“Grease: Live” helped inspire ambitious feat, executive producer tells TheWrap
Well, this is new — even for Springfield, which has almost seen it all. After 27 seasons, Homer Simpson will appear “live” during a May episode of Fox’s “The Simpsons.”
In the episode, Marge, Lisa and Bart will turn the show over to the family’s patriarch, who will take a break from stuffing his face to comment on the events of the day live during both the East Coast and West Coast broadcasts, Fox revealed on Tuesday. Executive Producer Al Jean told us much more on a phone call immediately following the announcement — for example, how in the world they plan to pull this thing off.
The final three minutes of the May 15 show will use motion capture technology to animate actor Dan Castellaneta — the voice of Homer whom Jean called “a great improviser” — in real-time. All the while, Castellaneta will also be providing on-the-fly voiceover. Jean promised TheWrap that producers will find some interesting ways to “prove” the effort is live.
While his is the only character going live, Castellaneta won’t be alone. Jean and the writers will be hanging out in the booth/motion-capture facility, offering any last-minute rewrites they can — kind of like an awards show.
“I think this is a first for animation,” Jean told us. We’d say so.
Fortunately, Jean and the gang are well-supported within the confines of the network’s parent company. For starters, Fox Sports showed them the way with the motion capture, which they’ve already conducted several tests on.
“It looks great,” Jean said. “I’m really confident that people will like it.”
And they’ve still got three months to perfect it.
Even closer to home than the sports arm, another Fox broadcast network project recently inspired the “Simpsons” creative team. While Jean’s idea has been in the works for “quite some time,” the “Simpsons” showrunner and “Critic” co-creator admitted their mission has been reinvigorated by “Grease: Live,” which he “loved.”
And, in one way at least, Jean is doing “Grease: Live” — meaning, one live airing more. Those two separate “Simpsons” live airings will consist of different Q&As for each coast, Jean told us.
To get involved, Fans can tweet their questions using hashtag #HomerLive beginning Sunday, May 1 through Wednesday, May 4. For the record, Jean assured us that early Twitter deadline simply allows them to obtain usage permission from the tweeters, not to prepare Homer’s animation.
Here’s your best way to get selected, straight from the horse’s mouth: Jean is hoping for a variety of questions about the “topics of the day,” which we suggested will probably consist 80 percent of queries about Donald Trump.
“That’s probably true,” Jean admitted. “And with Trump, I’m sure he’ll do something that day to merit [mentioning].”
Finally, while Homer may be the only one doing the live experiment, other characters will be in the scene and “have stuff to do,” Jean assured us. Just maybe not Grampa Simpson or Barney Gumble, two other characters voice-controlled by the legendary Castellaneta.
Still, should these 180 seconds of live “Simpsons” work anywhere near as well as “Grease: Live” did, expect Jean’s bosses Dana Walden and Gary Newman to fast-track a full half-hour of the gimmick. Jean told us he’d be open to doing more, but let’s wait and see if his loyal audience digs this toe-dip first.
The live episode of “The Simpsons” will air Sunday, May 15 at 8/7c on Fox.