Almost a year after former long time The Simpsons composter Alf Clausen first went after Disney as well as producers 20th Century Fox Television and James L. Brooks’ Gracie Films with an age discrimination lawsuit, the powers-that-be have raised their own collective voice in court – and it aint’ a tune the plaintiff probably likes.
Seeking to have 79-year old Clausen’s now amended complaint dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP statutes, the forces behind the longest running American sitcom of all time say it wasn’t age that got the composer canned three years ago – but the times and some apparent sleight of hand moves.
“In late 2016, (Matt) Selman was showrunning a special one-hour episode of The Simpsons called ‘The Great Phatsby,’ a hip-hop parody of The Great Gatsby that was intended to be a richly musical episode,” declares the motion to strike submitted by lawyer Adam Levin for the defendants in L.A. Superior Court on April 27 (read it here). “It featured a musical guest star who created the original rap music used in the episode,” the filing notes of the F.Scott Fitzgerald mocking special, which saw Empire producer Jim Beanz brought on board to help create a more contemporary sound. “Clausen was responsible for the other musical cues.”
It should be noted that after nearly three decades utilizing Clausen’s talents, Simpsons producers were already looking at the books and seeing if they could trim the animated show’s budget by cutting down on things like a 30-person live orchestra … then ‘The Great Phatsby’ happened, according to this week’s paperwork.
“Brooks was heavily involved in the episode, including the post-production and music,” the 22-page document from the Mitchell, Silberberg & Knapp LLP attorney details of the EP. “Brooks had wanted the episode to be rich with music, but when he heard Clausen’s orchestral cues, he had concerns,” the filing says with understatement of Clausen being out of his “comfort zone” of show-ish tunes, jazz and classically inclined music. “Making matters worse, the Creative Executives learned Clausen had not even composed all the orchestral music. Instead, it had partly been composed by his son and another composer. The Creative Executives then discovered that Clausen had been submitting music composed by these other musicians on other episodes as well.”
And, even with two time Emmy winner Clausen’s recently amended complaint that he was fired because of his Parkinson’s disease too, that seems to have been the last note for Simpsons bosses.
“This was unacceptable to the Creative Executives because they had not agreed that Clausen could unilaterally delegate his composing work,” the motion claims. “In the wake of their discovery, and in light of the concerns about the music on ‘The Great Phatsby,’ the Creative Executives discussed making a change in composers.”
That change was actually hiring Bleeding Fingers Music, the collective co-founded by Oscar winner Zimmer, no spring chicken himself.
“Clausen’s attempt to use the anti-discrimination laws to undo a creative decision he disagrees with could chill the free speech of collaborative artists and producers around this state,” Levin argues using the state statutes as his blunt object. “The Court should grant Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion, strike Clausen’s Complaint and award Defendants their reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in this lawsuit in an amount to be proven through a subsequent motion according to proof.”
Now, with the courts in L.A. County pretty much closed except for the most urgent of matters due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will likely be awhile before Disney, Fox and the Simpsons producers get the hearing date they are seeking. And in that time we could see a response or two from Clausen’s Girardi & Keese and Livingston & Bakhtiar lawyers.
Also, as we mentioned when this case was filed in August 2019, Clausen didn’t compose The Simpsons’ famous theme song, he did rework the Danny Elfman penned song in the show’s third season. In total, Clausen wrote and conducted music for about 565 episodes of The Simpsons until he was axed in 2017.