The Simpsons is approaching three decades of TV life, and that kind of longevity can take a toll on a show, particularly when you consider that the series has had to weather a constantly evolving small-screen landscape. Now, in an age when more and more viewers aren’t watching TV live, The Simpsons has to find new reasons to keep its viewers tuning in on Sunday nights (other than the insanely addictive Frinkiac meme generator). Recently those reasons have included everything from a Homer/Marge break-up to a Family Guy crossover episode. Now the series has announced another way to hook viewers: “live” segments.
That’s right, in a few months we’ll see an unprecedented live cartoon on FOX, thanks to motion capture technology and Simpsons star Dan Castellaneta, who voices Homer and countless others. The network announced on Tuesday that, for the last three minutes of the May 15 episode of the show, Homer will appear “live” onscreen, voiced by Castellaneta, to comment on recent events and take viewer questions. What’s more, he’ll be doing it twice: Once for the East Coast and once for the West.
“As far as I know, this is the first time that’s been done by any animated show,” showrunner Al Jean said, noting the live bit works with the theme of the episode, which explores improv comedy. “And Dan is a great improviser.”
Fans are encouraged to submit questions from May 1 to May 4 via Twitter using the hashtag #HomerLive, which will give the show a few days to formulate answers. For a series that generally completes episodes months before they air, this is pretty daring. Now we just have to see how the live segments play out. Until May 15, all we know is that The Simpsons have proven wrong one of its own edicts on the subject of animation. To quote the “Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” episode, “Very few cartoons are broadcast live. It’s a terrible strain on the animators’ wrists.”