The City of Springfield is partnering with the iconic television show The Simpsons to bring the family to Downtown on a mural. The show is celebrating its 25th anniversary. It's the longest running scripted show currently still on the air.
The critically acclaimed show featuring Homer, Bart, Maggie and Lisa is set in Springfield. Simpsons Producer Al Jean says they have always been vague about which state the show is set in.
Jean: "The truth about Springfield Oregon is when Matt Groening grew up, in Oregon; he saw a show, Father Knows Best, which is set in Springfield. And he thought, "Oh wow, it's right over there," not realizing it was just Springfield, there was no state attached. And that's kind of what he wanted to do with The Simpsons."
Jean says Groening's hometown of Portland has played a significant role in shaping the show.
Jean: "Some of the characters are named after Portland streets. Krusty the Clown is based loosely on Rusty Nails, who is an Oregon clown of Matt's boyhood."
Krusty: "Hi boys and girls, welcome aboard the Krusty the Clown Show."
In 2007, The Simpson's reached a milestone: the debut of a full length movie. A contest was put out to determine which Springfield was home to The Simpsons. Jean says Groening wasn't pushing for any town to win.
Jean: "He was afraid if Springfield Oregon won, he thought oh people would think I had it rigged. So I think when Springfield Vermont won because they had the video that people thought was the best, he thought, well it's good that people won't think I tried to shift it."
Springfield Communications Manager, Niel Laudati says they had been looking to connect with Groening's Oregon heritage.
Laudati: "We've looked at fan festivals in the past, we've looked at pop-up stores, [and] we've looked at kind of doing some non-profit posters. We couldn't quite find the right thing until we brought up, almost a year ago, this idea of a mural."
Laudati says once a contract was finalized between the City and 20th Century Fox, the working relationship was very fluid.
Laudati: And you kind of think of the 'Hollywood stereotype,' when in fact it's a few great people that work there. There's not this huge team. It's like the same guy, Julius, who's working on the Lego Episode, and he's also working on this mural on the same time. So it was just a very positive experience."
Laudati says the City and The Simpsons team at FOX were determined to produce a quality, unique piece.
Laudati: "To see the first version that came out that was pretty good, I mean it was good, but it could have been Anywhere, USA. And then to see the final version that you look at and go, that's Oregon, that's totally Oregon, that's awesome."
The piece has not been released to the public because Laudati says it is still being colorized. FOX's Vice President of Animation Julius Priete (Pree-et) will oversee the mural which will be located on the west side of the Emerald Arts Center. Laudati says unlike the original art recently painted at Eugene's new Washington Jefferson's skate park, FOX needs someone to follow the design specifically to their standards.
Laudati: "And so we'll need a contractor or muralist who can do that. And that's where any funding is going to go, it's going to go to someone local hopefully, but if not, someone, an artist or contractor to re-paint it, to bring it to life. 20th Century FOX has not charged us for any of the work they have done. And I know their artists have put in hours and hours to get this just right."
The mural is expected to be completed and unveiled in September. Producer Al Jean says there may be a surprise in store.
Jean: "What Matt said is that he's going to sneak in in the middle of the night and sign it, and hope he's not arrested."
Laudati says Springfield residents would be thrilled if Groening attended the unveiling.
Laudati: "If Matt wants to show up, obviously we'd love to have him, but you know one of the great things about him is that he's eccentric so he may show up, he may not, but if he does, that would be great."
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