Voice Cast Cavalcade: The Simpsons

Originally a news brief, this post has since been expanded into a feature article to commemorate 20 years of “The Simpsons” by spotlighting the show’s voice cast and guest stars. Please scroll down for the most recent updates.

© Image courtesy Fox Broadcasting

Originally posted 1.11.2010:

NYDailyNews.com has a pictorial showcasing “The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special: the faces behind the iconic cartoon” which includes 56 photos of the principal cast and many of the show’s celebrity guest stars over the last two decades and the characters they voiced.

Of note are some of the lesser-recognized members of the supporting cast: Frank Welker, Pamela Hayden, Maggie Roswell, Marcia Wallace, Tress MacNeille and Russi Taylor.

Update: 1.12.2010, 2:30 PM (EST)Time.com has a pictorial on “The Simpsons Greatest Guest Voice Appearances” featuring “a gallery of 20 of the world’s most illustrious personalities as skewered by Matt Groening.”

(Thanks to VoiceChasers for the heads-up via Twitter.)

Elsewhere, Macleans.ca blogger Jaime Weinman illustrates how The Simpsons’ cast has helped simple one-shot, castaway characters become recurring fan favorites.

Update: 7:30 PM (EST) — If you missed seeing “The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special: In 3-D! On Ice!” when it premiered on FOX Sunday, Jan. 10th, as of Monday, Jan. 11th the entire episode is available on Hulu.com. (Sorry, I am unable to embed Hulu videos via WordPress.)

I believe fans can also expect an extended “director’s cut” to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2010.

[I’ve deleted the original YouTube link to the documentary for legal reasons.]

The documentary (which has a run-time of around 42 minutes) features the following voice talents:

Mike Judge (Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill, The Goode Family)
Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show)
Julie Kavner, voice of Marge Simpson
Yeardley Smith, voice of Maggie
Nancy Cartwright, voice of Bart
Hank Azaria, voice of Moe, Apu, Chief Wiggum
Dan Castellaneta, voice of Homer, Grandpa Simpson, Krusty, Mayor Quimby
Dana Gould (The Simpsons, Clerks: The Cartoon, Gex video game series)
David Cross (Kung Fu Panda, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Freak Show)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park)
– …and several of the shows guest stars such as Sting, Jerry Springer, Conan O’Brien and Hugh Hefner.

[Simpsons’ cast member Harry Shearer is noticeably absent from the documentary. Shearer performs the voices of Ned Flanders, Kent Brockman, Principal Skinner, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Rev. Lovejoy, Lenny, Scratchy and many others.]

Additionally, TVSquad blogger Jason Hughes has a thorough review of the special. Here’s an excerpt:

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me, 30 Days) quite literally traveled the globe speaking to fans of all walks of life. He found the largest single collection of Simpsons merchandise and it was a frightening and beautiful thing to see. It spotlighted just how important this show is to some people, and how much these characters have resonated with generations of fans now.

It was also great seeing the interviews with the voice actors, as we so rarely get to see the faces that go with so many of the voices on the show. There are so many great characters on The Simpsons, it’s hard to imagine that so few actors voice all of them. Personally, I would have gotten a huge kick out of seeing them all do their big characters, but maybe that’s just me. The work that goes on behind each episode fascinates me.

Elsewhere, National Post columnist Robert Cushman has an opinionated review of Spurlock’s documentary.

Update: 8:00 PM (EST)OnTheBox.com has a review of The Simpsons: Access All Areas, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show. It aired only in the UK on SKY1 on Monday, Jan. 11th.

[Update: 1.13.2010 — According to the UK’s Press and Journal, this was the first of a series of three special featurettes airing on SKY1 during the week.]

Narrated by Ricky Gervais (BBC’s The Office), it featured interviews with the show’s cast and crew, including creator Matt Groening, producer Al Jean, composer Alf Clausen, voice actors Dan Castellaneta and Nancy Cartwright, other of the show’s writers and artists and token celebrities Christina Ricci, Tony Hawk and Simon Cowell (who all voiced cameos in the series).

Update: 8:15 PM (EST) — Video interview with Yeardley Smith on FOX’s Good Day LA.

Hank Azaria posts 1.11.2010 via Twitter:

It was actually 22 years ago that the simpsons began for me, so next year when I turn 46, I’ll have been doing it for half my life. Sheesh.

– The Niles Daily Star has a retrospective on 20 years of The Simpsons, including commentary on the show’s voice cast. It also quotes Harry Shearer (via The Associated Press):

“I wish I could say that we inspired an awful lot of funny, smart, irreverent, acerbic shows that took a lacerating view of the insitutions of society. But I don’t think we have,” SNL alum Harry Shearer, 66, who voices Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, the Rev. Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, Dr. Hibbert and Principal Skinner, told The Associated Press.

Shearer, who also pummeled the pretensions of rock music as bassist Derek Smalls in 1984’s magnificent mockumentary “This is Spinal Tap,” said satire doesn’t change anything with its scorn.

“For instance,” he said, “after 20 years and 450 episodes, I don’t really think ‘The Simpsons’ has increased the country’s skepticism about nuclear power,” which employs the bumbling Homer as a safety inspector.

Update: 8:45 PM (EST)TheImproper.com has some behind-the-scenes “secrets” on the show’s celebrity guest voices from Hank Azaria and writer/producer Al Jean.

Azaria recalls meeting Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger at the door just before a Simpsons recording session:

“I said, ‘Hey, Mick, we’re thrilled to have you here.’ And he kind of blew right by me like I was the greeter, and went, all dismissively, ‘Yeah, we’ll get it.’

“It made me a little bit annoyed. I knew it was going to get awkward, because I was about to walk upstairs and record with him,” Azaria said.

Al Jean discusses having to turn down celebrity requests to be on the show, such as David Beckham who didn’t make the cut because the show’s producers “didn’t think he was famous enough.” Jean says they ended up getting “a lot of grief” over it, saying it made some people “really angry.” Jean adds, “We get a lot of requests from celebrities, and it’s always a shame when we have to turn people down.”

The Altoona Mirror has a very insightful interview with The Simpsons’ associate producer Brian Kaufman discussing the recording process and directing sessions with the series’ cast and guest stars.

Kaufman, who’s been part of The Simpsons‘ production staff for 12 years, says that it takes about “nine months to produce a show, between all of the components of production,” and reveals that there are “enough new episodes to air through the spring, but even the staff isn’t sure if or when the series will end.”

“It’s kind of renewed in chunks, because of the the contracts – there are deals with the studio, with the actors,” he said. “There are a lot of contractual obligations, and every time one of them comes up, it’s like, ‘Oh, this is it.’ But then they’ll renew for another season.”

On the recording process, Kaufman says, “It’s great to work with the actors, to be on the stage with them, directing them. On the recording stage, it’s usually myself, a writer and the actors. All the actors are there when we do the original recording, but once all the changes – the re-writes – are done, we call them in separately.”

Kaufman says he limits recording lines to “[no] more than 10 takes.” After that, he explains, “the words lose meaning.”

On working with the cast, Kaufman says:

“You have to trust the actors’ instincts. A lot of times, they gave you the best option on the first take. It’s my job to say, ‘OK, we got it.'”

At this point, the cast is “pretty tame,” Kaufman said, because they’ve been working together for so long. He said Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer, is the “funniest” actor to work with, and he’s amazed by the talent of Harry Shearer, who can hold conversations between the many different characters he voices.

Update: 11:30 PM (EST) — Collection of video interviews released to the media by FOX, featuring Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Hank Azaria, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Marcia Wallace and Pamela Hayden:

– On the show’s beginning:

– On casting:

– On performing the characters and being recognized in public:

– On the guest stars:

– On the show’s relevance to society and how it mirrors real life:

– On the show’s success and how proud the cast is to have been a part of it:

Update: 1.13.2010, 1:00 AM (EST) — Best-selling author Mitch Albom (Tuesdays With Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven) details his experience — via The Detroit Free Press — recording dialog for his cameo in The Simpsons’ episode “Thursdays With Abie.”

Update: 3:15 AM (EST) — Voices.com co-founder Stephanie Ciccarelli blogs via Vox Daily about the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons, explaining the influence the series has had on the voiceover industry and community.

Update: 2:30 PM (EST)iF Magazine reports 1.11.2010 on the future of “The Simpsons”:

[We] approached Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly about how long he sees THE SIMPSONS staying on Fox, now that it’s reached its 20-year milestone.

“We have it for two more seasons and then we’ll sit down and see where we are,” says Reilly. “The show is extraordinary. We just celebrated twenty years. I’m certainly not gunning for it. It’s still creatively vibrant. The show is up again this season. It’s just just mind-blowing the breadth of creativity that’s still coming out of that camp.”

And in a closely-related interview (via TVGuide.com) with Simpsons executive producer Al Jean, he says he doesn’t feel the end of the show is “imminent.”

“There have been a lot of great endings but we’ve done them all,” says Jean. “Like the ‘Behind the Laughter’ episode. ‘Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind’ would have been a good one. ‘Lisa’ First Word,’ when Maggie spoke, would have been a good one. One thing I learned in television is don’t save it; if you got something good, air it. I have an idea for the last episode but I don’t want to say it.”

In the same interview, Jean says that his “favorite guest star might be Kelsey Grammer [Sideshow Bob] and it’s a really tough contest because there are so many great ones. His voice gives you so much.”

Jean also reflects on the significance of having the late pop star Michael Jackson involved in the show:

It was one of the many amazing things that happened to me while working on the show. He had said to Jim Brooks, ‘I want to be on the show and I want to write a No. 1 song for Bart.’ And he did and he did, it was No. 1.[Jackson co-wrote — although uncredited — the song “Do the Bartman,” which reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.] He did come to the table reads and read the script [for the episode “Stark Raving Dad”] but when it came to the singing, he wanted a sound-alike to do the recording and we never really understood why. I did hear him sing and of course he was great. It was one of the coolest things I’ve been involved with.

Elsewhere, IGN.com has an exclusive video with a “special anniversary message” from the King of the Hill cast, featuring the voices of Mike Judge, Stephen Root and Johnny Hardwick.

Update: 3:00 PM (EST)

– Morgan Spurlock talks with Newsarama about the making of “The Simpsons” documentary.

Harry Shearer and Yeardley Smith reflect on 20 years of “The Simpsons” with the Boston Globe.

Nancy Cartwright says in an interview with the UK’s Press and Journal that she has a history of being mistaken for a boy.

“I was about seven when people started making comments about my voice,” Cartwright says. “And being seven and having short hair I had an androgynous quality, so people didn’t know whether I was a boy or a girl. But I just used my voice to make people laugh and, because it made people laugh, it made me happy.”

And after 20 years, when asked what she would like to happen to Bart, Nancy replies, “I’d like Bart to meet Hugh Jackman [X-Men series, The Prestige] – I don’t know if Bart would necessarily want to meet him, but Nancy Cartwright would.”

Update: 1.14.2010, 1:30 PM

TheTakeaway.org has an audio interview with Harry Shearer discussing 20 years of “The Simpsons.”

Also, NewsOK.com has a short piece celebrating Shearer’s 66th birthday on Dec. 23rd.

Media Bistro has a video interview with “The Simpsons” documentary director Morgan Spurlock.

Yahoo News has an interview with Harry Shearer (via The Associated Press).

The Sioux City Journal interviews Yeardley Smith.

Look for more articles to be added to this report in the near future, as several of The Simpsons’ cast have been interviewed recently to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the series.

4 Responses to Voice Cast Cavalcade: The Simpsons

  1. Christy says:

    Yeah, but what was with the incredibly notable absence of Harry Shearer?? He makes up practically half the cast himself! I couldn’t believe he was nowhere to be seen in that special.

    • Maybe you just missed him? He was on the 6th page.

      Edited: 1.13.2010 — Sorry, I thought you were referring to the feature from the NYDailyNews.

      I see now you were referring to the Spurlock documentary. Yes, Shearer’s absence was noticeable and odd. However, he is by far the most outspoken and opinionated member of the cast or crew in regards to politics. He may have declined to be interviewed for whatever reason. Then again, he simply may have not been available due to a scheduling conflict. I’ll try to get a contact via Spurlock or FOX who might explain why Shearer didn’t appear in the documentary.

  2. […] The Simpsons hit 20 years on TV. I remember I was alive when they started and I watched the Tracey Ullman show back in Kuwait […]

  3. […] Related post: 1.11.2010 — The Faces Behind The Simpsons […]

%d bloggers like this: