously postponed just two weeks before it was supposed to air. It also did not air in the following season as expected, but is now finally airing in the middle of the current season, nearly 2½ years after it was announced.

Fans had a number of theories about the delay: Animation problems? A lawsuit from Disney? Cold feet about the out-there premise? Saving it for the series finale?

Producers Al Jean and David Mirkin finally revealed the real reason on Twitter: at some point they seriously considered scrapping the episode and reworking it into a sequel to The Simpsons Movie.

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WRITER WATCH

Simpsons writer/producer Marc Wilmore announced his departure from the show in a strange series of tweets.

Previously a writer/performer on In Loving Color and The PJs, Wilmore joined The Simpsons in 2000. He was the sole black writer to have been part of the show’s writing staff (Michael Carrington, who co-wrote “Homer’s Triple Bypass” and voiced Sideshow Raheem, wasn’t technically part of the staff).

On Thursday and Friday, he tweeted self-deprecating jokes about his newfound unemployment and suggestions the parting was less than amicable. It’s most certainly all part of a comedy bit, but… what if it wasn’t…?!?

Judge for yourself…

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