Festival of Cartoon Art notes: Matt Groening, Tom Gammill

On Saturday night there was a special event open to the public entitled, “An Evening with Matt Groening.” It was a sell out crowd. The Doozies creator Tom Gammill introduced and interviewed Life in Hell, The Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Groening. The opened the evening with a 2 minute montage of clips for The Simpsons before delving into Matt’s childhood, his influences and how his features came to life.

*Spoiler alert* Matt showed an act from the upcoming Halloween special – which I’ve described toward the end of my notes. Skip the last two bullet points if you don’t want to get tipped off on what to expect.

  • The evening with Matt Groening is about to begin. Talked to Tom Gammill last night about what to expect. Should be a fantastic night.
  • Here’s a scoop. Tonight we’ll see storyboards of the Banksy Simpsons opening that DIDN’T get approved.
  • Tom and Matt are now out on stage after a hilarious 2 minute Simpson montage.
  • Tom: Your dad is a cartoonist? Matt: Yeah. Tom: What advice did he give you? Matt: Animation is for suckers. Hire out the hard work.
  • Tom: Did your dad encourage cartooning? Matt: I grew up with a lot of cartoon books. I got to use his pens and pads of paper.
  • Tom: Who are your influences? Matt: Searle. Biggest one was Charles Schulz. Life in Hell has a character with shirt with the squiggly shirt
  • Matt went to the same school as Mel Blanc (but not at same time). Dan Castellaneta is the Mel Blanc of our time.
  • Dan has also written some episodes and even pitches show ideas in the voice of the characters. Matt: “And we put them in”
  • Matt Groening: Cartooning used to be a nerdy thing, and a boys club and now there are women cartoonists.
  • Matt Groening: “The best drawn characters are the ones that you can identify in silhouette.”
  • Now Tom and Matt are talking about the gneiss of The Simpsons. “Thanks to the Fox Network for being there are the right time.”
  • Matt Groening: Back then animation was viewed as for children’s thing. Nobody was doing anything smart and funny for adults.
  • Tom Gammill: The early writers were all disgruntled night time comedy writers who were fed up with primetime programming.
  • Matt Groening: “Fox, believe it or not has policies of decency, and we went ahead and broke everyone of them”
  • Now showing a montage of all the comic tributes and references in the The Simspons.
  • Tom: When did you know that The The Simpsons was big? Matt: Groening: When someone graffiti’ed “Bart Simpson” on the side of my house
  • Matt Groening: Fox executives didn’t understand Futurama. They wanted something like The Jettsons. It’s now on Comedy Central.
  • Tom: the original writers of Futurama were all guys with advanced degrees in math and science. They seriously would do math problems for fun
  • Now talking about Banksy. Al Jean and Groening both saw Exit through the Gift Shop and Al wanted Banksy to do a couch gag.
  • Al Jean and Groening contacted Banksy. A couple of days later the storyboard came back. Al immediately said: “We can’t do this.” Al didn’t think Fox would allow it, which made Matt all the more excited to do it.
  • Both Al Jean and Matt Groening loved the Banksy coach storyboard, but worried Fox would never broadcast it.
  • Matt Groening: No unicorns were harmed in that scene. Fox was great to run the Banksy opening.
  • Tom: Can you go into a restaurant and pay for it with a drawing on a napkin? Matt: No. I’ve gotten some free appetizers.
  • Audience Qs: What is your favorite episode? Matt: The Grimey one were we find out what it would be like to work with Homer.
  • Q: Favorite movies. Matt: “Third Man” “Schulz gets the blues” “Sita Sings the Blues” “The king of Kong” and “The story of Anvil”
  • Q: Was itchy and scratchy influenced by Tom & Jerry? Matt: Big fan of Tom & Jerry. Itch and Scratch are very much a tribute to violent cat and mouse shows.
  • Q: if were stuck on an island with a The Simpsons character who would it be? Matt: Lisa. She’s the only one that will get to leave Springfield
  • Q: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to sit on the couch with my kids and listen to them laugh at your show Matt: You’re a bad mother!
  • A view of Matt Groening and Tom Gammell
  • The Fox Network wanted to run more advertising so the The Simpsons has had to move to a 4 act show.
  • Q: What is your favorite couch gag and why? Matt: I liked the Banksy one because it was so unpredictable.
  • Matt’s showing us an act from an upcoming Halloween special. It’s a parody of the Twighlight movies.
  • The Simpsons halloween spoilers: Milhouse turns into a poodle; Yogi Bear cameo; Appearances by Sesame Street Count Dracula, count Chocula.

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