WE ARE HAPPY FAMILY I AM SIMPSON
September 29, 2014 12:19 PM   Subscribe

To kick-off its 26th season, The Simpsons handed the couch opening gag to cult animator Don Hertzfeldt (previously) who transformed Our Favorite Family into a surreal nightmare vision of the far future.
posted by The Whelk (64 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
 
As soon as I saw that opening gag, I thought, "Won't someone talk about their spoon being too big?" The other people didn't get the reference, so we had to go there.
posted by subversiveasset at 12:23 PM on September 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


there is a vast, long standing online tradition of breaking The Simpsons using crude absurdist forms. I was shocked it actually made it onto the show itself
posted by The Whelk at 12:24 PM on September 29, 2014 [4 favorites]




it's very I Have No Mouth But I Must Simpson.
posted by The Whelk at 12:29 PM on September 29, 2014 [29 favorites]


Didn't see the episode (and haven't watched a new Simpsons episode in over a decade), but thought the gag was perfect Hertzfeldt; starts with a wacky, slightly unnerving visual joke, ramps abruptly into surrealist body-horror nightmare comedy, then somehow manages to perfectly land a final punchline full of silliness, terror, and weird, stirring pathos.

I've watched it three times today and my flippers have been very vigorously touched, is what I'm saying.
posted by Kybard at 12:32 PM on September 29, 2014 [25 favorites]


That was beautiful. I hope I'm still alive when they decide "fuck it, we're rich enough, let's burn this thing down to see all the pretty flames".
posted by benito.strauss at 12:32 PM on September 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Well, that was the best 2 minutes of Simpsons I've seen in, oh, about 19 years.
posted by mediareport at 12:32 PM on September 29, 2014 [26 favorites]


STILL LOVE YOU HOMAR
posted by entropone at 12:33 PM on September 29, 2014 [18 favorites]


homer its me

buntain simpson

posted by Iridic at 12:36 PM on September 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Found on the cutting room floor at First Council of Nicaea: "All Hail the Dark Lord of the Twin Moons."
posted by yeti at 12:39 PM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


In the same vein as The Whelk's comment here's my favorite Simpsons reimagining: Bart the General NSFW!!
posted by coolxcool=rad at 12:43 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


H̭̠̩̜̘͇̎̈́̇ͤ̉͜ȉ͆d͓̦͎̫̊̍̅̒ͯͦ̊e͓͇̭̱̪ͮ̾̑ͬl͚y͕͖̏̈́-̹̙̟̌̑͐h͓̝͔͍͎͈̱ͩ̔̉̾̋o̤̪ͫ̃̾͝,̢̙̳͙̜̑͆̀ ̝̙̏̑̿͂̀N͍͆ͩē͎͂́ͯ̋i̶̥̜͑̈ͫ͒g͈̖̎ͭ͐͐ͬ̌ḥ͕̜͕̙̬͒ͦ̆ͣ͒ͤ̽͡b͙̯͂ͪͫ̚͘oͦͧ̈́̄̉͌̒r̰͎̳̪͙̖̞͂͊̔̊̅͐ͤi̻̜̟͟ṇ͈̎͛͜ő̵̺̱͓̠͇̺͖̈̂̋̚!̶̰̊͑͗ͪ̂͋ͬ
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:44 PM on September 29, 2014 [41 favorites]


I had to send this to my coworkers because they were wondering what I was laughing at so hard.
posted by Librarypt at 12:49 PM on September 29, 2014


THat opening was the best Simpsons thing I've seen in years! Loved it.
posted by Mister_A at 12:52 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


All hail the Dark Lord of the Twin Moons.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:55 PM on September 29, 2014


1. This is great. Thank you.
2. Is anyone else tired of hearing how others haven't seen in years/won't watch but still despise the past x, y, or z years of the show? Does this add to the discussion of the post?

You don't like it anymore. Fine. Please give us a break belaboring the point.

Thanks.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 12:57 PM on September 29, 2014 [30 favorites]


This has justified everything since Season 8.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm waiting for a shout out to Dead Bart.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:06 PM on September 29, 2014


Please give us a break belaboring the point.

HAVEN'T WATCHED
MANY TIME UNITS
HAVEN'T WATCHED
MANY TIME UNITS
JUMPED SHARK
JUMPED SHARK
JUMP
FEEL WATER-SKI ON YOUR FLIPPERS
posted by RogerB at 1:09 PM on September 29, 2014 [33 favorites]


Ugh, what's that piano piece in the memories section? It's on the tip of my tongue.
posted by whittaker at 1:11 PM on September 29, 2014


which extrudes far above my forehead
posted by whittaker at 1:12 PM on September 29, 2014


I found this weirdly moving.

It reminded me of the Jonathan Lethem short story "Five Fucks".
posted by painquale at 1:16 PM on September 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


RogerB: "HAVEN'T WATCHED
MANY TIME UNITS
HAVEN'T WATCHED
MANY TIME UNITS
"

LONGER THAN YOU THINK!
posted by Rhaomi at 1:28 PM on September 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


all animals can scream
posted by The Whelk at 1:33 PM on September 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


In relation to this, if you haven't seen Don's 3-part trilogy of Bitter Films vol 2, and you consider yourself a fan of animation or movies in general, then you NEED TO SEE IT. I count it as one of my top favorite movies of all time. An excellent tale of a head falling to pieces. 5 flippers.
posted by Philipschall at 1:37 PM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Why the post-it notes over Homer's face when he begins to fast-forward?
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:40 PM on September 29, 2014


I didn't know this was happening, but Saturday night, I took a pretty big relationship risk and showed Rejected to my new Special Lady Friend. I was really quite relieved at 8:00 last night when I was able to demonstrate to her that, while I am unquestionably weird, I am also hip.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:22 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


About the only thing they haven't done is a Gerry Anderson Supermarionation™ Simpsons intro. Though I think I'd prefer it in the style of Winter Steele, even if only a certain demographic would get it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:23 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Whittaker:
Ugh, what's that piano piece in the memories section? It's on the tip of my tongue.
I believe it's Chopin Nocturne Op.9 No.2.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:31 PM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Please give us a break belaboring the point

But the show is still on. How are we belabouring anything?!
posted by tapesonthefloor at 2:39 PM on September 29, 2014


I dunno, I've only bothered to see one episode of the show from its last 15 years of airing and I think having a cartoon show run past its prime and cultural relevance is pretty far down the list of aesthetic or moral crimes that the television or film industry could commit.

It's keen that they're letting artists guest star their sequences rather than just their voices now.
posted by whittaker at 3:34 PM on September 29, 2014


a surreal nightmare vision of the far future.

A highly inaccurate vision in that we all know in the grim darkness of the far future there is only war. Not a single character in that clip invoked the Emperor (Beloved by all), it's obvious that the Simpsons must be cleansed with fire.
posted by MikeMc at 3:35 PM on September 29, 2014


Hertzfeldt's "Rejected" has become Internet legend for obvious reasons, but it's worth pointing out that he's a seriously ambitious and talented animator for whom "Rejected" was, if anything, a stepping-stone on the way to even more ambitious material.

If you're a fan of experimental, hilarious attempts to look at the bleak void that is existence, you owe it to yourself to watch The Meaning of Life and, especially, Everything Will Be OK, which is one of the best animated films I have ever seen, bar none.
posted by rorgy at 3:47 PM on September 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


rorgy, you are aware that Everything Will Be OK is the middle part of an excellent feature-length trilogy, yes?
posted by EmGeeJay at 3:50 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I only flipped to this to make sure the football hadn't run long and was going to screw up my recordings. It reminded me of Life in Hell.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:56 PM on September 29, 2014


All animals can scream!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:05 PM on September 29, 2014


The only way this could have been any better is if it had ended with Krusty exclaiming "What the hell was that????"
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:41 PM on September 29, 2014 [16 favorites]


That was... surprisingly derivative of his earlier work. Still, it's kind of incredible that Hertzfeldt was invited to do this, and it joins the Banksy intro in momentarily brightening the long, sad gloaming of The Simpsons.
posted by mobilesworking at 4:46 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nobody mentioned the Bill Plympton and John K. couch gags? All three (plus some of the others linked in this thread) demonstrate how far you can push the models and still be recognizably The Simpsons.
posted by RobotHero at 4:46 PM on September 29, 2014


When they finally come to their senses and bury the rotting corpse of The Simpsons the final couch gag should feature Homer recreating Fonzie's shark jump.
posted by localroger at 4:53 PM on September 29, 2014


By the time the last original voice actor dies they'll have enough material to recreate the voices automatically thus ensuring that it never dies. Hell, it'll be even cheaper!
posted by The Whelk at 4:59 PM on September 29, 2014


Loved the opening, hated the episode.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 5:37 PM on September 29, 2014


MARG YAR BREEKING HART
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:59 PM on September 29, 2014


This is amazing and stuff, but i'm really sad to hear the show isn't ending with the upcoming simpsons/futurama crossover.

Mostly because i still loved that fan idea that the show would end with bender, fry, and leela watching the end of the episode and going "Wow, i can't believe this show lasted another 1000 seasons".
posted by emptythought at 6:35 PM on September 29, 2014 [12 favorites]


The only way this could have been any better is if it had ended with Krusty exclaiming "What the hell was that????"
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:41 AM on September 30


Which is basically how I reacted. Clearly there's a whole bunch of references to things I am entirely unaware of going on here.
posted by Decani at 8:30 PM on September 29, 2014


The only way this could have been any better is if it had ended with Krusty exclaiming "What the hell was that????"

Naw, you want it to stop with an ENDUT! HOCH HECH! title card and leave the Krusty implied.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:53 PM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wait, wasn't the Futurama crossover supposed to be, like, last June or something? I legitimately do not know, because I evidently treated this knowledge as an abstract fact rather than as something to actively look forward to
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:42 PM on September 29, 2014


The Card Cheat: The only way this could have been any better is if it had ended with Krusty exclaiming "What the hell was that????"

See, that would have required the show giving it that extra 10% boost of funny that pushed it over the edge from tantric humor to actually finishing. They used to know exactly when to do that, but all that energy got transferred over to futurama and then used up.

I know everyones tired of the "simpsons used to be funny" circlejack that happens especially strongly on here, but read the description of that family guy crossover episode(which is actually something me and my friends have joked about them doing since like, basically a decade ago when i was early in high school) and tell me you don't feel what i'm saying there.

This intro was like seeing your friend who'd gone off the deep end with drugs and completely lost the plot randomly walking by the coffee shop you in sober, and stopping to chat for a minute... and then just trailing back off into incoherent paranoid jibber jabber after a minute or so of conversation. "Oh hey man! you're looking pretty good, what have you been up to?" to "...oh, the greys are still hunting you :(?"
posted by emptythought at 12:10 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


That was somehow more profound and beautiful than I'd managed to expect.

I have this weird [not weird] hope that one day the makers of the simpsons will give the series to [however many episodes are in a season] creators to make a single episode each.

And then you will see Don Hertzgfeld's simpsons episode. And Peter Chung's. And a bunch of other's - hell, why not Jonathan Blow's, or Quentin Tarantino's, or Trey Parker's, or steven spielberg's? Just give full contol to each auteur, on the grounds that the series is ending anyway - and this will be fucking ratings/critical DYNAMITE. Even though it won't get the viewersviews immediately, it will be perfect long-tail stuff - it will be watched and rewatched and unpacked for 50 years.

Anyway. Dreams and such...
posted by Sedition at 12:18 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


After catching up on this thread, I'm imagining the bile on here if/when Lena Dunham does a guest appearance on The Simpsons.

It probably just needs Jerry Seinfeld to appear in the same episode to push a few folk over the edge into "Old MeFite shouts at cloud" territory.
posted by Wordshore at 3:52 AM on September 30, 2014


I found this weirdly moving.

That's The Simpsons animation in a nutshell. Also, moving weirdly.
posted by chavenet at 7:32 AM on September 30, 2014


I saw Everything Will Be OK and the nutshell of that is also weirdly moving.


There's a Hanna Barbera blog I follow where the author will sometimes point out when an animator tends to draw mouths in a distinctive way, or uses a particular kind of dry brush speed lines, and so on. I mention this because I don't think you could do that with the regular Simpsons episodes. I guess a lot of that is because nowadays they'd rather hire a dozen Korean animators to do inbetweening than risk going off-model.
posted by RobotHero at 9:30 AM on September 30, 2014


I know everyones tired of the "simpsons used to be funny" circlejack that happens especially strongly on here, but read the description of that family guy crossover episode(which is actually something me and my friends have joked about them doing since like, basically a decade ago when i was early in high school) and tell me you don't feel what i'm saying there.

Actually, the Simpsons writers had nothing to do with the crossover episode. It was entirely the work of the Family Guy writing staff.

Also, the couch gags done by guest artists are entirely the work of the artists, with no collaboration with Simpsons writers. So any jokes or lack of jokes contained therein are not a good barometer of the supposed decline of the show.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:49 AM on September 30, 2014


...The Simpsons the final couch gag should feature Homer recreating Fonzie's shark jump.

They already did that during the They'll Never Stops The Simpsons song. That was in 2002.
posted by Gary at 11:24 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


After catching up on this thread, I'm imagining the bile on here if/when Lena Dunham does a guest appearance on The Simpsons.

A Lena Dunham guest appearance would probably invoke more head scratching than the, oddly moving, Hertzfeldt couch gag. I'm not sure how much of the Fox Sunday night crowd is familiar with the 20 something Brooklyn hipster zeitgeist.
posted by MikeMc at 4:18 PM on September 30, 2014


I'm not sure how much of the Fox Sunday night crowd is familiar with the 20 something Brooklyn hipster zeitgeist.

She fits the demographic no worse than Wil Shortz, Thomas Pynchon or Shepard Fairey. They have had plenty of guest stars that seem like they were written in so the writers can meet them rather than draw ratings. I don't remember a lot of Marvin Hamlisch hype before his appearance.
posted by Gary at 4:51 PM on September 30, 2014


That was beautiful! I'm never going to watch the Simpsons again! This is the perfect ending that has been denied us for so long. That last sad "d'oh" and the echo of Marge saying "Still love you, Homer".


(Aside: I can think of exactly one comedy show that actually pulled a surreal, melancholy stunt as its last hurrah, but I can't name it because I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise. D'oh)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:48 PM on September 30, 2014


(Aside: I can think of exactly one comedy show that actually pulled a surreal, melancholy stunt as its last hurrah, but I can't name it because I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise. D'oh)

Dinosaurs?
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:15 PM on September 30, 2014


Is anyone else tired of hearing how others haven't seen in years/won't watch but still despise the past x, y, or z years of the show? Does this add to the discussion of the post?

Yes. It does. Because that is 100% what the "couch gag" linked in this post is about.

The Simpsons has been on far too long; it bears only the most superficial resemblance to its earlier, excellent self; its only reasons for continuing to exist are financial. These points and more are in that video.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:00 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]




A very special Lena Dunham and AFP episode about Springfield enacting a bicycle helmet law.

hooohoohaha
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 3:42 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I finally got a chance to watch this properly (downloaded HD clip instead of on my phone), and my God, it is so much deeper than I first thought. It isn't just weird for weird's sake, or a snarky jab at the show's decline. It's profoundly tragic and horrifying.

It's clearer once you make out what Homer Homar is saying. When his consciousness first arrives in the year 10,535 ("Epasode Numbar 164,775.7"), he calls out: "FAMILY... MEET ME AT... THE KITCHEN CUBE." So his first instinct in this frightening scenario is to find Marge and the kids.

Then, after he encounters the others, he says, "I HAVE... MEMORIES...", followed by three short snippets.

I've seen this sequence called a futuristic clip show elsewhere, but it's not. It's a flashback. They're glimpses of episodes in our far future -- #20,254, #37,211.4, and #100,411.2 -- but before the final nightmare world of #164,775.7. Over the millennia, the character design evolves radically -- bipedal heads in an abstract wasteland, angular amoebae, grotesque shapes in a storm of static -- but the characters remain essentially themselves. Unmoored from reality, trapped in century after incomprehensible century of syndication, Marge still loves Homer. They're still a happy family. And towards the end, as the outer darkness closes in, she promises to never forget him.

Then snap back to the latest Epasode. Lisa's quiet self-expression has devolved into an endless loop of "I AM SIMPSON." Bart's a twitching mound moaning broken catchphrases. Maggie robotically blares ads for surreal products, flipping this heartwarming moment upside-down. And Marge, his soul mate for centuries, is reduced to a glassy-eyed hairball spouting incredibly alien political maxims.

That final "d'oh" is his realization that, for reasons he cannot begin to understand, his loved ones have mutated beyond all recognition. Like his entire world has succumbed to terminal Alzheimer's, and he is left alone in its madness. It's heartbreaking, awful, darkly brilliant.

This Wordpress blog post comes to some of the same conclusions:

DON HERTZFELDT’S SIMPSON’S COUCH GAG IS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS AND MENTAL ILLNESS
For my part, I would like to draw your attention to the heart-rending tragedy that plays out on the sun-date of Septembar 36.4, 10,535.

After calling his family to the “kitchen-cube,” the “D’oh”ing tentacled head that now represents Homer Simpson looks at the bumpy blue blob crowing the praises of “The Dark Lord of the Twin Moons.” After a brief advertisement from the remnants of his baby daughter, Homer states that he has “memories,” and looks out a staticky hologram of a window. We go back in time to “Sampsans Epasode Numbar 20,254″ wherein two sepia-toned bipeds Homer and Marge stare blankly at each other. Clumsily, Marge fumbles to touch Homer’s face, and tries to tell him that despite all that has changed, he can always count on her love for him. “Still love you Ho-mar” she intones in a tinny voice.

In a later episode, a nearly unrecognizable Marge tells a brown-yellow cycloptic tripod that we can only assume is Homer that she will never forget him. Her voice is so distorted that we need a subtitle to understand it. Even as their very identities degrade and disappear around them, Homer and Marge somehow maintain their love.

But as we return to the kitchen cube of the new present, Homer looks back at the erstwhile love of his life. The blue sponge insisting that “all animals can scream” makes no indication that she is even aware he’s there. The love that persevered through thousands of years and the loss of humanity has finally succumbed to the degrading influence of time. Realizing in a sudden moment of clarity what it is that he has lost, Homer emits a final, sorrowful “d’oh.”

If we think of the bizarre scenery as a metaphor for the changes over a human lifespan, and Marge’s changes in particular as a descent into dementia, the trajectory holds true. As Marge slowly loses her mental faculties, she proves again and again, in attempts that require more and more effort, that her love for Homer is the strongest force maintaining her sense of self. The final scene matches with the experience of Homer turning to his wife one morning and finding that she has finally lost the battle. She does not recognize him. Perhaps in this version of events as well, Homer expresses his feelings in the only way he knows how – the defeated, dejected “d’oh.”
Some notes from watching frame-by-frame (and Hertzfeldt's Twitter):

- Hertzfeldt was the one playing the piano
- more HD pics from his Tumblr
- that time machine looks familiar
- they missed a perfect chance for a Smarch callback with all those futuristic months.
- When Homer first starts to flash forward, there are some photos on the wall -- their wedding portrait, a photo op with Gerald Ford, Future Bart and his kids, and a spaceship. Intringuingly, each photo has a yellow sticky note placed over Homer's face.
- The future living room backdrops:
- flat and cartoony
- dirty and ruined
- pixellated like Minecraft
- red/blue 3D-esque double image
- subterranean
- prehistoric rock
- underwater, with a clamshell couch and shrimp painting
- mosaic
- Japan, with a futuristic skyline, Mt. Fuji, and a bus stop bench with "The Simpsons" in Japanese
- underwater again, with a coral couch and a shipwreck in the background
- candy-coated
- some kind of weird blister-covered couch
- futuristic minimalism, with a picture of the twin moons(?)
- black and white Escher-esque omni-directional couch
- modular, with a HAL 9000 panel on the wall
And the future Homers:
- spiral shavings, like a Slinky or an orange rind
- some kind of furry, clawed Zoidberg thing
- green wireframe
- arts-and-crafts paper
- tentacles
- balloon animal
- boxy robot
- tentacles
consider this plate of beans thoroughly overthought
posted by Rhaomi at 12:18 AM on October 2, 2014 [19 favorites]


On that note
posted by Sys Rq at 9:49 AM on October 2, 2014


I hope the next person they let do the couch gag (once enough time has passed after this amazing one) is David OReilly. He did the "Glitch" episode of Adventure Time.
posted by cell divide at 10:08 AM on October 2, 2014


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