Tell Me Again About How the Characters Don’t Age

We’re getting kinda done around here with “Bart Gets a Z”.  (Not a moment too soon, as far as I’m concerned.)  But there was one final thing I wanted to point out: you cannot keep these characters from aging.  Biology won’t let you.  “Bart Gets a Z” had a lot of Mrs. Krabappel, who is voiced by Marcia Wallace.  But the 2009 version of Mrs. Krabappel’s voice is very different from the one we all grew to love in the 1990s.  It’s gotten noticeably deeper and a tad raspier. 

I noticed a similar thing last year with Lenny (voiced by Harry Shearer) in “Double, Double, Boy in Trouble”.  The beginning of that episode is very Lenny heavy and his voice, like Krabappel’s, has gotten significantly lower and less crisp in its pronunciation.  It’s getting to a point with both of them where they sound like imitations of themselves, good imitations, to be sure, but not the genuine article. 

Why is this?  Well, Wallace is 66; Shearer is 65; there are very few people whose voices don’t appreciably change between their mid-40s and their mid-60s.  That’s not a knock on their work, it’s just the way of the world.  Maybe this is more apparent to me on account of I rarely watch Zombie Simpsons and I watch the old ones all the time.  But going from one to another, from, say, the Krabappel of “Bart the Lover” (1992) to “Bart Gets a Z” (2009), or the Lenny of “The Last Temptation of Homer” (1993) to “Double, Double, Boy in Trouble” (2008), is really jarring. 

Remember to bring this up the next time someone tells you they don’t like the first two seasons because the voices don’t sound right.  Many of them are further off the mark now than they were then. 

5 Responses to “Tell Me Again About How the Characters Don’t Age”

  1. 8 October 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Seeing as how the show is likely to continue long after the original voice actors have retired and passed on, why doesn’t Fox cut to the chase and just replace them all now (before they get too croaky)? I’m sure they can find scabs who will work for significantly less than the present cast.

    • 2 Charlie Sweatpants
      8 October 2009 at 10:34 pm

      They’ve certainly threatened to do that in the past. I don’t see it though. This is just my opinion, but only the retirement or death of one of the six principal voices (Castellaneta, Kavner, Cartwright, Smith, Azaria, Shearer) seems like it would be disruptive enough to end the show against FOX’s will. Al Jean, Matt Selman, Ian Maxtone-Graham, and all of the other long timers could walk off the lot tomorrow and they’d just be replaced. But if one of those iconic voices were gone it’d be such a big stink that it could sink the whole thing.

      • 3 Celia
        9 October 2009 at 1:37 pm

        I think they might be moved to stop the show if a voice of the Simpsons family proper died or had to stop, but I have a nasty feeling that if, say, Harry Shearer could no longer do his vocal duties, they’d just get other people to do his more “important” characters and quietly dispose of the ones nobody can remember the names of. Because Harry Shearer does a crapton of voices, nobody remembers all of them.

        Then again, they might be kinder and more respectful, but money is so often the biggest concern for people in the entertainment industry that if they could find someone who could do a dead-on Mr. Burns and Smithers, they’d forget about “respect”. This is, of course, not particular to The Simpsons, just an entertainment industry thing in general. But perhaps I’m too cynical. And long-winded.

        • 4 Charlie Sweatpants
          9 October 2009 at 4:03 pm

          I’d agree that Shearer and Azaria are theoretically more vulnerable than the other four, but in this rather grim hypothetical the iconic nature of the characters gives them nearly perfect job security. Shearer does Burns, Smithers, Flanders Brockman, Skinner, and Hibbert; Azaria does Moe, Wiggum, Apu, and Comic Book Guy. Those are all instantly recognizable characters and replacing them would be a huge public relations story that would give the show a very public (i.e. more than just Simpsons geeks would care/hear about it) black eye.

          When it comes to the Simpsons there’s no such thing as “too cynical”, and I don’t doubt that whoever minds the bottom line would be plenty happy with less expensive voice talent and to hell with the history, I just don’t think they’d be able to get away with it.

  2. 10 October 2009 at 3:00 am

    “Grim hypothetical” is exactly it. What a sorry state of affairs it is when a castmember death is deemed the only thing that could get the show cancelled.

    I wonder what would happen if one of the castmembers died before the show was cancelled. If the show was still in production, would Fox bring down the curtain on the show immediately? Would they re-cast the part/s and salvage at least one season, then call it quits? Would they push their luck and try to continue with the show after that? Would the other castmembers refuse to comply if someone in their ranks died, and if so, would they be forced to serve out their contracts?

    I wonder how Al Jean would respond if someone flung questions like this at him!

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