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Scully saw benefits in benefits

Longtime 'Simpsons' writer spearheaded key insurance deal

In early 1997, “The Simpsons” surpassed “The Flintstones” as the longest-running primetime cartoon of all time. The fall saw longtime writer Mike Scully take over as the program’s showrunner for season nine.

And though “The Simpsons” was a gigantic hit, its writers weren’t receiving health insurance. “You’d have to get a freelance assignment from a live-action show to keep your benefits intact,” recalls Scully, who is being honored with the 13th annual Animation Writers Caucus writing award for lifetime achievement from the Writers Guild.

So he organized scribes from other Fox animated shows such as “Futurama” and “King of the Hill” and hammered out a deal with 20th Century Fox in only a week.

Scully’s advocacy for animation has mitigated any business risk. In addition to his role as a “Simpsons” consultant in this 22nd (!) season, Scully wrote 2007’s “The Simpsons Movie,” grossing $183 million domestically. He’s also producing Fox’s “Napoleon Dynamite” animated series — slated for early 2012 — alongside the film’s director Jared Hess.

Even his live-action work feels cartoonish: “Parks and Recreation,” for which Scully also consults, takes place in fictional Pawnee, Ind. — a town with almost as many oddballs as Springfield. Scully feels comfortable in that world.

“There are certain jokes you can’t do (on a non-animated show),” he says. “If you had Ty Burrell on ‘Modern Family’ strangling his son, it’d be horrifying … but Homer strangling Bart is a beloved gag of child abuse.”

More from the WGA Awards:
WGA quietly girds for next negotations
Honorees
Steven Zaillian | Diane English | Susannah Grant | Seth Freeman | Mike Scully

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