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Comic-Con '08: The Simpsons, Now and Forever

The Simpsons creator Matt Groening revealed at his show’s packed-to-the rafters panel at the 2008 Comic-Con that this was his thirtieth year at the event, telling conventioneers, “if you hang in there for 30 years, you, too, will have an animated show on Fox.”

Groening and Simpsons executive producer Al Jean also revealed some of the celebrity guests for the upcoming season, the show’s 20th. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Robert Forster, Seth Rogen and Denis Leary will lend their voices, with Leary showing up in an episode in which his cell phone ends up in Homer’s hands after it is tossed away at a golf tournament. Homer then gets a little crazy with the phone and signs Leary up to appear in “Everybody Poops: The Movie.”

Groeing recalled his early days at Comic-Con, when it was just “a few rickety card tables in a basement hotel.” Back then, he was selling his self-made Life in Hell comics, which one conventioneer wanted to know would ever make it as an animated series, having become a staple of alternative newspapers across the country and a series of books. 

Groening said it was possible, but explained, “There is a satisfaction in working in a collaborative process in animation,” but “there’s another kind of creative fulfillment of doing something completely by yourself.”

He also took a moment to chastise local alternative weekly San Diego Reader, which doesn’t run Life in Hell because he said the paper’s publisher disapproves of the strip’s two gay characters Akbar & Jeff. “Every year I denounce the San Diego Reader,” he said. “It’s been, like, 15 years.”

Asked about what Simpsons products out on the market he doesn’t like, Groening said the things he has a problem with usually aren’t licensed. The key is not doing a “label slap” on an existing product, he said, and making sure each product has its own joke as part of its design or use. “What we try to do is actually add to the humor of The Simpsons experience,” he explained.

Groening and Jean were also high on the new Simpsons ride at the Universal Studios theme parks. Simpsons is already a hit at the park, since it is the fastest ride in the park’s history to hit a million riders.

High was the operative word for Groening. “If you take drugs and watch The Simpsons on TV, don’t take drugs any more and ride the ride,” he advised. “It puts you in a cartoon world where you are totally immersed and think you are going to die.”

By Christopher Lisotta

Christopher Lisotta has written for several publications, including TVWeek, The Advocate and L.A. Weekly. He is covering the 2008 International Comic-Con for Broadcasting & Cable.