Every Television Critics Association press tour, we catch up with The Simpsonsshowrunner Al Jean. January’s TCA was no exception, and we’ll bring you that interview soon enough. But this time, Jean brought executive producer Matt Selman with him.
Disney acquired The Simpsons in its acquisition of 20th Century Fox. Since November 12, every Simpsons episode is available on Disney+. Streaming gave Selman some more ideas to maximize content and he has some ideas about enhanced Simpsons content for Disney+. He also talked about the upcoming Marvel-centric episode featuring voice cameos from major Marvel filmmakers.
Has being on Disney+ been different than it was on FXNOW?
It’s pretty similar. I think we were really pleasantly surprised the degree to which The Simpsons is one of the stars of Disney+, the thing that people were most excited about maybe after the main obvious things like Marvel and Pixar. Being the Bart Simpson of Disney is fun because Disney is very straight laced and pure. The Simpsons is not the most radical show anymore but Bart is still kind of a bad boy compared to a lot of the Disney people. That feels like a good identity for us.
Have you thought about doing anything exclusively for Disney+?
Anything’s possible. There’s some legal stuff about why we can or can’t do that. In the future, I would say anything is possible. We want to make the Disney+ experience special for sure. I would love to get all our DVD commentaries on there which are not currently there. I know Disney+ is a lot of work to get it working. It works great. It’s fantastic, but down the road, once they have a little bit of free programmer space, to get those commentaries, 20 years of commentaries, more. We have 24 years, maybe more, 26 of commentaries. We definitely recorded more than there have been DVDs. I’m sure we have at least four or five seasons in the can. Have they fixed the ratio problem?
Not yet but they’re working on it.
They said they were going to. Do that first, then do the commentaries because those are important. I like them and they’re fun. I kind of have a fantasy, why don’t we do the commentaries as podcasts? You just press play when the episode starts on Disney+. It can be like a Disney+ official podcast. Then you don’t have to deal with all the other stuff. I would love to do commentaries, record it not 10 years after the episode airs. Record it right before it airs when everything your’e passionate about is still fresh in your head, instead of trying to remember what happened which, as you can imagine, is hard.
Chernobyl did an aftershow podcast. You could easily do commentaries like that.
Right, but I want to do it where you watch it with your TV on mute, turn on the subtitles and just listen and we’re like, “Okay, this is a parody of whatever.” When it’s super fresh in our heads. We have a Marvel superhero crossover episode that airs soon that everyone is going to think we did to kiss Disney’s butt but we actually did it before the merger. Although, we did want to kiss Disney’s butt for our own reasons. Kevin Feige is in it. The Russo brothers are in it. Cobie Smulders and her husband, Taran Killam are in it, doing voices. Kevin Feige is like our Thanos type villain. The Rick and Morty fans, well, they probably don’t care but there’s something we put in that will probably enrage them in a very specific way. It might have been a bad idea but we’re married to it so we’ll see what happens. I love Rick and Morty.
The Simpsonshave tackled superhero movies before, from Radioactive Man to I think the last one was “Steal This Episode,” which addressed internet piracy and superhero reboots.
That one I feel good about, love it still. I don’t really know what the status of piracy is anymore. I feel with streaming services, a lot of people are happy to just pay hough I’m sure the piracy has gotten much better. If you know how to use it, you can get much better streaming copies of everything with much less effort. It’s not something we’re aware of as much. No one really buys pirated DVDs that much, at least in America, at least that I know of. The streaming piracy, I’m sure it’s thriving but I don’t know what the status of it is. It doesn’t feel like something people talk about as much anymore.
You predicted the reboot which Halloween and Terminator did.
We did do that. That was important. I love that episode. I love the line, prisoners are talking about how piracy hurts everybody and one of them says, “My brother’s a grip on a movie who lost his job because of piracy. He had to sell his jet ski. A grip without a jet ski ain’t no grip at all.” Which you know all our beloved brothers and sisters in the grip community often on weekend go drive their ATVs and jet skis. That’s the kind of joke most TV shows wouldn’t do because they wouldn’t know what it was.
“Coming to Homerica” is 10 years old now. The whole immigration satire came true.
We hoped it was a reflection of our worst. Instead our worst became our mainstream.
The Simpsons used to be a VCR show were people paused to see all the jokes. Do they still?
I hope they do. I just feel like no one pauses anything. If they watch it at all, they watch it once and that’s it. It wasn’t like I’m going to go back and re-watch these things but I want you to at least feel like there’s something you’re missing even if you don’t go back and check it out.
One problem with DVRs is sometimes pause isn’t a clear screen.
That’s a good point. Or on smart TVs. I think it’s pretty good on a smart TV with Disney+ but you can’t go frame by frame. I wish you could go frame by frame. It’s hard to nail it exactly.
Yeah, that was touching. Like most internet things I felt like, what they really wanted to do was complain more than they were that devastated by it. Anything where they’re passionate, I’m happy.
Do new Sideshow Bob and Artie Ziff episodes give you a chance to evolve and callback some of those early episodes?
I think so. I think it’s important that we use our universe as elegantly as we can. There’s one coming up in the fall that’s basically just a Skinner/Chalmers road trip show because we know those characters can sustain. Their own relationship is so interesting and compelling and f*cked up that we could do that. I’m always on the lookout for that kind of thing. We’re thinking of doing one where we get to know Sarah Wiggum, Chief Wiggum’s wife. Then people are going to be like, “Okay, you’re really desperate” but she’s a blank slate. You don’t know anything about her. What do you know about Sarah Wiggum? Do you know anything about her? Do you even know what she looks like?
I know what she looks like.
She looks like a she-Wiggum. That’s the whole point. Let’s find these invisible characters and find out what their voices are. People will hate it and say we’re desperate. They’re probably both right.
Will your Skinner/Chalmers episode call back the “Skinner and the Superintendent” short with steamed hams?
The steamed hams will make an appearance but we don’t want to try to overcapitalize on the steamed hams because then it seems like we’re desperate to try to take old internet passion and feed off of it. It’s more I would say in an Easter egg area. Easter ham. Right? Everyone loves Easter hams.
It was pretty similar. We just wanted it to be scary and messed up and traumatizing. I guess what was a little bit different is that it’s like the past, present, future. There was stuff that connected all three of the segments in a kind of Cloud Atlasy way. There were themes and images that were in all three. We tried to put in some of that connective tissue that I think was cool.