The 30th Anniversary panel of The Simpsons didn’t shy from addressing the elephant in the room at tonight’s Tribeca Talks: Their new boss, Disney.
Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson) broached the question about Disney to the panel which included EPs James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Matt Selman and series voiceover maestro Harry Shearer. It was announced at the Disney investor day earlier this month that the studio’s new streaming service Disney+ will be the new SVOD home of all 30 seasons of The Simpsons starting Nov. 12, a deal which will impact the off-network deal the series already has in place at FX. The Simpsons was recently renewed for seasons 31 and 32 on Fox.
“For us, I think to be honest about it, it’s been energizing,” Brooks said about the Disney-Fox marriage. “It’s like being forced out of college or something…I still think you can do everything we want.”
Groening responded, “On the Fox lot, you used to just show your ID going in, and now you have to show your ID going out as well.”
Smith asked Shearer what he would miss about The Simpsons no longer being owned, in effect, by Rupert Murdoch, who consummated the Fox deal with Disney at a selling price above $70 billion dollars.
“I’ll miss the wrinkles,” Shearer joked. “Fox has been a warm and fuzzy place I think for all of us. And I think I’ll miss having a daily inspiration for the words and the mannerisms of C. Montgomery Burns.” When that crack elicited laughter, Shearer confessed, “Too cheap, too easy. Thank you.”
There’s some irony to Disney’s embrace of The Simpsons for its family-friendly SVOD platform, as Smith noted. “When the show was first on the air,” she recalled, “it was denounced by George Bush as being not family-friendly enough.”
Dream guest stars were kicked around during the session and the EPs were willing to offer Donald Trump a shot, so long as he agrees to follow direction.
“We’ve never had a president [on the show],” Brooks said, “but I think I’d love to have this president – if he’d read the script as written.”
“He’s not a good reader,” Shearer added.
“Maybe if we did it in pictures,” offered Yeardley Smith, who moderated the Tribeca event.
For Groening, Robert De Niro is his dream guest star, while Shearer would like to see Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. For Selman, it’s one of the Monty Python members, either John Cleese or Michael Palin.
Politics—both American and Canadian—came up during the back-and-forth at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Simpsons creator Matt Groening gently chastised the audience over the timing of the event.
“Real fans are at home watching a brand new episode of The Simpsons in which they go to Canada,” Groening reminded the audience. Longtime showrunner Al Jean added, “They go to Canada and they give citizenship to Lisa because she feels unhappy in America. We actually have Lisa say, ‘Our president is a son of a….’ And then Marge has to shut her up.”
The Simpsons team chose two classic episodes to screen for fans before the panel began, “Marge Vs. the Monorail” and “The Day The Earth Stood Cool.”