18
Apr
20

DVD Commentary: Crepes of Wrath with Wes Archer and George Meyer

Wednesday was the 30th Anniversary of “The Crepes of Wrath”. So I busted out my Season 1 DVDs and spent some quarantime listening to Wes Archer and George Meyer’s commentary.

Wikipedia says these DVDs were released in September 2001, so the commentaries were probably recorded in early 2001 or so. From early 2001, this episode was 11 years old. Today it is 30 years old, so the time between the commentary recording and now is roughly double that between the episode and the recording. This gives an interesting flavor some of what’s said.

By the time this was recorded, Archer was already done with the show. His last directing credit is “Homerpalooza” from the end of Season 7. He’s since gone one to do stuff like Bob’s Burgers, Futurama, Disenchantment, and Rick & Morty.

Meyer was still there but had one foot out the door. His last writing credit is “The Parent Wrap”, which was the second episode of Season 13 but produced at the end of the Season 12 production run, i.e. right about when they were recording this. So while he has some producer credits for a couple more years, George Meyer never actually wrote another one after he recorded this commentary. This is him looking back on work that he still does but is already preparing to quit.

—–

Meyer opens things up by joking about how they originally found writing the chalkboard gags delightful and now it’s a tedious chore and always falls to the newest writers on the staff. So Bart writing on the chalkboard was a great idea that was kind of tired by *Season 12*. Even these two couldn’t imagine the bland, mushy, paint-by-number thing would keep going for twenty more years (and counting).

Meyer mentions that the idea was inspired by the French movie Manon of the Spring. He then quips, “Which I have not seen”. Heh.

Meyer talking about how he got on the show: had been working on a movie for David Letterman in Colorado and agreed to come out and work on the series in October of ’89, working on the show fulltime after that because he liked it so much. I’ve said this a lot of times, but it is a legit thermodynamic miracle that The Simpsons ever happened. Every cog, part, and gear of the entertainment industry is intended to prevent things like The Simpsons.

As Homer lies on the floor, crippled by Bart, Archer notes that, “Low angle on Homer’s face was always difficult to animate because the mouth animation was different from the regular mouth charts”. Here’s the shot:

The next shot is Bart’s messy room, which Archer notes is “filled with props”. Meyer immediately chimes in about how the writers would torment the animators by never thinking about how much stuff is in a scene.

Archer notes that the design for Milhouse was taken from a Groening sketch.

Meyer notes that the cherrybomb bathroom scene was where he began to realize what you could get away with in animation, “the way she blasts off the toilet is a just a thing of beauty”.

They made the foreign country Albania because they hadn’t seen it much in other productions and John Belushi was Albanian. They named Adil after Albanian ruler and noted asshole Enver Hoxha.

At the airport, the steward’s pull and throw of Bart onto the plane was “a little cartoony”.

Meyer on Simon: “I believe that’s real Albanian, and we started early on trying to get the actual language if we could, at Sam Simon’s instigation. He was really big on research and getting things right. And I’ll always be grateful to him for that.”

Archer then notes that they had to research a certain airport in France for the shot of the plane landing. No idea which. I know very little of French airports.

As Bart goes to the winery in the motorcycle, they’re discussing how they liked getting references in, like the painting backdrops and Maurice Chevalier song.

As Lisa reads random facts from the Albania book, Meyer jokes that their process was what Lisa’s doing: just looking through the almanac to find out a few facts about this country.

“Real French! Nothing but the best for our viewers.”

Archer notes that facial closeups mean less background to draw. I think all the background props in this one still haunt him.

“Yeah, there’s always a dinner scene in these old shows where they’re eating mush.”

Meyer’s reminiscing about how animation makes episodes like this possible, where you can switch kids and have a sprawling story which you couldn’t do on a normal sitcom.

Complimenting the animation as really coming together toward the end of Season 1, with the glow from the candle, and the shadows on Bart, and the “cool looking” Donkey.

At SNL and Letterman, Meyer used to work with Jim Downey, who used to tent his fingers and say “Excellent”, which Adil does here.

“I spent a lot of time drawing those donuts.” – Perhaps the most Simpsoniest(?) Simpsons commentary comment ever.

“The nuclear plant tends to not have many people around. And at night it just seems to close down entirely, which is not the case with most nuclear plants.” – Ha!

“Pillow talk” scenes with Marge and Homer were “kind of encouraged by Jim Brooks”. Meyer calls them good to use for both exposition and “intimacy and sweetness”.

Archer discusses how they try to get a lot of “acting” out of Bart as he painfully reads his letter from home, which means the frayed clothes, the messed up hair, the line under his eye.

“That little halo behind the candle, I know how hard that is to get right now.”

The idea for this anti-freeze scheme came from a real life scandal where anti-freeze was found in wine, though in real life it apparently wasn’t intentional. Meyer thinks that was “our flourish”.

As Hugo tests Bart’s vision, “This is kind of a dark edge. They’re perhaps going to blind a small child.”

“We became sign happy as the show progressed.”

When Bart starts suddenly speaking French, Meyer chimes in sarcastically, “I buy it! I hope you do too!” – HA!

Next comment, “Bart did seem to forget his French over the years. It didn’t really come up that much after this.” – There’s a gently parental sympathy for this episode from Meyer. Archer is kind of straightforward about what happened, Meyer has more of an attitude like, “Yes, I know my child’s art project sucks, but it’s still nice”.

Archer pleased with how the end scene with the swat team and Sparrow in the treehouse came together.

Apparently the FBI guy with the megaphone wasn’t an effect. They used a real bullhorn at the microphone. And it sounds a lot like Shearer, so now I have the image of Derek Smalls pointing a bullhorn at a studio mic.

“It was a little unclear what happened there with Adil’s microphone. He seemed to drop it at an inopportune moment. Perhaps we could’ve thought a better way for him to give himself away.” – See what I mean? Meyer clearly doesn’t think this one is quite up to snuff by later standards, but he’s not angry about it or anything, just noting them.

“But it worked. People got the point.”

Adil: “I hope this experience will not sour you on the student exchange program.”
Meyer: “I like that line. It’s a subtle line, but I thought it was really funny.”

—–

I enjoy these older commentaries where there’s only two or three people. Not only does it make telling people apart easier, but you get more of a sense for how they actually feel about the episode. If you want to hear this one yourself, it’s on Disc 2 of the Season 1 collection.


11 Responses to “DVD Commentary: Crepes of Wrath with Wes Archer and George Meyer”


  1. 18 April 2020 at 12:33 pm

    This was a great read. It took me back. Thank you for going back to the DVD and doing it.

    • 2 Charlie Sweatpants
      18 April 2020 at 5:13 pm

      Thanks. It’s apparently been seven years since I last did one of these, but it was fun. Probably should do some more.

  2. 5 Anonymous
    22 April 2020 at 11:52 am

    I find these commentaries fascinating, but I have a hard time watching them myself. I start to want to watch the episode instead. Wish they would talk over storyboards or animatics instead, if there have to be visuals, that way it would provide us with something interesting to see without feeling like people are just yakking over a show.

  3. 6 AntoineBugleboy
    23 April 2020 at 4:28 pm

    >Archer notes that the design for Milhouse was taken from a Groening sketch.

    A few years back, when I still worked in hotels, I was lucky enough to have Dana Gould be a guest at my hotel. He may have written in the zombie era but meeting a simpsons writer was still a bucket list moment for me. Me being the fanboy I am, I ended up shooting the shit with him and my Milhouse tattoo came up TOTALLY ORGANICALLY THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Anyway, Dana was not off-put by my tattoo, and proceeded to shoot the shit with me about behinds the scene stuff, and ended up showing me a picture on his phone of the staffer that Milhouse’s looks were based on (I believe he was a PA). Really fucking cool moment.

  4. 30 April 2020 at 11:23 am

    What a coincidence. Just today I saw a doco about the Austrian Wine scandals of the 1980’s, had no prior knowledge, especially not 30 years ago. Trying to find specific Simpsons House pictures, led me here to find this story. Just crazy. And ohhhh boy YES it was intentional and rabbit holed into something bigger than anyone first imagined. Sidenote – the Austrian government had no idea, it was all individual producers, and once they found out they did everything they could to fix the issue. The German governement? When they found out they had purchased massive amounts of poisioned wine from Austria, they took two actions – sold as much as they could to third world countries and turned the rest into grape juice – marketed for children. Surprisingly, they didnt let us know how many kids died (!), but heaps of adults did.

    But yeah.. We’ll still only refer to it as the Austrian scandal. I know you guys wont care about the coincidence side, but ive still got a lil smile on my face over here


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