LOS ANGELES — After 18 years and 400 episodes, you might think you know everything about "The Simpsons." But, on the verge of the show's movie debut this weekend, the creators and voice talents gave us the scoop on Springfield — a town that has nearly as many secrets as it does citizens who've met their tragic demise riding the Escalator to Nowhere. So hold onto your Duffman hat and get ready to let out a few Frink-like exclamations, as we present the "Simpsons" trivia that even the most loyal geeks don't know.
Eat My Catchphrase — "Well, 'Eat my shorts,' that was an ad-lib that I did in one of the earlier table reads," revealed Nancy Cartwright, who voices Bart. "It's something that I said when I was in the marching band in high school. We would march from the high school to the football stadium [and were supposed to chant] 'Fairmont West! Fairmont West!' but it changed my senior year to 'Eat my shorts!' " Laughing, she added: "Only the people that were sitting in the front row could get what we were saying."
3AT MY 5H0RT5 — While most celebs in L.A. hide behind tinted windows, Cartwright embraces her notoriety to the point where her convertible car has vanity plates featuring one of Bart's catchphrases (and no, it's not 3AT MY 5H0RT5). "That's Nancy," laughed Yeardley Smith, who voices Lisa. "She's way out there."
The Man Behind Artie Ziff — "When I did 'The Way We Was' episode, I went through my high school yearbook for character ideas and designs because that was the period we were parodying," series and movie director David Silverman remembered. "And [Homer's high school rival] Artie Ziff is based on a friend of mine — the way he looked and the way he dressed. The guy's named Michael ... wow, I forget his name now," Silverman laughed. "I haven't seen him in a long time, but it is based on him ... and he definitely knows this."
The Man Who Lived ... Twice — The "Simpsons Movie" features the death of a prominent Springfield resident, but don't shed too many tears, warns executive producer James L. Brooks. "There is a rebirth that might have to take place soon [on the show]," he hinted. "Yeah, that's right," added executive producer Al Jean, saying that they'll bring the character back à la Dr. Marvin Monroe. "I won't say who it is that dies. But he does say, 'Bye everybody!' "
A Secret Identity Revealed! — After years of anticipation, a "Simpsons" episode revealed the Comic Book Guy's name to be Jeff Albertson. Matt Groening, however, invokes his rights as creator to contradict that plot point. "I had a different, much more tragic design, but I was out of the room when [the writers] named him," insisted Groening, revealing the character's stalker tendencies. "In my mind, 'Louis Lane' was his name, and he was obsessed and tormented by Lois Lane."
An Odd Coupling — As those who've seen the early "Simpsons" shorts know, Homer's voice was originally modeled after a famous actor. "I started doing Walter Matthau back when we were doing the one-minute things on 'The Tracey Ullman Show,' " remembered Dan Castellaneta, who voices Homer. "But once we started doing the show, we'd do nine to 10 hours of recording, and I couldn't sustain that voice over that period of time. So, I had to find something a little more comfortable to do." Added Castellaneta: "I never met Walter Matthau, unfortunately, but he was one of my favorite actors."
Not That There's Anything Wrong With That — Once and for all, Silverman set the record straight on Homer's co-workers' overly friendly relationship, saying: "Lenny and Carl are very good friends, and [whether they're gay] depends on the show ... part of the joke is you think they are, and then they talk about their girlfriends." As for Waylon Smithers? "That cat's almost out of the bag," he laughed. "But [Smithers] seems to be focused on one particular human, as opposed to anything beyond that. [Rather than being gay], he's sort of 'Burns-sexual.' "
Todd and Mr. Peabody — "Todd Flanders' voice is like Sherman from 'Mr. Peabody and Sherman,' " revealed Cartwright, whose love for the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" segment also yielded a cameo by those characters in the "Treehouse of Horror V" episode. "Todd turned out to be sort of like Sherman," she laughed, doing the voice: "Yes, Professor!"
Homer the Clown? — Herschel Pinkus Yerucham Krustofski might be better known as Krusty the Clown, but when Groening looks at the character, he still can't help but think of Homer. "Krusty the Clown was originally Homer Simpson's secret identity," he grinned, remembering an early episode that was supposed to have Homer dressing up like a clown. (Homer actually became a Krusty impersonator in season six's "Homie the Clown.") "If you look at the basic design of the clown, it's just Homer's body clowned out."
It Tastes Like ... A Comedy Legend — "Ralph Wiggum is named after Ralph Kramden," Jean revealed. "We were trying to write up this character who is a doofus kid, and we loved 'The Honeymooners,' so we threw that in."
Bart's Secret Phobia — What's the best "Simpsons" deleted scene of all time? "There was a scene where Bart got trapped in a mummy sarcophagus," Jean remembered, offering up his favorite. "Marge is outraged, but Homer says, 'That boy has got to get over his fear of coffins!' It was cut from the movie, but it will be in a show this fall."
Moe Szyslak vs. the FCC — When Hank Azaria and the other voice talents record their lines, they swear — a lot. "Somewhere in the archives, there's a tape of each of the characters swearing expletives, including Lisa," Smith said. "I think the outtakes of 'The Simpsons' would be a phenomenal DVD extra."
What a Way to Make a Living — Homer has held 188 jobs over the show's run. "Well, those are side jobs — he's worked at the nuclear plant forever," Brooks laughed. "That's his steady gig — let's call it one job and 187 part-time jobs."
Bob's Your Uncle — "What movie did 'Sideshow Bob' Terwilliger get his name from? 'The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T.,' " said Castellaneta, citing a 1953 cult classic. "The character's name is Dr. Terwilliker, an evil piano teacher. That's where Matt got the name." Despite the fact that the names are spelled different and fans have long believed Krusty's evil sidekick is named after a street in Oregon, the voice of Krusty says he and Groening are both big fans of the flick.
A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy — Ever notice how many "Simpsons" characters are southpaws? "That was a tribute to me, and everyone else who is left-handed," Groening chuckled. Added Silverman: "Bart is left-handed, and that led to Flanders being left-handed, which led to the Leftorium."
Bizarro Bart and Lisa — Two decades ago, Cartwright and Smith read for each other's future roles — so, what would Springfield be like if Bart and Lisa switched vocalists? "Oh! I wouldn't be here!" Cartwright insisted. "There's no way I would have been cast as Lisa Simpson!" Smith tells a similar story: "I always sounded too much like a girl," she grinned. "I read two lines as Bart and they said, 'Thanks for coming!' "
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