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Everything is about to be awesome on The Simpsons.
Months after the release of The LEGO Movie, Fox is rolling out a similarly brick-shaped red carpet for The Simpsons on Sunday, as the long-running animated series celebrates its 550th episode. To mark the occasion, Homer and the rest of Springfield are getting a LEGO makeover in an episode called “The Simpsons’ LEGO Spectacular.” However, the timing with the LEGO Movie is pure coincidence, says writers and executive producers Al Jean and Matt Selman.
“I just learned that there’s a LEGO Movie,” Jean joked on a conference call with reporters. “I hope it’s as good as this episode.”
“I was nervous about the movie,” Selman confessed. “Like, ‘It’s going to be too similar or redundant, because some of the themes are similar and they both involve sort of traveling back and forth between real world and toy world.’ But watching both of them I feel that it’s a complementary story to the LEGO Movie and they kind of go hand-in-hand rather than being contradictory.”
Jean added that the LEGO-themed episode has been “two years in the making, and contrary to the joke I just made, the episode was in production long before any of us had seen the movie or knew anything that was in it.”
“It sort of speaks from the fact that we’ve all loved LEGO for our whole lives, too,” Selman said of the inspiration for the episode. “We’ve had a lifetime love affair with the LEGO toy system of LEGO bricks and we’ve done little LEGO jokes along the way, and we used to have a fake version of LEGO on the show called Blocko, but I think it just seemed like an amazing opportunity that LEGO would actually partner with us to make a sort of legitimate cooperative bringing together of funny little people with round yellow heads.”
It’s no wonder the episode took so long to make, considering the level of detail in the LEGO-fied world of Springfield. Not only are all of the characters and locations rebuilt brick-for-brick, but even the smallest of background details and in-jokes received the LEGO treatment.
“We put in so many funny little LEGO reference background jokes at every opportunity we could find,” said Selman, “from the photos in the back to stuff in the church to the love tester at Moe’s. We tried to do 100 percent LEGO-ification to really reward the viewer who will go back and see how obsessively we mushed these things together.”
Both Jean and Selman were surprised by some of the visual changes between normal Springfield and LEGO Springfield — including some apparent dietary changes for some of the show’s “thicker” characters.
Homer Simpson, well-known for his doughnut-shaped belly, is one of the characters who benefits from the LEGO diet. He’s also at the heart of the LEGO episode, as he’s the first person to realize Springfield has become a town of bricks. From Selman’s perspective, Homer was the only Springfield resident who could have served as the episode’s point-of-view character.
“There had to be strong, relatable, real family emotion at the heart of it, or it’s just going to be a bunch of craziness,” Selman said. “The idea of parents and how they interact with their children and children aging and playing with children is such a part of our daily lives; we really thought we’re like the Homers of our own life now, with our kids. We’re 42, you know? So it’s like we wrote it from the perspective of the dad watching his kids grow up.”
Just like Homer, Jean and Selman have witnessed the aging and growth of The Simpsons, currently in its 25th season, with “The Simpsons LEGO Spectacular” clocking in at episode 550.
“I had always predicted we’d get to 549, so I’m just honored to have gotten this far,” said Jean. “Honestly, everything is an amazement to me: the number of episodes, the broad base of the people that enjoy the show. It’s the greatest place in the world to work, and every day you go, ‘Wow,’ you pinch yourself.”
“Wow, 550,” Selman agreed. “I think we’re going to get 600.”
“The Simpsons LEGO Spectacular” airs on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.