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"Treehouse of Horror VI"
The Simpsons episode
Treehouse of Horror VIa.png
The advertising icons destroying Springfield.
Episode no. 134
Prod. code 3F04
Orig. airdate October 29, 1995[1]
Show runner(s) Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Written by John Swartzwelder
Steve Tompkins
David S. Cohen
Directed by Bob Anderson
Couch gag The family are hanged on nooses.[2]
Guest star(s) Paul Anka
DVD
commentary
Matt Groening
Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
David S. Cohen
Bob Anderson
David Silverman

"Treehouse of Horror VI" is the sixth episode of The Simpsons' seventh season and the sixth episode in the Treehouse of Horror series. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 29, 1995, and contains three self-contained segments. In "Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores", an ionic storm brings Springfield's oversized advertisements and billboards to life and they begin attacking the town. The second segment, "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace" is a parody of the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series, in which Groundskeeper Willie (resembling Freddy Krueger) attacks schoolchildren in their sleep. In the third and final segment, "Homer3", Homer finds himself trapped in a three dimensional world. It was inspired by The Twilight Zone episode "Little Girl Lost." The segments were written by John Swartzwelder, Steve Tompkins and David S. Cohen respectively.

The first version of the episode was very long, so it featured a very short opening sequence and did not include several trademarks established in previous Treehouse of Horror episodes. "Homer3", pitched by executive producer Bill Oakley, features three dimensional computer animation provided by Pacific Data Images (PDI). In the final scene of the episode, Homer is sent to the real world in the first ever live-action scene in The Simpsons. It was filmed on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City and directed by former executive producer David Mirkin. "Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores" includes a cameo appearance from Paul Anka, who sings the song "Just Don't Look".

In its original broadcast, the episode acquired a Nielsen rating of 12.9, finishing 21st in the weekly ratings, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired. In 1996, the "Homer³" segment was awarded the Ottawa International Animation Festival grand prize an the episode was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming less than One Hour).

Contents

Plot

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Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores

Homer goes to Lard Lad Donuts to get a "colossal doughnut." Upon realizing that their colossal doughnuts are actually smaller than an ordinary one, he denounces them and vows to get a colossal doughnut. That night, he steals the giant doughnut from the lard lad statue in front of the store. In the midst of a freak storm, Lard Lad and other giant advertising statues come to life to terrorize Springfield. Homer eventually returns the donut, but that does not stop Lard Lad and his friends from causing destruction. Lisa goes to an ad agency, and an executive suggests the citizens stop paying attention to the monsters as they are advertising gimmicks, and attention is what keeps them motivated. He suggests a jingle will help distract people from watching the monsters. Lisa and Paul Anka later perform a catchy song and the citizens of Springfield stop looking at the monsters, who lose their powers and become lifeless.

Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace

Bart has a nightmare that Groundskeeper Willie is out to kill him. He is slashed with a rake, and the scratches are still on his body after he wakes up. Many other students at Springfield Elementary School also say they were terrorized by Willie in their nightmares. When the students take a test, Martin falls asleep and is strangled to death by Willie in his dream. Bart and Lisa tell Marge about the incident. While she at first denies that she knows anything, Marge eventually tells the kids the truth: Willie was set on fire in a furnace explosion and burned to death while the parents of the students looked on and did nothing. He told the parents he would get his revenge by killing the children in their dreams. The parents ignored him, but he made good on his promise. Bart decides that he is going to have to go to sleep and dream of fighting Willie. Lisa is supposed to stay awake and wake him up if he seems to be in trouble. Bart falls asleep and attempts to find Willie, who appears as a lawn mower. Bart manages to trick Willie into mowing a sandbox containing quicksand, and Willie sinks. Bart then says he can get back to his regular dreams, him and Krusty winning the Super Bowl. But Willie turns into a bagpipe spider and is about to kill Bart when Lisa enters, trying to wake him up. Bart realizes that since she is in the dream, that means she has also fallen asleep. At that point, Willie grabs Lisa, intending to kill her too. They are about to lose the battle when Maggie appears and uses her pacifier to seal the vent on Willie's spider body, resulting in Willie's explosion. Now Bart and Lisa hope they are free of Willie forever, but they are wrong. Willie does show up again, but just as a normal person with no evil dream-powers, much to the children's relief.

Homer3

Patty and Selma visit the Simpson family and Homer, desperate to avoid them, looks behind a bookcase and enters an eerie new world in which everything is in 3D. Homer explores the peculiar area, being depicted as a 3D computer-generated character. Through the walls, he calls Marge for help. Marge calls Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Professor Frink, Chief Wiggum, and Dr. Hibbert to help Homer get out of the dimension, but they are of no help. Frink explains to the others that Homer is in the "third dimension". When Homer accidentally pierces the fabric of the space-time continuum by throwing a cone in the floor and creating a hole, the third dimension starts to collapse into a black hole, taking Homer and other objects closer to it with increasing force. Bart takes command and ties a safety rope around his waist, going into the third dimension to save him, despite Marge's objection. Homer falls into the hole as the universe collapses on itself but Bart ends up back in the house thanks to his safety rope. Bart tells Marge about what happened, much to Marge's dismay. Lovejoy assures her that Homer has gone to a better place, while Homer enters the real world. He lands in a dumpster and walks down the street whimpering as humans stare at him. Homer's fear of the real world soon subsides when he happens upon an erotic cake store and goes inside.

Production

"Treehouse of Horror VI" was the first of two Treehouse of Horror episodes to be executive produced by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein. The episode was "so long" because, according to Oakley, "all three of these segments are very complex stories [...] and it's hard to fit three complete stories into 21 minutes." Because of the length, the episode featured a very short opening sequence and did not include several trademarks established in previous Treehouse of Horror episodes, such as Marge's warning or wraparounds.[3] The first segment, "Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores" was written by John Swartzwelder, who had previously worked at an advertising agency.[4] "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace" was written by Steve Tompkins and has been described by David X. Cohen as "one of the scariest [segments]."[5] "Homer3" was written by Cohen, although the idea was pitched by Oakley. The original idea was that Homer would visit several dimensions, including one where eveything was made of paper cut-outs, but they decided that it would be too complicated.[3]

The episode includes a cameo appearance from Paul Anka, who sings the song "Just Don't Look". Anka was briefly mentioned by Marge in "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy." In response, he sent a letter to the producers in which he thanked them for the mention. After receiving the letter, they decided to ask him to guest star.[3] According to David Mirkin, he tried to get Al Gore to host the episode, but the producers got no response to their request. "There was an eerie silence," Mirkin said. He added that "if the VP decides now to pursue this showbiz offer, it's just too late [...] He missed his chance."[6]

In the final scene of the episode, Homer is sent to the real world in the first ever live-action scene in The Simpsons. It was filmed on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City[5] and directed by David Mirkin, who later said that Fox "couldn't have been less supportive" because they thought it would be too expensive.[7] The scene involves a crane shot which pulls back as the credits are shown. Fox "begrudgingly" allowed Mirkin to use a crane for the ending. The scene was filmed on a sidewalk with the crane on the street and Mirkin was not able to fully stop traffic for the shot. Because of this, when the camera swings around, a line of cars can be seen backed up on the street.[7]

Animation

In what Bill Oakley considers the "money shot", Homer steps into the 3D world

A large portion of "Homer3" was three dimensional and computer animated. Supervising director David Silverman was aiming to something better than the music video for "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits.[8] The animation was provided by Pacific Data Images (PDI). The animators at PDI worked closely with the normal animators on The Simpsons and worked hard not to "reinvent the character[s]". The Simpsons animators storyboarded the segments and showed the PDI animators how they would have handled the scenes. While designing the 3D model of Bart, the animators did not know how they would show Bart's hair. However, they realized that there were vinyl Bart dolls in production and purchased one to use as a model. One of the most difficult parts for the PDI animators was to make Homer and Bart move properly without making them look robotic.[7]

One of the key shots in the segment was where Homer steps into the 3D world and his design transitions into 3D. Bill Oakley considers the shot the "money shot" and had a difficult time communicating his idea to the animators.[7]

Background jokes

Several background jokes were inserted into "Homer3". The PDI animators inserted a Utah teapot, which was the first object to be rendered in 3D, and the numbers 734 (which on a phone pad correspond to PDI).[7] Several math equations were also inserted in the background, one of the equations that appears is 178212 + 184112 = 192212. Although a false statement, it appears to be true when evaluated on a typical calculator with 10 digits of precision. If it were true, it would disprove Fermat's last theorem, which had just been proven when this episode first aired. Cohen generated this "Fermat near-miss" with a computer program.[9] Other equations that appear are Euler's identity and P = NP which is a reference to the famous P = NP problem, and similarly contradicts the general belief that in fact P ≠ NP.[5] The code 46 72 69 6E 6B 20 72 75 6C 65 73 21 is an ASCII-hexadecimal string that decodes as "Frink rules!".[5]

Cultural references

The title of "Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores" is a reference to the film Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.[2] "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace" is a parody of the film A Nightmare on Elm Street and its sequels,[2] and Bart's dream at the opening of the segment features many elements similar to the cartoons of Tex Avery.[10] The segment "Homer³" is a parody of The Twilight Zone episode "Little Girl Lost", in which a girl travels through a portal to the 4th dimension.[10] He even describes the series as "that twilighty show about that zone." The film Tron is also mentioned by Homer as a means of describing his surroundings.[2] The building Homer encounters inside the third dimension is a recreation of the library from the PC game Myst accompanied with the library's theme music briefly playing in the background, Willie changing shapes while sinking in the sand box is similar to the T-1000's "death" in Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Martin's dream references The Pagemaster.[2] The three-dimensional rotation shot of the dimensional vortex is a reference to the green glowing grid in the opening credits of the Disney movie The Black Hole. In "Homer3", as he is about to fall in the black hole Homer says "There's so much I don't know about astrophysics. I wish I'd read that book by that wheelchair guy." This is a reference to the bestseller A Brief History of Time by astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who uses a wheelchair.[10] In "Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores", some of the mascots are parodies of real life mascots. For example, the giant walking unnamed peanut is a parody of Mr. Peanut.[10]

Reception

In its original American broadcast, "Treehouse of Horror VI" finished 21st in the ratings for the week of October 23 to October 29, 1995, with a Nielsen rating of 12.9. It was watched in approximately 12.4 million households.[11] The episode was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week.[12]

The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, described it as "Complex, very assured and very clever, [...] The computer graphics are outstanding, and the final scene - as Homer enters our dimension - is one of the highlights of the entire series."[2] Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide said, "'Attack of the 50-Ft. Eyesores' stands as the strongest of the three segments. It doesn’t blast off the screen but it seems imaginative and fun. The Nightmare on Elm Street parody has its moments and comes across as generally entertaining. However, it lacks the bite the best pieces offer. Unfortunately, 'Homer3' gives us the weakest of the bunch. It tosses out a few funny bits, but it mostly feels like an excuse to feature some 3-D animation."[13] Ryan Budke of TV Squad listed "Homer3" as the fourth best Treehouse of Horror segment and gave honorable mention to "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace".[14] Will Pfeifer of the Rockford Register Star called the episode "the best of the annual Halloween episodes."[15]

Awards

In 1996, the "Homer³" segment was awarded the Ottawa International Animation Festival grand prize.[16] The episode was also submitted for the Primetime Emmy Award in the "Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming less than One Hour)" category because it had a 3D animation sequence, which the staff felt would have given it the edge.[17] The episode would eventually lose to Pinky and the Brain. Bill Oakley later expressed regret about not submitting an episode with a more emotionally-driven plot.[18]

References

  1. ^ "Treehouse of Horror VI". The Simpsons.com. http://www.thesimpsons.com/episode_guide/0706.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-24.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Treehouse of Horror VI". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/simpsons/episodeguide/season7/page6.shtml. Retrieved 2008-06-24.  
  3. ^ a b c Oakley, Bill. (2005). Commentary for "Treehouse of Horror VI", in The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  4. ^ Weinstein, Josh. (2005). Commentary for "Treehouse of Horror VI", in The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ a b c d Cohen, David X. (2005). Commentary for "Treehouse of Horror VI", in The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  6. ^ "The Veep Ignores Chance To Play With The Simpsons". Daily News. 1995-07-17. http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/entertainment/1995/07/17/1995-07-17_the_veep_ignores_chance_to_p.html. Retrieved 2008-12-23.  
  7. ^ a b c d e Oakley, Bill; Weinstein, Josh; Johnson, Tim; Silverman, David; Mirkin, David; Cohen, David X. "Homer in the Third Dimension" (2005), in The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  8. ^ Silverman, David. (2005). Commentary for "Treehouse of Horror VI", in The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  9. ^ Greenwald, Sarah (2005-04-06). "A Futurama Math Conversation with David X. Cohen". Appalachian State University. http://www.mathsci.appstate.edu/~sjg/futurama/dxcinterview.html. Retrieved 2009-01-07.  
  10. ^ a b c d Richmond, Ray; Antonia Coffman (1997). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to our Favorite Family. Harper Collins Publishers. pp. 186–187. ISBN 0-00-638898-1.  
  11. ^ Associated Press (1995-11-02). "Sports events five of top 10 shows". South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  
  12. ^ Associated Press (1995-11-02). "Nielsen Ratings". The Tampa Tribune.  
  13. ^ Jacobson, Colin (2003). "The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror (1994)". DVD Movie Guide. http://www.dvdmg.com/simpsonstreehouseofhorror.shtml. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  
  14. ^ Budke, Ryan J. (2005-10-26). "The Five: Best Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Segments". TV Squad. http://www.tvsquad.com/2005/10/26/the-five-the-best-simpsons-treehouse-of-horror-segments/. Retrieved 2009-02-24.  
  15. ^ Pfeifer, Will (2000-01-16). "Here's a look at five classic episodes". Rockford Register Star.  
  16. ^ "Past Award Winners". Ottawa International Animation Festival. http://ottawa.awn.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=311. Retrieved 2007-10-18.  
  17. ^ "Primetime Emmy Awards Advanced Search". Emmys.org. http://www.emmys.org/awards/awardsearch.php. Retrieved 2007-11-09.  
  18. ^ Oakley, Bill. (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Mother Simpson". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.  

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