“The Simpsons” has never shied away from lampooning Disney over the years, but maybe that’s no longer the case.
Homer, Marge and co. are of course now part of the Disney family and made their first appearance at the Mouse House’s D23 Expo convention, where the show’s producers were asked plenty of questions about what the relocation as part of the Disney-Fox merger means for the series.
The assembled “Simpsons” gang addressed the ever-present question of a second movie outing for the characters, with executive producer Al Jean teasing that they “have talked about it” with Disney, as well as ideas for potential spinoff series.
“I think Disney would be supportive of anything we wanted to do, maybe a crazy limited series with a side character or a movie that we surprised you with, they’ve been really creatively supportive and this is going to afford so many new ways to do the show than just the traditional format,” added fellow EP Matt Selman.
The panel kicked off with a montage of all the Disney-related jokes to appear on the show, including Homer eating one of the fish in an Under the Sea “Little Mermaid” sequence and a “Snow White” parody in which one of the seven dwarves says, “Well at least we don’t work for Disney!”
It’s clear that the irony of the situation hasn’t been lost on any of the producers, who took wildly different approaches when addressing the Mouse in the room.
“Isn’t this the craziest thing you could imagine, that we would start out working for an evil corporation and then working for a nice one?” said Selman, perhaps a little tongue in cheek.
Later on, creator and executive producer Matt Groening effectively dodged the question with a crowd pleasing “we do it for the fans” response.
“This is rare opportunity to get feedback from people who like what we do, so thank you,” said Groening.
As previously announced, all episodes from the show’s 30 seasons will be available to stream on Disney Plus upon launch in November. It remains to be seen if forthcoming seasons of the series will change in tone or be lighter on Disney jabs given its new home.
Meanwhile, the show also confirmed that the character of Apu is not leaving “The Simpsons,” despite earlier reports to the contrary. Following the controversy surrounding the long-running character, creator Matt Groening reaffirmed the show’s commitment to the Kwik-E Mart clerk on Saturday during the show’s D23 Expo session.
When asked by a young fan whether Apu would remain on the show — following reports that the character had been written out of the show — Groening said, “Yes. We love Apu. We’re proud of Apu.”
The issue of Apu was the centerpiece of the documentary “The Problem with Apu,” in which comedian Hari Kondabolu interviewed celebrities of South Asian descent about the negative impact that the character has had on them. Executive producer Al Jean previously said that he had watched the documentary and that it had been discussed in the writers’ room.
“Some people are offended by the character and I take that very seriously,” he said last year. “Others really love the character. It’s a difficult choice. I don’t want to offend people but we also want to be funny. We don’t want to be totally politically correct. That has never been us. It’s given us a lot of thought.”
Hank Azaria, the voice of Apu, also told reporters last year that “The Simpsons” was mulling how to address the future of Apu and what the show might do differently with the character.
In an April 2018 episode, “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” Marge and Lisa Simpson alluded to the fact that “The Simpsons” has not quite figured out what to do with the character, or when to address it.
Last fall, producer Adi Shankar said that he had heard from inside the show that Apu had been phased out of the show, but Jean later said those reports were inaccurate.
(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)