Hey, remember last week when The Simpsons creator Matt Groening mentioned Portland in that cool Smithsonian magazine interview and everyone lost their minds, claiming that he revealed the true location of the show’s Springfield? Yeah, well gather your minds. That’s not really what he meant. But we did learn a lot of real things from that piece (which you should check out). Below, I’ve gathered a few of the juicer tidbits.
First thing’s first: The Simpsons DO NOT live in Springfield, Oregon.
In the interview, Groening says he grew up outside of Portland and it was simply an inspiration for the cartoon town he created. Springfield is one of the most common names for a city in the United States and he figured, “This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.” But as we saw on last night’s Simpsons episode, “The true location of Springfield is in any state but yours.” The screen grab is below, in case you missed it last night.
Did you know that The Simpsons began as a series of animated shorts? Well, now you know.
Originally, the first inception of our favorite dysfunctional yellow family gained popularity on The Tracey Ullman Show (Laughspin readers over the age of say, 30, will know this). The then-newly created Fox network called in Groening to come up with a series of animated shorts for Ullman’s show. Waiting in the lobby, he sketched out and created the Simpson family. “I basically drew my own family. My father’s name is Homer. My mother’s name is Margaret. I have a sister Lisa and another sister Maggie, so I drew all of them. I was going to name the main character Matt, but I didn’t think it would go over well in a pitch meeting, so I changed the name to Bart,” he tells interviewer Claudia De La Roca. Check out a Ullman-era clip below!
The names of the characters come from all sorts of places— street names, family members, and jerk bullies.
We also learn that many of the families on the show are named after streets in Portland– Flanders, Kearney, Lovejoy– as a way to stay connected with his hometown in Northwest Portland. But Groening had a love/hate relationship with his childhood. “I was bullied. If you use certain words that can only be gotten by reading a book or two, that somehow enrages a certain kind of lug,” the Emmy award-winning cartoonist recalls. He refused to call out his childhood nemesises by name, but said, “maybe they are characters named after themselves on The Simpsons.
Like father, like son: Storytelling runs in the family.
Groening shares many fond memories of his father, Homer. His old man was a bomber pilot in World War II. After the war, he became an avid filmmaker and cartoonist, never missing an opportunity to film and record his family. There’s no question where a young Matt picked up his storytelling skills. Matt reminisces, “In 1963 he and I made up a story about a brother and a sister, Lisa and Matt, having an adventure out in the woods with animals. I told it to my sister Lisa, and she in turn told it to my sister Maggie…So the idea of dramatizing the family, I think, was the inspiration for doing something kind of autobiographical with The Simpsons.”
He digs Portlandia! Cameo?! (please?)
Our people will forward this article to Fred Armisen’s people so they can get in touch with Matt Groening’s people. The Portland native is a fan of the IFC original series, Portlandia. “If you would have told me back when I was growing up that there would be a hip comedy show based on hipster life in Portland, Oregon, I wouldn’t have believed it. I think it’s a very funny show.”
This interview, featured in the May issue of Smithsonian, is a great check-in with the creator of the most beloved animated family in television history. Twenty-five years after the start of The Simpsons, Groening gives up some secrets, tells a few tales, and leaves us hoping for another 25 hilarious years of four-fingered family adventures.