Things just clicked for Simpsons with timely CGI Lego episode

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Lynn Elber

LOS ANGELES — Episode No. 550 of Fox’s The Simpsons was put to­gether Lego brick by brick, in a CGI man­ner of speak­ing. Us­ing com­puter-gen­er­ated spe­cial ef­fects, the town of Spring­field and its res­i­dents have been reimag­ined in the style of the famed plas­tic toys for Sun­day’s episode, Brick Like Me (7 p.m.). It’s a tart ti­tle — a play on Black Like Me, the book — for a sweet episode, one that com­bines CGI and the show’s tra­di­tional an­i­ma­tion to shake up Homer Simp­son’s world and teach him a les­son about par­ent­ing. Homer (voiced by Dan Castel­lan­eta) has mor­phed from his fa­mil­iar pudgy self into a real hard-body: a square-shaped, bul­let-headed Lego man. He’s still yel­low, as are wife Marge (Julie Kavner), the kids and the rest of the town’s in­hab­i­tants, but all eas­ily and pain­lessly dis­as­sem­bled. With the box-of­fice hit The Lego Movie, a newly launched Simpsons Lego toy line and now the TV episode, it could be sus­pected that much cor­po­rate plot­ting was in­volved. “People are prob­a­bly look­ing at it go­ing, ‘All this fits and it’s a plan.’ No, it was just the love of Lego” and cre­ativ­ity, not cross-pro­mo­tion, Al Jean, The Simpsons’ long­time ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, told a tele­con­fer­ence this week. “Yes, so all the cross-pro­mo­tion was just gravy, de­li­cious gravy,” joked Matt Sel­man, an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and co-writer, with Brian Kel­ley, of the Lego episode. Lego was con­sulted, he said, and a Fox spokes­woman said the toy maker paid for pro­mo­tional con­sid­er­a­tion. In an in­ter­view, Sel­man said he and Kel­ley started work­ing on the plot in 2012, be­fore they were aware of the movie or the spinoff toys. “We had to have a story wor­thy of this much tech­ni­cal am­bi­tion. If it didn’t have heart, char­ac­ter and feel­ing, all the jokes about some­one tak­ing off their head and kick­ing it into the dis­tance weren’t go­ing to play,” he said. Un­like The Lego Movie, which em­ployed stop-ac­tion an­i­ma­tion along with CGI, The Simpsons stayed away from three-di­men­sional fig­ures that would have in­creased the dif­fi­culty of pro­duc­tion, Sel­man said. Its smooth-faced CGI char­ac­ters also vary from the sculpted ones that are part of Lego’s Simpsons toy line. The “old-school” cylin­der heads are clas­sic Lego and were right for the show and the story, Sel­man said. It’s an es­pe­cially fam­ily-friendly one, he said, since the toy con­nec­tion is ex­pected to draw a num­ber of younger view­ers and there was Lego’s im­age to con­sider. “We had to tune down Homer and Marge’s amour” in a scene be­tween the char­ac­ters’ Lego in­car­na­tions, he said. A num­ber of other fa­mil­iar faces make ap­pear­ances, in­clud­ing the Rev. Love­joy (Harry Shearer), seen preach­ing the Lego ver­sion of the Bi­ble’s cre­ation story. Sel­man re­grets a pair of char­ac­ters who didn’t en­ter toy land. “I wish we could have done a Lego Itchy and Scratchy,” he said in the phone con­fer­ence, then tossed it to his col­league. “Al, you think they’ll let us do an­other one?” “Sure, let me just hold a bake sale,” Jean replied.


The Simpsons as Lego fig­ures in Sun­day’s episode of the lon­grun­ning an­i­mated show.

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