Over the last decade or so, Disney fans have become accustomed to the company purchasing outside properties like LucasFilm or Marvel, to the point where it no longer feels strange to to think that characters like Luke Skywalker or Spider-Man are almost as Disney as Mickey Mouse.
However, there is one recent addition that to some still feels strange in Disney’s hands: The Simpsons.
The Simpsons, created by Matt Groening, first premiered as a series of shorts on the Fox Network variety series The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. In 1989, Groening teamed with television legends James L. Brooks and Sam Simon to turn the shorts into a half-hour long animated sitcom. The Simpsons was a massive hit right out of the gate, with its irreverent humor and biting social satire leading mass popularity and a merchandising bonanza.
However, unlike many overnight successes that quickly flamed out, The Simpsons has remained a pop culture mainstay for more than 30 years. It has aired well over 600 episodes and broken records for longest-running animated series and primetime sitcom. The series was acquired by Disney as part of the overall purchase of 21st Century Fox in 2019.
There are several reasons why Disney owning The Simpsons could be construed as weird by fans of both. For starters, there’s the fact that The Simpsons’ brand of humor, while not particularly crass, doesn’t fit in with the wholesome family friendly image generally associated with the Disney brand.
Speaking of the Disney brand, The Simpsons has lampooned said brand numerous times over its run. They’ve dedicated episodes to lampooning the history of the Disney Studios (“The Day the Violence Died”) and the company’s parks (“Itchy and Scratchy Land”) as well sprinkling more references throughout the run of the series. It will be… odd, to say the least, to have all of those references available on the Disney+ streaming service later this year.
Beyond the television show itself, it may be strange to many that Disney now owns The Simpsons because the characters have a heavy presence in Universal’s theme parks. Both of Universal’s U.S. resorts not only count versions of The Simpsons Ride as anchor attractions – the story of which pokes fun at Disney parks – but they also feature fully realized lands based on the town of Springfield, including themed food and drink and costumed characters. In addition, Universal has been using Simpsons characters, mainly Homer and Bart, heavily in merchandising and advertising in recent years.
Now, it has to be noted that many of these same points could be made about Marvel’s presence in Universal’s Islands of Adventure prior to Disney’s purchase of Marvel. On top of that, by all reports, Universal’s licensing agreement with The Simpsons is nowhere near as stringent as the deal with Marvel, which means that Disney may be able to incorporate Simpsons characters into the parks at their discretion. It’s unclear if Universal would retain their Simpsons rides or keep using the characters in marketing if that were to happen.
Eventually, like all the other outside properties Disney has acquired this past decade, The Simpsons will be fully integrated into the Disney family. However at the moment, it’s totally understandable that some may find Disney owning The Simpsons weird.
How do you feel about it? Have you accepted the reality that soon The Simpsons will be as Disney as Donald Duck, or does it still weird you out? Let us know in the comments below.
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