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Morgan Spurlock on The Simpsons Anniversary Special -- In 3-D! On Ice!

by Nick Zaino, posted Aug 1st 2009 10:03AM
Morgan SpurlockWhen documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock first saw The Simpsons, he was a 19- or 20-year-old college kid, still living at home with his mother in West Virginia. Having grown up watching Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Blackadder, Spurlock was ecstatic to watch The Tracey Ullman Show, the show that would eventually introduce him to The Simpsons.

Twenty years later, Spurlock has established himself as a filmmaker with Super Size Me and Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden, and will direct a segment for the upcoming adaptation of Freakonomics. And he'll get to tackle the show he's loved these past two decades as he produces and directs The Simpsons Anniversary Special - In 3-D! On Ice!, which will air Thursday, January 14, 2010.

Spurlock remembers his first impression of the show, watching back in his college days. "When it first came on, I was in college, and it was literally an obsession. It was something that me and all my friends would literally ... at 8 o'clock, we were sitting there on the couch watching this show, and it was something that we all did together," said Spurlock in a conference call with media last week. "For all my four years of college, that was something that we did."

Even after he left college, the show continued to have an impact on him in his professional life. "I don't think you could work in film and television -- at least when I started, right after college -- without there always being conversations about the show or people talking about lines, or bits in the show that they'd seen."

The Simpsons, Homer SimpsonHe adds, "I loved the way this show kind of tackled things in a way that didn't feel like I was being told anything or being preached to, but kind of made things funny and interesting. Yes, I think that even whether I know about it or can really say this was the moment that changed me, I think it definitely had an influence."

At the time of the call, Spurlock was wading through 440 episodes of The Simpsons, trying to capture the essence of the show for the special, which will be a documentary on the groundbreaking series.

"It has become a part of America, like this is a family that literally has become a part of all of our lives, and it's a show that has touched everyone," he says. "I mean, when we call people about this show, it's incredible. The minute you get anyone on the phone, they're spouting lines from the show, and it's incredible for me to see not just the massive exposure on an American level, but on a worldwide scale."

The Simpsons has had such an impact on pop culture over the past 20 years, it can be hard for Spurlock to separate some of the shows plot lines from real world stories. He cites the "Tomacco" episode, where Homer creates a plant that is part tomato and part tobacco. "This is what I love about the special that I think is going to be great; now scientists have actually created tomacco as a result of this. There was a scientist in Oregon who did it, and now there's a group of scientists in Spain who are now growing fields of tomacco."

Despite the workload, Spurlock was excited to take on the project, and says he was flattered to have been offered the job in the first place. He says show creator Matt Groening and executive produThe Simpsonscer Al Jean saw an animated sequence Spurlock created for Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden. Jean said, "We have to call this guy to do the special." Spurlock said, "It was amazing and one of the greatest phone calls I ever got in my life."

According to Spurlock, Groening and Jean have given him a lot of latitude in what the finished product will look like. "They gave us their big picture at the beginning and now are kind of letting us run with it," he said.

Spurlock takes the job seriously. He was out at Comic-Con this week auditioning Simpsons superfans, and is searching for a global reach for the documentary.

"I think the reason they called me to begin with was to not have a show that would kind of be a glad-hand, pat everyone on the back special," he says. "We really want to dive in and find the interesting people, the interesting stories, the things that are a little more than just a typical 'look how great we are' kind of special. And so, for me, that's why I'm really trying to root it in the fans and the people who kept this show on the air for the last 20 years. I think it's important to hear how people have been affected by this."

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Date changed to 2010.

August 01 2009 at 2:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"The Simpsons Anniversary Special - In 3-D! On Ice!, which will air Thursday, January 14, 2009." I hope I didn't miss it ;)

August 01 2009 at 10:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wait, this already happened?!?!?

August 01 2009 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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