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- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator


Groening first conceived of the Simpsons in the lobby of James L. Brooks' office. He had been called in to pitch a series of animated shorts, and had intended to pitch his Life in Hell series. Upon realizing that he would need to rescind his publication rights for his life's work, and needing to create a new idea from scratch, he hurriedly sketched out his version of a dysfunctional family. He named the characters after his own family, with Bart being an anagram of brat.

The Simpson family first appeared in animated form as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, with the first short, "Good Night," airing on April 19, 1987. The family was crudely drawn, because Groening only handed over sketches to the animators, believing that they would clean them up, but instead they would just trace over his drawings. Some of the shorts, including "Good Night," were later included in the "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" episode.

In 1989, The Simpsons was adapted into a half-hour series for the Fox network by a team of production companies that included what is now the Klasky Csupo animation house. Groening has been quoted as saying that his goal in creating the show was to "offer an alternative to the audience, and show them there's something else out there than the mainstream trash that they are presented as the only thing." The first full length episode shown was "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," in place of the intended first episode, "Some Enchanted Evening."

The latter was rejected after the creators saw the poor quality of the final animation that was returned to them. They had the episode reanimated, and Fox aired "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" first.

The Simpsons was one of the first true hit TV series for the Fox network; it was the first Fox show to appear in the top thirty highest-rated shows of the season. The show had several episodes watched by over 20 million people and on occasion over 30 million people. Ullman filed a lawsuit, claiming that her show was the source of the The Simpsons stand-alone show success and therefore should receive a share of the show's profit. Eventually the courts ruled in favor of the network.

It also sparked controversy, as Bart Simpson was portrayed as a rebel who caused trouble and got away with it. Parents' groups and conservative spokespersons felt that a character like Bart provided a poor role model for children. George H. W. Bush railed, "We're going to keep trying to strengthen the American family. To make them more like The Waltons and less like The Simpsons." The Simpsons t-shirts, among others, one featuring Bart with the legend "Underachiever ('And proud of it, man!')" and other merchandise were banned from some public schools in several areas of the United States. The Simpsons merchandise, however, sold very well. During the first 14 months it generated $2 billion worldwide.


With one exception, all episodes list only the voice actors and not the characters they voice. Fox and the production crew wanted to keep the identities a secret during the first seasons, and therefore closed most of the recording sessions and refused to publish photos. They eventually revealed which characters the actors did in the episode "Old Money."

There are six main cast members on The Simpsons. Dan Castellaneta performs the voices of Homer Simpson, his dad Abraham Simpson, and Krusty the Clown, among others. Julie Kavner performs the voices of Marge Simpson, her sisters Patty and Selma, and mother Jacqueline Bouvier. She rarely plays other one-shot characters. She has been known to refuse to perform Marge's voice in public, to maintain the mystique of the character. Nancy Cartwright performs the voice of Bart Simpson and other children from the school that he attends; most notably Nelson Muntz and Ralph Wiggum. Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, is the only main cast member who regularly voices only one character; though she occasionally voices one-shot characters. The two male actors who don't voice members of the title family play a majority of the other male townspeople. Hank Azaria voices dozens of recurring characters including Moe, Chief Wiggum, and Apu. Harry Shearer performs perhaps the largest array of regulars, including Mr. Burns, Smithers, Principal Seymour Skinner, Ned Flanders and many others.

Along with the main cast, there are also several regular guest cast members. Pamela Hayden occasionally voices women on the show, but more often provides the voices of male children, including Milhouse Van Houten, Rod Flanders and Jimbo Jones. Tress MacNeille voices Agnes Skinner, among other minor characters. Russi Taylor voices numerous school children; most notably Martin Prince, Sherri and Terri and Üter. Marcia Wallace voices Edna Krabappel. Until her death, Doris Grau played Lunchlady Doris. Maggie Roswell voices Helen Lovejoy, Miss Hoover, Luann Van Houten, and the late Maude Flanders. After the 1999 season, until the 2002 season, she did not appear because of a pay dispute. During this time she was replaced by Marcia Mitzman Gaven. Recurring “special guest” cast members include Albert Brooks, Jon Lovitz, Karl Wiedergott, the late Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks and Kelsey Grammer (all of whom have voiced several characters, except Hooks and Grammer).

Milhouse Van Houten is one of the few residents of Springfield with which of the following traits:

Five fingers
Purple Hair


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