Mere days after the announcement that veteran voice actor Harry Shearer won't be leaving "The Simpsons" after all, series creator Matt Groening, executive producers Al Jean and Matt Selman, supervising director Mike Anderson, director David Silverman and voice actor Nancy Cartwright took to the stage at Comic-Con International in San Diego to triumphant applause.
The panel opened with the recent promos in which Homer and Marge discuss that, contrary to news reports, they aren’t breaking up, and Homer has a close encounter with Donald Trump’s hair.
Moderator Bill Morrison, co-founder of Bongo Comics, then introduced most of the panelists, while Groening did the honors for a Bartman-clad Cartwright.
Jean announced the Season 27 premiere will feature "all of the girls from ‘Girls,’" with the promise of Michael York and Spider-Pig in subsequent episodes. There will also be a Disney-style Maggie short.
"We've also had a tradition lately of having guest animators do the couch gag," Jean continued, "and we're going to have John Kricfalusi [‘Ren & Stimpy’] do one." He teased they planned to have another couch gag by someone who'd created one before, at which point director Guillermo del Toro walked out. They then showed his previous couch gag, from 2013's "Treehouse of Horror XXIV."
"What was your inspiration of for that?" Morrison asked, to which del Toro replied, "Many lonely nights as a kid.
"Actually," the filmmaker continued, "we wanted to honor horror. And I asked if there were any limits, and they said 'No.'"
"And my recollection," Groening added, "is that as it went along, more and more references were added. I remember there were tons in the storyboards, and then even more in the animatics."
"There's a lot of references that people still haven't caught," del Toro said. "Like, there's a reference to a movie called 'The Car,’ and I actually love that movie so much that I own the car."
Jean then announced they are recording commentaries for Season 18, which will be available on the Simpsons World app.
After coercing Cartwright to do perform some lines as Ralph, it was time to open the floor to fan questions. The first came from a woman dressed as Leela from “Futurama" and holding a plush toy of Stitch. (Get it?) "When is Marge Simpson's birthday?" she asked. Groening admitted, "I don't know. It's a mysterious universe. When's your birthday?" For asking a good question, the panelists gave the Leela fan a Bender ski cap.
Another audience member asked whether there will be another "Simpsons"/'Futurama" crossover. "Well, I'll have to talk to myself about that," Groening joked. "But you know how everything gets rebooted these days? 'Futurama' will get rebooted some day."
A woman dressed as Lady Duffman asked whether there would be any more appearances by that character. "Well, I see a live-action show coming up," Groening joked.
He was then questioned about the possible return of Homer’s brother Herb, who was voiced by Danny DeVito. "We'd love to have Danny DeVito come back," Groening replied. "We just haven't written an episode for him yet."
As for another "Family Guy"/"Simpsons" crossover, Groening said, "It was really fun to be able to do it. But it was a 'Family Guy' episode, so all I had to do was look at the script and say, 'OK.'"
Jean added, "The 'Family Guy' people actually submitted that episode for an Emmy, but if they win, their award will say 'The Simpsons' on it."
A fan then asked about another favorite character, Hank Scorpio, the Bond villain-esque industrialist voiced by Albert Brooks. "That's the probably the most asked-about character," Jean said, "and I don't know if Hank will be back, but I do think Albert will be back."
An Australian fan then asked about the episode in which the family goes Down Under, and noted that, at the time, a local radio station said they would be giving out the producer's addresses so people could complain. She then asked which was the most controversial. "I would say that, unlike Australia, Brazil does not have a good sense of humor," Jean noted. "And then we had an episode where they lost the World Cup …"
"That's how powerful this show is," Groening declared.
Another fan wondered whether there were any guest stars they've never been able to get. "Guillermo del Toro," Selman yelled, prompting the filmmaker to respond, "I want to play Bumble Bee Man's brother. I ask every time I go to lunch with this man," he said, motioning toward Groening, "but he never says anything."
They ended the panel by showing two brief but hilarious clips from the upcoming "Treehouse of Horror XXVI" – one in which Sideshow Bob repeatedly kills Bart, and a second from the "Godzilla” parody "Homerzilla."
The 27th season of "The Simpsons" premieres Sunday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. on Fox