30 Years Goes By In The Blink Of An Eye

30 years ago today a crude, rude, funny, endearing, unusual, primary-colored family was unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Old Simpsons

Everyone knows the story by now. Here are the bullet points:

  • James L. Brooks wants to animate Matt Groening’s newspaper comic strip “Life in Hell” and put one-minute versions of the cartoon on his FOX show, “The Tracey Ullman Show” as bumpers leading into and out of commercial breaks
  • Matt Groening decides NOT to share control or ownership of “Life in Hell” with FOX and virtually overnight creates an alternative
  • The first Simpsons short, “Good Night” airs on “The Tracey Ullman Show” on April 19, 1987
  • Before long, the popularity of the shorts begins to eclipse the popularity of “The Tracey Ullman Show”
  • FOX decides to cancel “The Tracey Ullman Show” but spins off the cartoon shorts into their own half-hour animated series, the first on network television since the 1970s – “The Simpsons” series debuts on December 17, 1989
  • The rest, as they say, is history

I had been a full-time music editor for just over a year when the first short aired. I was working on a new TV series at the time titled “Sidekicks” and was thrilled to be working at my new job in a profession I had loved and dreamed about being part of.

I was also a fan of “The Tracey Ullman Show”. It was funny, inventive, smart, a quasi-variety show with sketch comedy, musical numbers, recurring characters – similar in many ways to the great “Carol Burnett Show” but more modern and edgy. And I really enjoyed the cartoon bumpers. I’ll admit, the crudeness of the animation and the character design was a bit off-putting at first but, as always, great writing will always win an audience over and it won me over big time.

If you want to know more about how I managed the incredible good fortune of being hired to work on this incredible piece of television and cultural history, I cover it in four blog posts from a few years back. If you’re interested (and have about 20 minutes to read them) check them out here: click here for part 1, click here for part 2, click here for part 3, and click here for part 4.

As for today, it’s an amazing, probably-never-to-be-repeated feat to celebrate 30 years of a TV cartoon. There are no words to describe the feeling to be part of a show that has touched so many lives, elicited so many laughs, started so many arguments over its appropriateness, inspired so many memes, and has brought together people from around the world with a universal shout in the night: “D’oh!”

But, today is also another work day in Springfield. As I write this there are 3 episodes to complete before season 28 comes to end in May, there are already 4 episodes in the pipeline in various stages of writing/re-writing/animating/pre-recording music for season 29.

My plate is full. So is my heart for all the love these characters have received for 30 years and for the opportunity to support my family doing something I love so much. I’ve often said I’m the luckiest music editor in Hollywood – not just because I’ve been employed on ONE SHOW for 28+ years, but because I get to laugh, listen to great music, interact with our brilliant cast, share ideas with our writers and producers, and be part of television history. Sure, like with any family, we have our down moments and disagreements, but it’s all been so, SO worth it.

Happy Birthday Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and Matt.

New Simpsons

10 thoughts on “30 Years Goes By In The Blink Of An Eye

  1. Hola Chris, muchas gracias por todo este relato sobre tu trabajo, me ha servido mucho, yo soy compositor y maestro de música, y gracias a esto he podido tener material para mis alumnos, gracias por este gran aporte, espero continúes compartiéndonos más. Saludos desde México. Un abrazo.

  2. What an honour it was to read this post.
    I don’t know why but I get so proud of the show whenever I hear of it’s achievements like this monumental 30 years.
    30 years, 28 seasons, over 600 episodes and the show, in my opinion, is still the best. show. ever!
    Thank you Chris for being such a big part of the show because your time, effort and commitment comes through in the underated music of the show 😃.
    Big round of applause 👏

      • Thank you so much for replying 😃!
        I have a Simpsons and TSTO blog and would extremely appreciate it if I could send you some questions (somehow) for you to send back responses.
        Is that possible? If so, how can I send them? 😂

      • (Please answer in as much detail as your time allows 😁)
        … So The Simpsons has recently hit it’s 30th anniversary from the Tracy Ullman Show, in 1 sentence sum up your entire journey through the show?
        From the beginning of the first season, did you know it would last this long? Did you have any idea how popular it would become?
        You have edited music for the show for EVERY episode. How much direction do you get with your job for the show?
        When did you know that you wanted to work with music? How did you get the job in the end?
        Do you have a favourite Simpsons episode?
        What is your favourite original song from The Simpsons?
        Why do you think some songs from the Simpsons have become so iconic?
        Do you play TSTO or have had any experience working behind the scenes of it?
        Thank you SO much for taking the time to answer these questions and for the amazing work you do behind the scenes of the show 👏

      • One sentence: The greatest professional journey no one could have ever predicted.

        No one knew how popular it would be. Of course, there was a built-in fan base at the start. People loved The Simpsons from the Tracey Ullman Show which is why FOX spun it off into a series. But, as William Goldman famously said, “No one knows ANYTHING.”

        Yes, every episode. It’s a big collaboration between Alf Clausen, Al Jean (or whoever was running the show at different times during our run), the writers, the animators. I get lots of direction, but I also get to pitch musical ideas and sometimes they make it into the show, sometimes not.

        I knew I wanted to be in music for the rest of my life around the age of eight when I idolized trumpet player and band leader, Herb Alpert. My most recent blog post has links near the end of the post that take you to the posts that tell the story of how I got the job https://simpsonsmusic500.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/30-years-goes-by-in-the-blink-of-an-eye/
        Too many episodes to narrow it down to one favorite, but I really like BART SELLS HIS SOUL.

        What do you know? There’s a blog post about my TEN favorite songs on The Simpsons! https://simpsonsmusic500.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/my-own-10-songs-list/

        The songs are hummable, catchy, not goofy (the musical styles are respected and not made fun of), have very clever lyrics, and are beautifully produced.

        I am not involved with TSTO production and have not had time to get into playing it. Sorry.

  3. Chris, thank you for that wonderful description of the journey, and may I add what a blessing and joy it’s been for me to have been a part of that journey, to have worked with the amazing team of musicians, orchestrators, singers, technical folks – and of course, to sing the amazing music that Alf Clausen has created, to perfection, for the shows! And our amazing music editor, well… what a pro, what an even-tempered, diplomatic, skillful, music-minded, guy – (Chris Ledesma is his name… maybe you know him… ?) From the session some thirty years ago, where I got to sing the crazy main title for a show few people knew much about at that point – to think that it has spun into three decades of joyful participation… there are not enough words to express the gratitude I feel, for the project, for all who’ve been a part of it, and for the Fox Music Department, with whom I’m blessed to have such a wonderful relationship. Thank you, thank you, God! And Homer of course…

    • And what a privilege for me to have been able to meet and work with you for lo, these many seasons. Thanks so much for sharing your memories and for your kind words toward me. Here’s to many more music-making-years to come!

      • Chris – loving the chance to read these comments again, from WAY back in 2017 – and I repeat the sentiments even more strongly today – what a privilege it’s been, what a gift to have known and worked with YOU all these years, and what kind of magical timing must have been in place that, when Danny Elfman wrote a new main title for a silly little show, that I happened to be on his radar to sing it with him. (Well, I had cotracted groups for several film scores he had written in the few years preceding and that too was a blessing…) And that the gift of The Simpsons continued through all these years! Being able to sing the incredible scores Alf created with his wonderful team, and still having a chance to show up once in a while, even in the Tomorrowland of 2019! Much love to you!! XO

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