Krusty the Clown as Pennywise, Stephen King’s evil character from “It,” has become a popular tattoo image. Now, it will become part of “The Simpsons” canon. One of this fall’s two “Treehouse of Horror” episodes will be a full-length parody of “It,” “The Simpsons” exec producer Matt Selman revealed on Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con.
As previously reported, “The Simpsons” will air a double dose of “Treehouse of Horror” episodes this upcoming 34th season. That marks the first time in the show’s history there have been two “Treehouse”-branded episodes in a single Halloween. The first episode will take the traditional form of three different vignettes, but the “It” parody will be the first time a “Treehouse” has focused on a single story for its entire half hour.
“We’ve never done a single fantastical, bloody, scary, dark story, told over the scope of the 20 minutes and 40 seconds that is an episode,” Selman told Variety. “I think the fans are going to be really excited. Certainly the tattoos already exist of Krusty as Pennywise. So we’re just writing towards the tattoos now. You want as many tattoo worthy moments in your episodes as you can.”
As for the regular, three-story “Treehouse of Horror,” one of this year’s segments will be a riff on the popular anime series “Death Note.” An entirely different studio is handling the animation, as “The Simpsons” goes full anime, which Selman called “incredibly authentic ‘Simpsons’ anime. So I really think people were gonna freak out over that. We’re not trying to take on every single anime, it’s an unbelievably rich and diverse genre within itself. We’re not trying to do 20 shows and scoop it all into six minutes. It’s just one beloved thing, this show ‘Death Note.’”
Selman said the other segments are secret, but he does hint that in “one of them, we break one of the rules we’ve never broken before. I’m gonna say this is a rule we’ve never broken. I’m 100% sure we’ve never broken it.” (Last year’s “Treehouse of Horror” parodied “Parasite,” “The Ring,” TikTok and “Bambi.”)
“Gravity Falls” creator Alex Hirsch, a “Simpsons” superfan, was tapped to moderate this year’s Comic-Con panel. “I’m excited for his pep from him,” Selman said a few days before the panel.
As for fall 2022 “The Simpsons” guests, Selman focused on one: Melissa McCarthy, who plays Homer’s rival for Grandpa’s love in a bit of a “Step Brothers” scenario.
“We’re huge fans of her and it’s a big meaty, juicy part,” Selman said. “And she’s really funny. To get a big comedy movie star at the height of her powers, it’s pretty cool.”
Fans hoping for a new movie announcement, video game announcement or DVD announcement were bound to be disappointed. “These movies aren’t fun,” Selman said. “The show is fun. Movies are hard. The show is also hard, but the movie requires a level of audience engagement in stakes, emotion, character, comedy. It is so relentless. It sort of stops becoming the kind of fun, silly thing that ‘The Simpsons’ is. Not that we didn’t do it once and we can’t do it again. It’s just a whole other kettle of fish.”
Among upcoming conceptual episodes: In the season premiere, Homer gets caught up in online conspiracy groups. In another, Krusty the Clown becomes an Ellen DeGeneres-like daytime host, and he learns it’s harder to be an always cheery host. “It’s much harder to make a nice TV show than it is to make a bad one,” Selman said.
“The Simpsons” is coming off a busy year that included the first-ever use of ASL on the show and its first-ever deaf voice actors; the first time the four key creative roles that guide animation in a “Simpsons” episode were all women; the two-part prestige TV parody “A Serious Flanders” and more.
“I’m proud of our quest for innovation and freshness and not just doing the same old thing again and again,” Selman said. “It’s our main creative goal.”
Meanwhile, even though there were no announcements of the sort at the Comic-Con panel, Selman said he’d like to see Disney+ turn “The Simpsons” into a streaming universe. “We could do like a six-episode whatever,” he said. “Whatever character can sustain a six episode plot, or shorts or a movie about a side character. I would love to do all those kinds of creative, funny things. But right now, thinking of new episodes for the mid 700s is a lot of work.
“It’s a big ‘Simpsons’ world out there. And there’s so many people and so many directions we could go,” he added. “It’s a crazy canvas for sure. For now, our main goal is, let’s just make every episode special and make every episode epic. Instead of announcing a movie, make every episode its own little movie in terms of the scope of its emotion and concept and idea. If every episode doesn’t have a movie-level poster, don’t do it as an episode.”
At the panel, Hirsch asked the writers how “The Simpsons” keeps predicting the future, and his explanation is that the show “imagines the dumbest possible future.” Exec producer Al Jean notes that after Donald Trump became president — as predicted by the show — the show only plans to predict good things from here on out. Jean also revealed that in that 2000 episode, originally it was going to be Johnny Depp as president, not Trump. “And then Trump would have married Amber Heard,” Jean quipped.
Jean also revealed that “The Simpsons” is producing an upcoming Disney+ short about Disney princesses.