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The Simpsons title screen as of 2009, featuring a 3 eyed crow flying across the screen as part of the episode's unique opening gag.

The Simpsons opening sequence is an element of the U.S. television series The Simpsons. Almost every episode begins with it. Starting with the February 2009 episode "Take My Life Please," the opening sequence was redone to go with the high-definition format of the show, and replaced the previous one with numerous differences and alterations. It is the second permanent revision of the opening sequence in the show's history, the first of which occurring with the premiere of the show's second season.

Contents

The sequence

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1990

The first season opening sequence starting with the second episode features a number of differences from the later opening sequences, including a scene where, in place of Mr. Burns and Smithers at the power plant, a co-worker is seen eating a sandwich with a pair of tongs. In addition, Bart snatches a bus stop sign, forcing several Springfieldians who were waiting for a bus to chase the one passing by, which was replaced from the second season by a sequence showing Bart weaving his skateboard between a group of various characters. A shot of Lisa riding her bike on the way home was changed to a camera whip pan across a crowd of characters towards the Simpsons' house. Lisa also gets home first, so Homer only has to dodge Marge.

1990–2009

The Simpsons Opening Credits Circus Couch Gag.ogg
The opening credits from "Fear of Flying"

This sequence opens with the show's title zooming in on the camera while moving forwards through cumulus clouds. It continues to zoom in on the town and then through a window of Springfield Elementary, where we see Bart writing lines on the class chalkboard, as a punishment. When the school bell rings, Bart leaves in a hurry and the camera pans to show him flying down the steps on his skateboard. The next shot shows Homer leaving the power plant as he drops a bar of uranium, which ends up stuck to his back. Mr. Burns and Smithers are seen in the background looking at a layout plan when the end-of-shift whistle blows. Mr. Burns holds his watch to his ear and shakes it, believing it has stopped.

The next shot shows Marge and Maggie checking out at a supermarket. Maggie is inadvertently scanned along with the groceries, rung up at a price of $847.63, and dropped into Marge's shopping cart, as she is wondering where Maggie went, then sighing in relief when Maggie pops up from one of the shopping bags. Lisa is shown next, being ordered out of a band rehearsal by Mr. Largo for her unorthodox saxophone playing; she continues to improvise on her way out of the room. The family is shown on their way to their house at 742 Evergreen Terrace. The members of the family weave dangerously through traffic and in between fellow Springfield citizens—first Homer, who pulls the stuck uranium bar off his back and throws it into the street, then Bart, who picks it up as he swings on a lamppost to make the corner, weaves through the sidewalks of downtown and Marge zooms past. Her car is shown swerving crazily with tires screeching, and the camera cuts to Maggie holding a steering wheel, making it appear that Maggie is driving; the camera then zooms out revealing the wheel to be just a toy for her, as the camera then pans out to show Marge driving; they then both beep their horns.

The Simpsons all arrive home at about the same time. Homer arrives first, parking his car in front of the garage, while Bart hits the car roof with his skateboard and then touches down. As Homer steps out of the car, he quickly dodges Lisa zooming by on her bike and says, "D'oh!", and then screams at the sight of Marge's car coming towards him. The scene then shifts to Marge's sight, inside her car, showing Homer running away from her until he goes in through the door. Upon entering their house, they speed towards the living room couch, segueing into the couch gag. After the gag, the television displays the executive producer credits, after which the episode starts.

2009–present

A digital collage comparing the original and high-definition versions of the opening sequence.

A new permanent opening sequence was animated for the show's transition to the High Definition format, premiering with the Season 20 episode "Take My Life, Please." This sequence is similar to the previous one, but features many visual changes that take advantage of the wider format. The sequence opens as usual with movement through cumulus clouds, while a 3-eyed crow flies by. Sometimes the crow is replaced by characters like Homer floating by on a lawn chair with ballons tied to it while he's drinking a beer or the once deceased Shary Bobbins flying by using her umbrella. The camera then zooms past the nuclear power plant and into the town square where Jimbo and Kearney saw off the head of the statue of Jebediah Springfield, which falls onto Ralph Wiggum's head, who says something different each time. The camera then weaves through several buildings and structures, featuring a new "billboard gag" towards Springfield Elementary and zooms through the familiar window where Bart writes lines as punishment on the chalkboard. The bell rings and Bart skateboards out of the school doors, plowing into a pile of leaves raked up by Groundskeeper Willie and exposing Barney Gumble underneath, who either belches or yells in surprise. Homer is shown leaving the power plant, and as in the previous opening sequences, a uranium bar sticks to Homer as he leaves. Lenny and Carl are in the background changing the "Days Without An Accident" sign from 2 to 3. Lenny falls off of the ladder and lands on Carl when the whistle blows.

The scene changes to Marge at the supermarket check out with Patty and Selma, who are buying several packs of cigarettes. Items being bought include Mr. Sparkle and Tomacco Juice. Maggie is scanned, and the price doubles from $243.26 to $486.52. Maggie is then put in the shopping cart. She sees Gerald, the baby with the one eyebrow, in the cart next to her, and shakes her fist. Mr. Largo dismisses Lisa, while Sherri and Terri are texting. Lisa leaves, but peeks her head through the door again to finish her sax solo and smiles before disappearing. Homer is then shown driving home and discards the stuck uranium bar out the window, which lands on Otto, who eats it. Bart skateboards past Otto before weaving through several townspeople; Sideshow Bob (who tries to slice him in half), Helen Lovejoy, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and his octuplets, Moe, Comic Book Guy, Disco Stu, the Crazy Cat Lady, the Rich Texan and Chief Wiggum. Hans Moleman pokes his head out from a manhole, which slams down on him when Marge drives over it. Maggie is shown in a booster seat in the middle while Grampa sleeps and snores next to her. When Marge and Maggie honk their respective horns, Grampa is startled awake and his dentures fall out. The camera pans across Springfield. The driveway scene remains almost exactly the same, except Marge's car now hits Homer (while she is texting while driving), carrying him until it stops and sending him crashing through the door, leaving Homer unharmed but creating a Homer-shaped hole in the wooden door, looking through into the living room. The Simpsons run into the living room and a couch gag is shown, before the credits are screened on a new widescreen flat panel television, which will sometimes fall to the ground and break. Unlike the previous opening sequences, there is no cut to black and the episode begins immediately.

Variations

For each episode, the sequence includes a number of variations:

  • Something different flies across the screen at the beginning (HD opening only).
  • The billboard in front of the elementary school changes (HD opening only).
  • Bart writes something different on the chalkboard.
  • Lisa may play a different solo on her saxophone.
  • The family attempts to sit on the couch as something goes awry in an often surreal manner.

Billboard gag

The billboard gag is a running visual joke added to the opening sequence with the updated 2009 high-definition opening. In the gag, a billboard is seen on the roof of the building across the street from the elementary school as the camera pans through the town. The billboard changes every episode. The first episode with a billboard gag was "Take My Life, Please" where the billboard says "Krusty: Now Doing Funerals".

Chalkboard gag

Chalkboard gag of the first HD-episode, "Take My Life, Please".

The chalkboard gag is a running visual joke that occurs during the opening credits of many episodes. In this gag, Bart Simpson is writing a unique phrase on the chalkboard repeatedly; when the school bell rings, he immediately stops writing and runs out of the classroom. Chalkboard messages may involve political humor such as "The First Amendment does not cover burping",[1] pop culture references such as "I can't see dead people",[2], "I was not the sixth Beatle" and meta-references such as "I am not a 32 year old woman" and "Nobody reads these anymore".[3] The animators are able to produce the chalkboard gags quickly and in some cases have changed them to fit current events. For example, the chalkboard gag for "Homer the Heretic" (season four, 1992) read, "I will not defame New Orleans." The gag had been written as an apology to the city for a controversial song in the previous week's episode, which called the city a "home of pirates, drunks and whores".[4][5] Many episodes do not feature a chalkboard gag because they are cut to make more room for story, plot development and advertisements.

Lisa's saxophone solo

During the opening sequence, Lisa is seen being ejected from band rehearsal due to her non-conforming playing. She exits the room playing a saxophone solo, which sometimes changes. Some of the solos have similarities with pieces by Donovan, Frank Zappa, James Brown, and Charlie Parker.[6]

Couch gag

Elongated couch gags, such as one featuring a large stage show have been used to fill time in shorter episodes. It was used from Season 4 to Season 12 whenever a show ran short.

The couch gag is a running visual joke near the end of the opening credits and it is frequently used to make the show longer or shorter, depending on the length of the episode itself. In the syndicated version for the episodes from seasons 1 to 5, the couch gag for the episode is usually replaced with the one from season five's "Rosebud" where The Simpsons find an exact double of themselves on the couch (though the syndicated versions of the later episodes retain their original couch gags). The couch gag changes from episode to episode, and usually features the Simpson family's living room couch. A typical gag features the Simpson family running into the living room, only to find some abnormality with the couch, be it a bizarre and unexpected occupant, an odd placement of the couch, such as on the ceiling, or any number of other situations.

The first episode of the series to air, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", does not feature a couch gag. The second episode, "Bart the Genius," features the first couch gag to be aired. When the family sits down on the couch, Bart is squeezed off the couch and pops up into the air. During the shot of the television set following the couch shot Bart is seen falling back down in front of the TV.

Longer couch gags, such as one seen in "Lisa's First Word" have sometimes been used to fill time in shorter episodes, such as in "The Front"[7] and "Cape Feare"[8]. An extended couch gag was also seen in the first episode to use the new opening sequence, "Take My Life, Please", where the family chases their couch on a tour across the world.

Other versions

Live action

In 2006, Sky1 in the United Kingdom began advertising The Simpsons using a live-action recreation of the series' opening sequence directed by Chris Palmer.[9]

It was the second time they had done so, the first being in September 2000 as part of a weekend celebrating the 10th anniversary of the show premiering in the UK. Except for the very first shot in which the logo appears out of the clouds, every piece of the opening is present in this version, with even multiple chalkboard and couch gags filmed. Attached to the end of this sequence is the message "Come home to The Simpsons on Sky One." A version was also made for cinema distribution. Because the live action sequence was made in the UK, there are some slight cultural differences, such as Homer and Marge driving on the left in a right hand drive car, and the actor playing Chief Wiggum wearing a British police uniform.

The sequence was used instead of the regular opening titles on the episode "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife", first broadcast on FOX on March 26, 2006 with the images during the driving scenes mirrored so that the cars appeared to be driving on the right side of the road with the steering wheel on the left side of the car.

Christmas

A Christmas-themed version was animated for "Kill Gil, Volumes I & II" and later re-aired with "The Burns and the Bees". It begins with two lines of instrumental "O Christmas Tree" and then the normal theme music begins. This version is similar to the normal version, except for several key differences:

  1. Everything outside is covered with snow
  2. Bart's skateboard has been replaced with a snowboard
  3. Everyone is wearing winter clothes
  4. Mr. Burns and Smithers have been replaced by a Scrooge-esque Burns and Ghost of Marley-esque Smithers, and there are several Christmas banners in the plant
  5. Lisa's saxophone solo is a jazzy version "Deck the Halls"
  6. Bleeding Gums Murphy, who is now deceased, has been replaced with Jasper in a Santa costume. Maude Flanders, however, remains in the pan across Springfield, despite having also died.
  7. Marge and Maggie's supermarket and car sequence have been cut

In the end, the family sits on the couch and the camera then pulls out to reveal that the family was reflected in a Christmas ornament, which rests on a Christmas tree.

The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie Opening Credits.ogg
The scene from the opening credit sequence of The Simpsons Movie

The sequence was completely remade for The Simpsons Movie and features the orchestrated version of "The Simpsons Theme" as adapted by Hans Zimmer, which is slightly different from the first track of The Simpsons Movie: The Music CD. The pre-sequence scene is displayed in a 16:9 television aspect ratio, with black matte bars at either end of the screen. As the sequence begins with the "The Simpsons" logo appearing out of the clouds, Professor Frink flies past in one of his inventions carrying a banner marked "MOVIE" and saying "Moo-vie! On the big screen!!" ( on the DVD version he says "Moo-vie! On dvd !) When he hits the bar on the left side, both it and the one on the right nudge out of view so that the image fills the entire screen.

Instead of going through the P of "SIMPSONS," the camera goes through the O of "MOVIE" as the banner falls loose. The camera zooms in on the town, with several major landmarks popping-up. The camera then zooms in to Mr. Burns, who is holding a toothbrush in his bathroom with Smithers who gives him toothpaste, the extra weight of the toothpaste causes frail Mr. Burns to collapse. The camera then zooms past Moe's Tavern into the Kwik-E-Mart where Apu is secretly changing the expiration date on one of his products from 2006 to 2008. Next the camera cuts to Springfield Elementary where Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney are hoisting Martin Prince up a flagpole by his underwear and saluting it as if it were a flag. The camera then zooms through the window where Bart is writing lines for detention ("I will not illegally download this movie") before finishing with Green Day who are hosting a concert at Lake Springfield, playing their version of "The Simpsons Theme and using a teleprompter to get its "lyrics" right.

The Simpsons Movie callback

For "He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs," the first new Simpsons episode to air after the release of The Simpsons Movie, a callback sequence was animated. The sequence begins with Bart writing lines on the chalkboard, writing "I will not wait 20 years to make another movie". The school bell rings and he skates outside the door, showing the residents of Springfield restoring the town after the events of the movie. The multi-eyed creature from the movie is seen jumping onto Bart's shoulders, but is hit by a wrecking ball into a billboard of "Burns' Constructions", suggesting that Mr. Burns is attempting to make money from the incident. The camera then pans on a large shard of glass, a piece from the destroyed dome. Bart rides on the piece, and weaves in between characters from the movie; President Schwarzenegger, Colin, Moe Szyslak (in his "Emperor" attire), Russ Cargill, and the Medicine Woman, who waves her hand in a similar manner to Chief Wiggum. The family arrives home to 742 Evergreen Terrace, which is shown to be still under construction. Homer's car arrives with the pig waste silo strapped on top. The family arrive to sit on the couch, where Plopper the pig is currently sitting, with the "Spider-Pig" tune being played in the background. Homer then grabs Plopper and proclaims that the pig is his "summer love".

Parodies within the show

In five episodes of The Simpsons, the opening sequence is parodied:

  • A short parody as "The Thompsons" in the episode "Cape Feare", when the Simpsons go into the witness protection program to avoid Sideshow Bob.
  • Once as "The Hurricane" in the episode "Hurricane Neddy".
  • In a scene from "Simpsons Bible Stories", Bart is writing a chalkboard punishment in hieroglyphics when he hears Moses/Milhouse's horn being blown and leaves the classroom.
  • In "The Heartbroke Kid", instead of writing on chalkboard, Bart is putting coins in the vending machine, cracks the pavement when he leaves the school, bends the lamppost, runs over pedestrians, hits Marge's car and sends it spinning off screen, and crushes the roof of Homer's car, squeezing him out before stumbling into the living room apparently having a heart attack.
  • In the episode "Little Big Girl", Bart is awarded a driver's license, and a section of the opening sequence is shown with Bart at the chalkboard writing "So Long Suckers". He bursts through the school doors in Homer's car, instead of on his skateboard, and speeds away, doing all the same gags as the opening sequence, but instead of nimbly dodging all the obstacles, he runs them over. Homer then pulls into the driveway in Marge's car instead of his own and steps out to enter the house, when the other car lands on him, and Bart walks into the house.

References

  1. ^ "Lemon of Troy". Forrester, Brent; Reardon, Jim. The Simpsons. Fox. 1995-05-14. No. 24, season 06.
  2. ^ "Take My Wife, Sleaze". Swartzwelder, John; Affleck, Neil. The Simpsons. Fox. 1999-11-28. No. 08, season 11.
  3. ^ Turner, p. 71
  4. ^ Martin, Jeff (2004). "The Cajun Controversy", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ Lorando, Mark (1992-10-08). "Bart chalks up apology for New Orleans song". The Times-Picayune. p. A1. 
  6. ^ Francis, Nick (2007-07-24). "20 things you dohn't know about Homer & co — Simpsons week, day 2". The Sun: p. 26. 
  7. ^ Reiss, Mike. (2004). The Simpsons, The Complete Fourth Season audio commentary for the episode "The Front". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox. 
  8. ^ Jean, Al. (2004). Commentary for "Cape Feare", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  9. ^ The Simpsons on Sky One, The Inspiration Room | Daily; Vince Soodin and Veronica Lorraine, The Simpsons come to life, The Sun

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