Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Simpsons Intro: What You Don’t See

Technically, in every episode of The Simpsons that begins with the un-abbreviated intro, Milhouse appears. So too does Nelson, Dr. Hibbert, and even Maude Flanders, who overcomes the considerable handicap of being dead.

I speak of a brief section of the intro that occurs directly between Marge and Maggie’s simultaneous horn-honking and the arrival at Casa de Simpson that segues into the weekly couch gag. The camera pans away from Marge’s car and, if only for a few seconds, over a Springfield panorama, featuring various characters. It’s pretty hard to see the whole of it with the naked eye, and it wasn’t until the arrival of the Simpsons DVDs a few years back that I could actually see who was there by scanning frame-by-frame. For whatever reason, I was suddenly motivated last week by the urge to reproduce this scene in full in a way other people could see by Photoshopping the frames together. The result is below.

simpsons_intro

It may be even more fulfilling to see the full-sized version.

I like how this image, jagged edges though it might have, presents a cool Simpsons landscape that most people haven’t ever gotten a chance to appreciate, despite “seeing” it every time they watch the show. I’m also struck by the strangeness of who actually appears: It’s a mishmash of familiar regulars, anonymous background characters, characters who once were prominent on the show but are no longer, and finally characters that I don’t think ever appeared on the show, to my knowledge.

Here they are, in order of appearance, starting at the left at moving right, more or less.
  • Some anonymous girl
  • Some yokel-looking boy
  • Milhouse, throwing a baseball, despite his established suckiness at sports
  • A blonde, pig-tailed girl who is Bart’s class but has no name
  • The two look-a-like thugs who initially henched for Nelson in “Bart the General” but have more or less vanished from the show. (Wikipedia says their names are Weasel #1 and Weasel #2.)
  • Nelson himself
  • Richard, Bart’s weirdly gray-haired friend, who’s since become less prominent
  • Lewis, Bart’s black friend, who was never all that popular
  • Martin Prince
  • Unless I’m mistaken, Mr. and Mrs. Winfield up in the chairs. They’re the Simpsons neighbors who move to get away from Homer in “New Kid on the Block.” (In their absence, Ruth Powers moves in. In looking them up, I found this list of bygone characters from the show’s first season depicts the Winfields, in case you’re interested.) However, the woman is also a dead-ringer for Miss Feesh — the church organist and a character whose existence doesn’t seem to be well-documented online.
  • Jimbo Jones
  • Jimbo’s flunky Kearny, whose last name Wikipedia states is “Zzyzwicz.”
  • Patty and Selma
  • Kent Brockman
  • Sherri and Terri, looking more like the twins from The Shining than ever
  • Above the twins, from left to right: Herman the military antique store owner, Grandpa, and Jasper, the last of whom apparently has the last name “Beardley”
  • In front of the Springfield Retirement Castle: four old people I can’t identify. The first looks a little like Jerry Seinfeld.
  • Below, some anonymous Channel 6 cameraman
  • Officers Eddie and Lou
  • Dr. Marvin Monroe, who was dead and then wasn’t
  • The chronically nauseated Wendell Borton, hanging out of the bus window, likely puking
  • Dr. Julius Hibbert
  • Some blonde girl I’ve never seen before
  • A girl with green glasses who is in Bart’s class but has never been named.
  • Otto Mann
  • Some creepy, happy-looking girl, who I’ve never seen before
  • An equally unfamiliar kid who looks seriously messed-up
  • And then finally the Flanderses, only minus Rod
See? A weird bunch. But it’s here now. I suppose that I’m not the first to do this, but I couldn’t find any evidence of previous efforts online. (Admittedly, it’s not the easiest thing to Google.) However, I don’t see anything like it up on the Wikipedia page for the Simpsons opening sequence, which, not surprisingly, exists. So as far as my limited research has told me, this is a first.

Whee.

18 comments:

  1. Well, your image (or one very similar) is on the page now (perma-link.)

    Nice job.

    -JAK

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous10:09 PM

    i believe that An equally unfamiliar kid who looks seriously messed-up kid is the old old OLD version of bart simpsons..

    looks like him anw.. but i think it is.. not sure..

    ReplyDelete
  3. Over at neatorama commenters say it was included in a fold out poster with an early issue of Simpson's Magazine.

    http://www.neatorama.com/2008/02/19/the-simpsons-intro-made-into-a-panorama/#comments

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lachie12:05 AM

    The guy in front of the retirement village with the hammer looks like Sam one of the barflies at Moes

    ReplyDelete
  5. As a fellow Simpson's fan, I thank you for enlightening me as to the opening scene of The Simpsons! I never would have known!

    ReplyDelete
  6. first on teh internets ftw!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous8:40 AM

    I am obsessed with the groovy "girl with green glasses who is in Bart’s class but has never been named"! I think she's the coolest for some reason and would love to see an entire show devoted to her!! Truth be told, I play a secret drinking game where I take a gulp if she's shown.

    Really, I'm not a nerd just a lifelong fan of the show.

    Dr. Theopolis

    ReplyDelete
  8. Actually, Anonymous, I've noticed her for a long time too. She's been there since the beginning, looking like an old yearbook photo, but as far as I know, she hasn't ever spoken a line.

    Reading the Wikipedia list of minor recurring Simpsons characters associated with Springfield Elementary, I learned the girl with the blonde pigtails is named Melissa, which I have no recollection of ever hearing on the show.

    Strange, these minor, minor characters who we've seen in the background for years but have yet to do anything.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    But you seem to have missed one character: 4th person from the left, the blue-afro kid directly above Milhouse, nearly hidden behind a rolling hill. Maybe he's from the circus: he appears to be tight-rope walking back there. Whatever his deal is, I don't recall ever seeing him on the show. Ah, the mysteries that accumulate when a brilliant show runs for nearly 20 years.

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  10. Very cool. If it weren't for the Simpson I wouldn't know where Springfield, Ill....where is Springfield anyways...?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anonymous10:21 AM

    I'm not a Simpsons expert, but this looks to me like it was drawn early in the show's run...maybe even at the start. Look at that "messed-up" kid. He looks like a Groening-drawn simpson to me.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anonymous7:20 PM

    Thanks, that was great! Never have seen it like that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Do you think you'll do Family Guy or King of the Hill next?

    ReplyDelete
  14. What, exactly, would I do with Family Guy or King of the Hill, please?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Thank you for your effort!
    I spent a while searching for this one and this was just what I was after.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
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  17. I had no idea this was in the opening. Nice find!

    ReplyDelete