The Start of Season 24

Every year at this time for the last 19 years or so, I wake up pinching myself and marveling at the fact that THE SIMPSONS is on the air for another year. Another year of laughs, great music, food, clothing, and shelter. What a life.

The music team returned to work this year on August 10, 2012 and we got right down to business and spotted PABF21 “Moonshine River”, written by Tim Long. After realizing that he just can’t keep a girlfriend interested in him, Bart revisits a handful of his old flames and realizes that Mary Spuckler is “the one”, but she’s moved to New York to chase her own dreams. So the Simpson family embarks on a road trip to the Big Apple so Bart can reconnect with Mary (guest-voiced by Zooey Deschanel).

There’s quite a bit of music in the episode – 27 cues totaling just over 7 minutes of playing time. We’ve got a special couch gag to open the new season, a wide variety of music styles (pop, rock, tribute to Mancini, cool jazz, Elizabethan) and a love song written and performed by Zooey Deschanel in her character as Mary. A fun behind-the-scenes note has to do with the drum circle in Central Park. When we recorded the cue, we recorded eight different types of percussion all playing together (“together” being the operative word here). When Matt Groening heard the cue on the dubbing stage he proclaimed the drum circle to be “..too good! No drum circle I’ve ever heard plays that well together.” So, since each of the percussion instruments were recorded on separate tracks, I bumped one of them a little earlier, then another a little later, then another a bit later than that, and so on until it sounded pretty out-of-whack. Matt laughed out loud at the result. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

As with 98% of the original songs in our show, Zooey recorded her guitar track and vocal about eight months ago and I just had to wait for the final animation to arrive so I could polish the sync for the final version. As a little detail, animation added her two short notes and chord strum before the song – these notes and strum were NOT in her original performance. So on the scoring date, we just asked the guitar player to get a guitar sound that matched hers, play the two notes & strum and I added it to the final track. A small detail that added to the realism of the moment, performed by a different musician many months after the original.

This show may hold the record for the most guest voices in a single episode – Marcia Wallace, Zooey Deschanel, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Silverman, Ken Burns, Al Roker, Don Pardo, Maurice LaMarche and Kevin Michael Richardson.

Finally, a little insight into how the placement (starting point) of a cue can make a difference in a scene. At the end of the scene with Milhouse and Lisa dancing we cut to a shot under Bart’s bed. There is dance music playing during the dance scene, and we spotted a sad Bart cue to start on the cut under his bed. Matt Groening didn’t like this placement because he said there was nothing “sad” about the underside of Bart’s bed, so he felt we were telegraphing the emotion to the audience. I disagreed with him saying that Bart was clearly upset during the dance and that we weren’t “telegraphing” the emotion, we were “continuing” the emotion we set up during the dance scene. We experimented with moving the cue as late as Bart’s POV (Point-of-View) of the contents of the shoebox but that was too long without music or dialogue and we also felt the music was playing the contents of the box rather than Bart’s melancholy. Ultimately we did delay the start of the cue to the cut just after under the bed. In the end, I felt this was a good move for a different reason altogether – as we first spotted, the dance music cuts out in progress on the cut to under the bed and it smashed right up against the start of the sad cue. By delaying the start about one second, the sad cue start is in the clear and makes a more prominent statement. It really is quite fascinating to me, even after all these years, how such a small shift in timing can really give a scene a different feel and possibly make it better than originally planned.

OK, I hope you enjoyed the Season 24 premier. PABF17 “Tree House of Horror XXIII” will air next Sunday, October 7, 2012 and is already in the can. Work has already begun on PABF18 “Adventures in Baby-Getting”, and this Friday we start in on PABF16 “Gone Abie Gone”. More about those episodes next time.

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18 thoughts on “The Start of Season 24

  1. Hi Chris
    I loved the end credit music of this episode (Moonshine River). Could you tell me what’s the name theme song? I have searched, but can’t find it.

    I really appreciate if you can help me.

    Thank you
    Jose

  2. What I find so endearing about these articles is how enthusiastic you are about working on The Simpsons. Work is work- even something like working on The Simpsons- but you don’t take it for granted for one second. It’s so admirable. It embiggens the smallest man.

  3. I loved the end credit music in Adventures Of Baby Gettint. Could you tell me if it was an original composition or something you got fro some old series? Maybe the Little Rascals or something? Even though it was used for the subplot I thought it added to the comic effect of the goofy ending with the Homer babies saying D’oh! Thanks in advance.

    • The name of the song is “That’s You Baby” composed by George Olsen. The script is credited to Bill Odenkirk, so he may have been the one to request using it in the show. However, other writers often contribute jokes, dialog and other suggestions to the script during the re-writing process so I cannot be certain that it was Bill’s idea. Our orchestrator Dell Hake did the arrangement for the episode. One of things I most enjoyed about using this piece in the End Credits was how it beautifully married with the cursive writing font of the credits. I thought they went together perfectly. PABF18 script page

    • Mary (SINGING) A BOY I KNEW TURNED UP AGAIN / I KINDA LIKED HIM WAY BACK WHEN /CHASED HIM ‘ROUND THE LIVESTOCK PEN…

      Bart (RAPPING, NO TUNE, JUST HIP-HOP) ROLLIN’ ON MY SKATEBOARD / PIMPIN’ LIKE A DRUG LORD…

      Mary (SINGS) WELL I’M ON THE CUSP OF WOMANHOOD / AND I LIKE A BOY THAT AIN’T NO GOOD AT NOTHIN’ ‘CEPT MAKIN’ ME SMILE — THAT’S BART

      I THOUGHT MY OLD WAYS I HAD SHED /BUT I SURE MISSED HIS CYLINDER HEAD… NOW THAT BOY IS A-COME TO ME / OH YES, B-A-R- NOW WHERE’S THAT T? WHERE IS IT? I DON’T KNOW. OH THAT’S BART.

      ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. COPYRIGHT © 2012 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION.

  4. I always enjoy your blog. Music is crucial to a scene. I work in community theatre and sometimes when a cue is off it just ruins the whole scene, whether music or sound. I’ve never constructed a sound design plot but I’m always fascinated by how someone puts it together. I unfortunately missed this episode because my dvd recorder seems to be broken. Arrrrgggghhh! I’ll catch it on iTunes!

    • Thanks for the comment, Alison. When I first started editing professionally in 1986, I remember one of my fellow editors working on this small section of music over and over and OVER again. After she finally decided on the edit, I told her I couldn’t tell the difference between the before and after. Seasoned pro that she was (is), she smiled, patted me on the head and sent me on my way. Today, I pick up on the slightest little things that other people can’t hear. It doesn’t always ruin a scene for me, but it certainly alters the meaning or the pace or the point-of-view. If you can get hulu.com where you live, the show will be available for viewing next week. Enjoy!

  5. Chris, it is such fun to reach your thoughts, the little stories behind the fine tuning of the creative process. It’s been such a gift to have worked with you all these years, & to have been a part of the SIMPSONS family. It’s so DELIGHTFUL that you have started this blog…hurray for you!!
    xx Sally

    • Ah, dear Sally… Thanks so much for your encouragement and for taking the time to read the blog. It has been a privilege for ME to have met you and worked with you all these years. Here’s to 24 MORE seasons!

      READERS: The above comment is from Sally Stevens, one of the finest studio singers working today. She sings frequently on THE SIMPSONS (she is part of the chorus at the top of the show singing “The Simpsons”). I mentioned Sally in a previous post on this blog that you can read by clicking here.

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