I don't know what the world is like without The Simpsons. That's not some cheap ploy to position myself as the biggest Simpsons fan ever; it's just the truth. Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Maggie have been an integral part of pop culture as I know it since before my spongey baby brain could even make memories. Since its inception on The Tracey Ullman show, I've seen the Simpsons world and the fashion community intersect a few times, but over the past 25 years, never before has it been quite like this. Lady Gaga's major feature guest starring in Sunday night's Season 23 finale (May 20, 8 p.m. EST on FOX, like you didn't already know) is already a huge deal (umm, HAI, an entire episode dedicated to your visit to Springfield? #bucketlist), but as soon as we caught wind of her 18 different episode outfits, we knew we had to beg someone from the Simpsons camp to talk to us about this ASAP. Thankfully, legendary writer/producer extraordinaire (and all-around smart, funny dude) Al Jean answered our pleas and gave us the scoop on the hotly anticipated episode and all its animated fashions.
MTV STYLE: We're so excited about this Lady Gaga episode and can't WAIT to see the finished product! Tell us about working with Lady Gaga.
AL JEAN: Well, Jim Brooks saw her interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. After that, we knew we just had to put her on the show, so we wrote up a script and sent her a letter asking her to do it.
What a huge honor! How did she react?
She was really excited about the whole thing. After she signed on to do it, she came in to record dialogue twice, and we showed her a rough cut the second time. She seemed thrilled.
Lady Gaga is pretty notorious for her distinct creative vision from her music to her performances to her fashion. What was the process of translating all of that, those Gaga intangibles, into an animated character? Also, into a half-hour program?
She trusted us with the humor absolutely and was so good in recording. For the music, we wrote music and discussed the lyrics with her. The guys from Lonely Island who do the SNL Digital Shorts also gave some input that she went for and worked out really well. For the wardrobe, the outrageous outfits are just a part of who she is, so a lot of them were part of the script. Every time you see her, she's wearing a new outfit or her hair is changed slightly. What's great about animating is that we could create all these outfits and quick changes that wouldn't be possible in real life. There's a moment in the episode when she starts out with her hair down. Then, there's a curtain pulled in front of her, and in seconds, she has a completely different outfit on with a cone bra and her hair is all hairsprayed up and big and frizzy. In real life, that would probably take 8 hours.
We believe it. How did you decide what each look would be? Did you work with a stylist or Gaga's creative director, Nicola Formichetti?
We didn't work with a stylist or anything, just our design team. We had a lot of ideas about new outfits we'd want to put her in – there's a bit where she wears heels inside another pair of heels, which to my knowledge, I don't think she's done before – but we also based a lot of the outfits on things she's worn in the past.
Yes! We saw that there's a nod to the infamous 2010 VMA meat dress! But there are brand new outfits we've never seen before, too. How much of Gaga's animated wardrobe was inspired by her real-life closet?
You could say 100% of the outfits were inspired by things she's worn in real life. We did a lot of research, looking back at her old outfits, and she's really been in a million different things, had a million different looks. Of course, we wanted to parody iconic things like the egg and the meat dress, but we didn't want to do exactly the same thing. In the episode, we made it a pork chop dress. Instead of that Kermit the Frog dress, we have her in a dress made of hummingbirds that she flies around in. There's an outfit where she's wearing a sweatshirt and jeans that's meant to be Gaga incognito, but she has a giant blinking "Gaga" sign lit up across the back. That was meant to be her incognito, but with the light-up sign, she's not hiding from anyone. It's funny.
What was the production process like? Did it take any longer than usual because of all the outfits?
Our Halloween episode is our most production-heavy project, but Marge and Lisa wear the same necklace and dress almost every week, so even though this Lady Gaga episode wasn't as much work as Halloween, it was definitely more than normal. If you actually tried to have Gaga's wardrobe in this episode produced, it would be at least six figures.
Maggie! She gets made over and makes an appearance as "Baby GooGoo."
That's hilarious! Are there any other celebs we can look forward to seeing undergo Simpsons style transformations in the future?
Zooey Deschanel will be back for the next season premiere in September. She's reprising her role as Mary, Cletus's daughter. In the episode, she goes to the city, and we give her an Audrey Hepburn/Breakfast at Tiffany's makeover.
We'll be looking out for that! Though still pretty rare, we really appreciate the instances of fashion experimentation The Simpsons, like that Harper's Bazaar editorial from 2007 – "The Simpsons go to Paris with Linda Evangelista" – we loved that!
Yes, I remember that! We'd definitely like to see more fashion in the future. It's still funny to have Marge and Homer and Bart in designer clothes. It'd be great to see more.