Posted in Disc Reviews by Carly Peters
Everyone’s favorite dysfunctional family is releasing a box set of the season that started it all. The Simpsons: The Complete First Seasons includes 13 episodes on three discs and is filled with lots of goodies, including some never before seen footage of an episode creator Matt Groening wishes he could forget.
To me the audio was no great shakes. There were moments when sound effects were really clear and realistic, i.e. Homer banging his head against a metal pole, while…other times they muffled the dialogue, i.e. Maggie sucking away. I also found that during the audio commentary that you could barely hear the cartoon over the commentator’s voices. This may not be such a problem for someone who’s seen the episode before but those who haven’t maybe left in the dark. All three discs feature English 5.1 Surround, English Dolby Surround, and French Dolby Surround. The subtitles option includes both English and Spanish.
All episodes can be watched with audio commentary done by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, director David Silverman, and/or the writers of the episodes. Most often I leave this option alone because I find it to be quite dry and uninformative… but I must admit this is some of the funniest stuff I’ve heard. It’s not so cut and dry like most commentary. It’s more like what you and your friends would say during the show as you sat on your couch. You hear a lot of interesting trivia about the show, why they did certain things, and get let in on some of their inside jokes. But the best part is hearing the creators going “Oh my God, what were we smoking during that scene”. In one episode James L. Brooks walks out of the audio commentary because he’s so horrified.
Matt Groening and David Silverman also do commentary over the Animantics for “Bart the General”. This part is for anyone who wants to see how a cartoon is drawn frame by frame to create what you seen on your screen.
Keep in mind that in the first season the animators were still working out the glitches in creating the characters we know and love today. When you watch the original episodes on TV you can see how crudely done the animation was. Obviously 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment put a lot of time and effort into cleaning it up for the release on this DVD. The characters and images are so crisp and vibrant that it’s almost hard to watch. I asked my mother, who would never waste her brain cells watching the Simpsons but knows enough about them, to see if she noticed anything different. And she did. She finally admitted that the Simpsons skin was yellow, not a greenish color. So even to the untrained eye there is a visible difference in picture quality.
Many nice features are included on this 3-Disc set. The first disc contains scripts for three episodes; “Bart the Genius”, “Bart the General”, and “Moaning Lisa”. You may want to take the time to just flip through these to see some of the script changes and interesting doodles done by the cast. You can also catch the script for “Some Enchanted Evening”, or you may remember it more as the baby-sitter bandit episode, on the third disc. Unfortunately, the second disc contains no special features other than the audio commentary done over the episodes.
The third disc is where all the little gems are kept. It only contains one episode, leaving lots of room for some interesting bits. First you can take a look at some never before seen outtakes which are basically clips from an unaired version of “Some Enchanted Evening”. These are priceless. The animation is so horrific you can barely understand how the show carried on. You can choose to hear Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, David Silverman and writer Al Jean do commentary for the clips. I advise you to choose that option. You can just see them banging their heads against the wall.
One of the most amusing features is the foreign clips of the Simpsons. You can see the beginning of “Some Enchanted Evening” in French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and my favorite, Japanese. You must see Bart get his tongue stuck in the batter beater and scream out in a language that doesn’t follow his lips. There are also audio outtakes done by Albert Brooks as Jacques in “Life on the Fast Lane”. These are pretty funny because it’s basically improv and the rest of the cast gets caught off guard.
Also presented is one of the early bumpers from the Tracy Ullman show, where the Simpsons first appeared, called “Good Night Simpsons”. Fans of the Simpsons may remember this from a clip show that was hosted by Troy McClure. This is so badly done that you may think it’s a joke. But it’s not. This really did air. There is also a ten minute BBC blip entitled “The Making of the Simpsons: Americas First Family”. It’s a brief look at Matt’s beginning as a cartoonist doing a strip called “Life in Hell” to the phenomenon called Bart. It’s an interesting little piece. And finally there’s a section dedicated to the art of the Simpsons. You can check out the strip from “Life in Hell” that landed Matt Groening the job at the Tracy Ullman show. But the best part is the early sketches and drawings of the Simpsons characters. This includes the different options of what the characters might have looked like and their metamorphosis into their current form. I particularly liked the different versions of Martin and Mrs. Krabappel.
If you love the Simpsons, or even just like them, this box set is a must have. Fox has put a lot of effort into creating a well put together piece of clean video and audio. And the substantial amount of special features just sweetens the pot. There are also hidden Easter Eggs for you to explore… I won’t spoil that for you.
Special Features List
- Commentaries on each episode
- Some Enchanted: Original Script
- Unaired Episode w/ Optional Commentary
- Animatic: Bart the General w/Commentary
- Bart T-shirt Controversy ABC News
- Tracy Ulman: Good Night Simpsons
- Foreign Language Clips (7)
- Early Sketches (Still Gallery-100)
- 12 stills and magazine covers