Guest Couch Gags for The Simpsons
Guest Couch Gags for The Simpsons
In this Watch The Titles Top 5 takeover, we take a look at some of the greatest commissioned couch gags in the history of one of television’s longest-running shows. If you have your own suggestions or comments, then be sure to let us know over at @SubmarineChannl or @WatchTheTitles
The so-called Simpsons ‘couch gag’ has gone down in television history as one of the most instantly-recognizable, near-immortal title sequences. The opening sequence, although seemingly timeless and familiar features a range of unique twists in almost episode.
The couch gag made its first appearance in the show’s second episode (Bart The Genius – which first aired way back in January 14th 1990, in case you were wondering) and with more than 500 episodes spanning nearly a quarter of a century, the Simpsons team have had plenty of chances to play with that famous introduction. As a result, in more recent seasons the couch gags have tended to become increasingly surreal and outlandish.
There have been some notable examples over the years: episode ‘What Animated Women Want‘ saw Homer channel the-one-who-knocks, Heisenberg, in a glorious tribute to AMC’s series Breaking Bad, whilst 2001’s ‘HOMЯ‘ featured a cameo by none other than one of Groening’s other famous creations, Futurama’s Fry.
With over 500 episodes under their belt, Simpsons-creator Matt Groening has on occasion handed the reins to a number of artists and filmmakers, allowing them to unleash their creativity and produce their own unique spin on that famous sequence.
Aired on March 9th of this year, the 542nd episode ‘Diggs’, saw arguably one of the most beautiful, obscure and downright coolest opening sequences in the show’s near-25 year history. Groening and co. commissioned Oscar-nominated French director and animator Sylvain Chomet (of The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist fame) and he did not disappoint. Beginning in typical Simpsons-style before quickly transforming into Chomet’s unique Gallic aesthetic, this, the most recent of the commissioned sequences on our list, is a beautifully bizarre take on Springfield’s most famous family. Vive la Springfield!
In 2010, Groening and executive producer Al Jean turned to none other than animation-original John Kricfalusi, creator of another ‘90s cult animated series, The Ren & Stimpy Show, and invited him to guest animate the famous couch gag.
Opening the 488th episode, ‘Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts’, the result was a critically-acclaimed, border-line trippy and utterly bizarre sequence that broke all the rules in true Kricfalusi style. John K himself reportedly insisted on not only drawing the storyboards, but on animating the entire sequence himself, even overseeing the dubbing of the final soundtrack. Prepare to see America’s favorite family like you’ve never seen them before.
If you want to know more about the making of the sequence (including some exclusive footage, artwork and ), then be sure to check out Cartoon Brew’s fabulously in-depth interview with John Kricfalusi himself.
Despite being infamously difficult to track down, the team at the Simpsons still managed to get hold of British street artist, Banksy, after executive director Al Jean was inspired by the pseudonymous graffiti artist’s film Exit Through The Gift Shop. Inviting him to storyboard the couch gag for the 467th episode, ‘MoneyBART’, the result was suitably politically-charged and darkly humorous. Swapping the Simpson’s couch for a sinister sweatshop, workers can be seen laboring over animated frames of the Simpsons while cute, furry animals are being made into Bart Simpson dolls.
First aired back in 1990, the ‘Treehouse of Horror’ Halloween episodes of The Simpsons have now become something of a time-honored holiday institution. With last year seeing the airing of “Treehouse of Horror XXIV” who better to drag us down to Springfield’s version of Hell than the Mexican master of fairy tale horror? Guillermo Del Toro delivered with a masterful menagerie of famous horror references; featuring nods to everything from Cthulhu to Hitchcock’s The Birds. Even Mr. Burns makes an appearance as Del Toro’s own terrifying creation from Pan’s Labyrinth.
The Simpsons crew seemingly enormous fans of New York indie animator and Oscar-nominee Bill Plympton, with him being commissioned to take-over the opening sequence with his out-of-this-world style of animation three times now. Each of them have been fabulously strange and well, typically Plympton. In 2012’s Beware My Cheating Bart, he unveiled the sordid history of the famous couch, followed up by this brilliant film-noir sequence and a third masterstroke for the show’s 540th episode Married to the Blob. Here’s hoping they’re considering a fourth.