Fans were packed to the brim in one of the largest super-sized ballrooms at Comic-Con International in San Diego last weekend. Series creator Matt Groening, producer Al Jean, executive producer Matt Selman and supervising director Mike Anderson answered fans’ questions as Groening doled out Simpsons
merchandise ranging from t-shirts to the as-yet-unreleased 13th season DVD box set, and even large Kang and Kodos figurines.
Early in the question and answer session, the topic of the FOX show’s legendary longevity came up. “The Simpson’s is twenty-one; it’s old enough to drink!” said Jean. When a fan asked if the show could or would continue after the next season, Jean said that he was open to the idea “as long as the fans continue to cheer” in a successful and blatant attempt to curry the crowd’s favor, causing them to erupt into raucous hollers and applause.
“Will you bring back Poochie?” a fan asked, referring to the ill-fated new character from the Itchy and Scratchy Show many seasons ago. Jean said that despite the character’s limited exposure, Poochie was a popular character and that it was possible down the road.
Another fan asked if the Simpson’s would ever go to Broadway. Jean answered that he thought the show would be a good fit for Broadway, but that one hurdle is the show’s prime audience skews “younger than the theater audience, so it’s tough to do.” He then segued into the sneak preview clips of the upcoming season, the highlight of which was a 30-second scene from next the Christmas episode featuring Homer and Moe as Muppet-style puppet characters.
Following the clips, the creators revealed some of the upcoming guest voices: “Flight of the Conchords” stars Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook), John Hamm (“Mad Men”), Nick Park (producer of the Wallace and Gromit movies and “Chicken Run”), legendary film director Werner Herzog, “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe and the reunion of Cheech and Chong.
They also revealed the secret origin of long-time recurring character Hans Moleman. Originally, he was a throw-away character suffering under Patty and Selma’s slow service in line at the DMV. But when the animation came back from Korea, the character turned out much more shriveled and weird looking than intended. “We kept saying, ‘he looks like a potato,’ ‘he looks like a mole,’ and it grew into Hans Moleman.”
In reply to one question, Groening said, “Go ask Seth [McFarlane], he’s got three shows,” referring to “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show.” The fan at the microphone shot back, “No, he’s done one show three times,” eliciting booming laughter throughout the ballroom. Later in the panel when “Family Guy” was again derisively brought up by an audience member, Selman proclaimed “‘Family Guy’ and ‘American Dad’ are funny shows and have inspired passionate fans and deserve to exist.” After a few seconds of silence in the room, he followed up his comments with, “Damn it, why can’t I be genuine.”
Another question asked whether the creators would ever “age” the characters, to which Groening said, “Only in ‘flash forwards,’ and that is why the show has been so timeless.” He also let slip that one of the future flash forwards will be the Simpsons at Christmas in thirty years, in which Bart and Lisa come back to their parents’ house with kids of their own. He noted the scene will air in the 2011 Christmas episode. “That’s how far ahead we plan things,” he said.
When the topic turned to potential spin-off characters, Jean said that there was a live-action Krusty the Clown show in development years agobut the actor wouldn’t wear the costume, apparently joking. Groening suggested Ralph Wiggum as a spin-off and was met with cheers from the crowd. Selman broke in, speaking in the voice of the Duff Man character, “I’d pick Duff Man, because he works for scale!”
With the success of “The Simpsons Movie,” it was only a matter of time before the questions turned toward the possibility of a sequel. Jean smothered any hopes of that, saying “Not while the show is still airing. We had to do the show at the same time as the movie, there was no ‘B crew’ we could dump the series off to while we worked on the movies.” He said they worked hundred hour work weeks and were still recovering from it. “So… maybe?” he joked.
After the panel there was a bustle of satisfaction among the crowd, and many were given tickets for a free giveaway. Those lucky fans eagerly traversed the seemingly miles-long and serpentine path to the promotional gift room where they they strode past boxes of Thor and Green Lantern merchandise and Green Hornet t-shirts in order to get their Homer pins in a bittersweet moment at Comic-Con.