Matt Groening “is not a man who set out to conquer the world and become a rich bastard. This is a neobeatnik surfer-scientist art-dude man, who, by his own estimation, was in the right place at the right time.” So says my paper La weekly’s new cover story timed to Fox’s The Simpsons Movie release July 27th. For those who aren’t Groening disciples, his father Homer was a professional filmmaker, as well as a writer and cartoonist. “Almost all of his movies had to do with water — surfing, mostly; skiing, underwater films. It was the 1960s, and he went back and forth between doing these very commercial, promotional films to pay the bills, and doing these kind of arty, sort of one-step-removed-from-underground films that were just abstract images of water and surfing.” Groening believes one of his Dad’s best films was A Study in Wet, from 1964. “The soundtrack is a musical composition that consists only of water dripping into bathtubs, organized into a rhythmic and melodic composition. It’s an amazing movie.” Now Groening can call himself a filmmaker. Other stuff of interest:
“If I got hit by a truck tomorrow,” said Groening, “The Simpsons would continue on indefinitely. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. And sometimes, you know, I go, ‘Is my work redundant? Am I just doing the same thing again and again and again?’ But I feel like every week I learn something new — I learn something about writing, I learn something about other people, I learn about storytelling, I learn new jokes. And it’s entertainment, for me. I get to be on the scene where these brilliant people are making this amazing show, and, Oh, yeah — I created it! That is to say, I got the ball rolling, and now it’s a snowball that keeps on picking up speed. It’s really fun! And . . . it’s not very charming to be having such a good time…
Groening often says to himself, “You need to be tormented! You’re supposed to be tormented!… Of course there’s guilt. But on the other hand, I think to myself, ‘Look. The world is full of talented people who don’t get the credit they deserve. And then there’s me: I’m one of those people who gets more credit than I deserve.’ So I go, ‘Well . . . very few people have that experience! It’s very nice!’ So do I feel guilty? Yes. Do I admit it? Yes. And then I move on.”
“I have lots of dreams about working on The Simpsons,” Groening said. “The most recent one I dreamed I was in the back row of a giant auditorium, it was this crowded, formal event, and I say to the person sitting next to me, ‘What is this?’ And he says, ‘These are the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies.’ And then, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is The Simpsons!’ So I go up onstage, and I say to myself, in the dream, ‘I’d better have a joke.’ And I say, ‘Gee, it’s such an honor. You know, this hasn’t happened to a cartoon since Porky Pig.’” That’s all I remember. Then I went to work the next day and I told Jim Brooks my dream. He said, ‘God, that dream is so good, I’m gonna use it with my therapist.’”
About The Simpsons Movie. “One of the indications of the eccentricity at work here is we saw that on every episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, they had a countdown clock. So we laughingly said, ‘We should get one of those for the movie.’ And the next day, there it was — a countdown clock that said, you know, 372 days, 16 hours and 52 seconds, right above one of the animators’ computers. That poor guy is probably a quivering mess of stress by now, from having to look at it all the time.”
“Even after the movie comes out, I’m not gonna talk about the plot. Because I’m so used to keeping the secret. And also: It doesn’t matter. I mean, I can’t imagine somebody going, ‘Well, I think I won’t see the film because of what the story is or what it isn’t.’ I mean, it’s a Simpsons movie — you go to see them having their adventures.”
“When The Simpsons Movie is finished, and we get the fall season of the show up and running, I hope to take some time and actually resume surfing.”
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