Posts Tagged ‘The Crepes of Wrath

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.

17
Apr
19

Quote of the Day

“Dad, do you think I might see your plutonium isolation module?” – Adil
“Uh, maybe? Hold on a second. . . Hey, Lenny, does this place have one of those plutonium isolation deals?” – Homer Simpson
“Yeah, over in sector twelve.” – Lenny
“Sector twelve?” – Homer Simpson
“Third floor, by the candy machines.” – Lenny
“Oh, that sector twelve.” – Homer Simpson

12
Apr
18

Quote of the Day

“Although officially I am required to hate you, I want you to know: I do not feel it in my heart.” – Adil

14
Jul
17

Quote of the Day

“Ah, the life of a frog. That’s the life for me.” – Bart Simpson
“Bart, how would you like to spend the next three months living in France?” – Marge Simpson

14
Jul
16

Quote of the Day

IHateFrance

“Stupid grapes! Bunch of creeps! I. Hate. France!” – Bart Simpson

17
Apr
16

Quote of the Day

The Crepes of Wrath8

“Ooh, trouble in the neighborhood. I’m his neighbor. What’d he do?” – Homer Simpson

Happy birthday Bill Kopp!

14
Jul
15

Quote of the Day

The Crepes of Wrath7

“Actually he’d be staying in France, in a lovely chateau in the heart of the wine country.” – Principal Skinner
“But Bart doesn’t speak French.” – Marge Simpson
“When he’s totally immersed in a foreign language, the average child can become fluent in weeks.” – Principal Skinner
“Yeah, but what about Bart?” – Homer Simpson
“I’m sure he’ll pick up enough to get by.” – Principal Skinner

06
Jun
12

Quote of the Day

The Crepes of Wrath6

“You may find his accent peculiar.  Certain aspects of his culture may seem absurd, perhaps even offensive.  But I urge you all to give little Adil the benefit of the doubt.  In this way, and only in this way, can we hope to better understand our backward neighbors throughout the world.” – Principal Skinner

Happy birthday Sam Simon!

14
Jul
10

Quote of the Day

My mom's French, so we only celebrate Bastille Day.

“What do you know about France?” – Lisa Simpson
“I know I’m going, and you’re not.” – Bart Simpson

15
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

The Crepes of Wrath4

“Please, please kids, stop fighting.  Maybe Lisa’s right about America being the land of opportunity, and maybe Adil has a point about the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers.” – Homer Simpson

Happy 20th Anniversary to “The Crepes of Wrath”!  Original airdate 15 April 1990.

15
Dec
09

Quote of the Day

The Crepes of Wrath3

“So he’s going to prison?” – Homer Simpson
“No, we’ve arranged an exchange for one of our own men caught in Albania.” – Government Official
“So Sparrow, we meet again.” – American Kid
“Yes.  Sometimes I think I am getting too old for this game.” – Adil

12
Jul
09

Quote of the Day

The Crepes of Wrath2

“Mr. and Mrs. Simpson, we have transcended incorrigible.  I don’t think suspension or expulsion will do the trick; I think it behooves us all to consider . . . deportation.” – Principal Skinner




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