Banksy’s latest foray into American pop-culture depicts the intro of Fox’s “The Simpsons” in a forlorn light. The opening sequence of The Simpsons, arguably the most famous TV intro of all time, has been given a controversial one-time makeover.
The sequence begins travelling through Springfield with billboards and buildings emblazoned with the artists tag and Bart Simpson chalks the lines ‘I must not write all over the walls’ over the blackboard and walls of his classroom.
Typically, the “couch gag” in the opening credits of “The Simpsons” is a spot for its writers to slip in one more punch line before the cartoon family assembles to watch its own show.
Once the family is assembled on the sofa, as per the usual sequence, the music changes to a more sinister tone and the screen pans out to reveal Asian workers sat row upon row in a dark factory painting the animation cells for The Simpsons, while vats of toxic chemicals emitted sinister fumes and rats gnawed on bones; where small furry animals were tossed into a machine that turned them into stuffing for Bart Simpson dolls; packages were sealed with the tongue of a dolphin’s decapitated head; A panda pulling crates of merchandise and a chained unicorn used to punch holes in Simpsons DVDs.
The sequence ends with the camera fading out of the sweatshop revealing the final shot of the 20th Century Fox logo, cast in an ominous light and surrounded by barbed wire — followed by the traditionally upbeat “Simpsons” fanfare and the credit for the show’s creators.
This marked the first time an artist had been asked to storyboard part of the Simpsons show. However it may be the last time, as Banksy’s intro sequence has been extremely controversial. According to Banksy, his controversial storyboard led to delays, disputes over broadcast standards and a threatened walk out by the animation department.
“This is what you get when you outsource,” joked The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean.
Now the longest-running comedy in television history, The Simpsons immediately struck a chord with viewers across the country as it poked fun of itself and everything in its wake. With its subversive humor and delightful wit, the series has made an indelible imprint on American pop culture, and the family members have become television icons.
Over the course of their two-decade run, The Simpsons have won 24 Emmy Awards: 12 for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance, 10 for Outstanding Animated Program and two for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music.
The Simpsons is a Gracie Films production in association with 20th Century Fox Television. James L. Brooks, Matt Groening and Al Jean are the executive producers. Film Roman, a Starz Media company, is the animation house. Mike B. Anderson serves as the supervising animation director.
Episode 22 x 03 | Money Bart :
A visit by a Springfield Elementary alum-turned-Ivy-League student pushes Lisa to question her own go-getter attitude and reevaluate the scope of her extracurricular activities.
Convinced that there is no such thing as having too many clubs or activities listed on her resume, Lisa jumps at the opportunity to coach Bart’s little league team. Despite having little understanding of baseball, Lisa coaches the team to a record winning streak by putting her book smarts in statistics and probability into play.
But when Bart questions Lisa’s coaching tactics and confronts her for taking the fun out of baseball, Lisa benches him from the championship game.
Hoping to lift his spirits, Marge spends the day with Bart at an amusement park where MLB manager and former catcher Mike Scioscia (guest-voicing as himself) gives Bart sound advice and reminds him of his genuine love of the sport. Meanwhile, with one last chance to win the game, Lisa makes an unexpected call and learns that there is more to sports than winning
It’s rare to see this kind of subversiveness on the small screen, or in corporate entertainment in general, for that matter.
If it’s found anywhere, it’s usually in indie film — in works such as Banksy’s “Gift Shop,” which stands as the fourth highest-grossing documentary of 2010. But the playful “Simpsons” creators certainly embraced the underground spirit embodied by Banksy in this instance.
The Banksy episode also has a dig at Rupert Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox, which owns The Simpsons. The show has never been afraid to make fun of Fox and features regular jokes about the quality of programming on the company’s US TV network.
Rupert Murdoch even appeared in The Simpsons as an ‘evil billionaire tyrant’
Banksy, the pseudonym of a British graffiti artist whose identity has never been revealed but has been speculated on by various outlets, was made famous by his politically and satirically charged artwork and pranks starting in Bristol, moving on to London and later the world.
He is perhaps the most famous, or infamous, artist alive. To some a genius, to others a vandal. Always controversial, he inspires admiration and provokes outrage in equal measure.
He first started in freehand but moved on to stenciling, with occasional messages that are usually anti-war and anti-establishment.
Since Banksy made his name with his trademark stencil-style ‘guerrilla’ art in public spaces – on walls in London, Brighton, Bristol and even on the West Bank barrier separating Israelis and Palestinians – his works have sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds.
He is also known for his headline-making stunts, such as leaving an inflatable doll dressed as a Guantanamo prisoner in Disneyland, California, and hanging a version of the Mona Lisa – but with a smiley face – in the Louvre, Paris.
But perhaps his most provocative statement, and the one that generates the most publicity, is the fact that Banksy’s true identity has always been a jealously guarded secret, known to only a handful of trusted friends.
How did “The Simpsons” manage to track down Banksy, the pseudonymous British artist, and get him to create the powerful opening-credit sequence from Sunday’s episode, which seems to reveal the torturous sweatshop responsible for the show’s creation ?
And how, after all that mockery, have the producers behind that Fox animated series been able to retain their jobs ?
Q.How did you find Banksy to do this, and now that it’s done, how much trouble are you in?
Well, I haven’t been fired yet, so that’s a good sign. I saw the film Banksy directed, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” and I thought, oh, we should see if he would do a main title for the show, a couch gag. So I asked Bonnie Pietila, our casting director, if she could locate him, because she had previously located people like Thomas Pynchon. And she did it through the producers of that film. We didn’t have any agenda. We said, “We’d like to see if you would do a couch gag.” So he sent back boards for pretty much what you saw
Were you concerned that what he sent you could get the show into hot water?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it for a little bit. Certainly, Fox has been very gracious about us biting the hand that feeds us, but I showed it to Matt Groening, and he said, no, we should go for it and try to do it pretty much as close as we can to his original intention. So we did. Like we always do, every show is submitted to broadcast standards, and they had a couple of [changes] which I agreed with, for taste. But 95 percent of it is just the way he wanted.
Q.Can you say what got cut out?
I’ll just say, it was even a little sadder. But I would have to say almost all of it stayed in. We were thrilled. It was funny, I watched “Mad Men” last night and I wondered if this was my Don Draper letter to The New York Times. I knew just how he felt. But it was great to have a secret.
Q.One of the things Banksy is known for is disguising his identity. How can you be sure that you were dealing with the real him?
The original boards that we got from him were in his style and were certainly by an extremely proficient artist. We were dealing with the person that represented him making the movie. I haven’t met him, I don’t even know what he looks like, except what the Internet suggests. And he’s taken credit for it now so I’m pretty sure it’s him. We went through the people that made the movie so I assume they would know how to get to the real him.
Q.Even compared to how “The Simpsons” has mocked Fox in the past, this seemed to push things to a different level. Are you sure there’s no one higher up than you on the corporate ladder who’s displeased with this?
I think that we should always be able to say the holes in our DVDs are poked by unhappy unicorns.
Q.Has Banksy’s criticism made you reconsider any of the ways you do things at “The Simpsons” in terms of producing the show or its merchandise?
I have to say, it’s very fanciful, far-fetched. None of the things he depicts are true. That statement should be self-evident, but I will emphatically state it.
Q.A lot of the show’s animation is produced in South Korea, but not under those conditions.
No, absolutely not.
Q.And even that closing shot of the 20th Century Fox logo surrounded in barbed wire?
Approved by them. Obviously, the animation to do this was pricey. I couldn’t have just snuck it by Fox. I’ll just say it’s a place where edgy comedy can really thrive, as long as it’s funny, which I think this was. None of it’s personal. This is what made “The Simpsons” what it is.