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The Simpson family is a family of fictional characters featured in the animated television series The Simpsons. The Simpsons are a nuclear family consisting of the married couple Homer and Marge and their three children Bart, Lisa and Maggie. They live at 742 Evergreen Terrace in the fictional town of Springfield, USA. They were created by cartoonist Matt Groening who conceived the idea while waiting in the lobby of James L. Brooks's office. He named the characters after his own family members, substituting "Bart" for his own name. The family debuted April 19, 1987 in the The Tracey Ullman Show show short "Good Night" and were later spun off into their own series which debuted on December 17, 1989.

Alongside the five main family members, there are a number of other major and minor characters in their family. The most commonly recurring characters are Homer's father Abraham Simpson; Marge's sisters Patty and Selma Bouvier; and the family's two pets, Santa's Little Helper and Snowball II. Other family members include Homer's mother Mona Simpson, Homer's "Vegas wife" Amber, Marge's mother Jacqueline Bouvier, and a whole range of minor relatives.

Main family

The Simpsons are a family who live in at 742 Evergreen Terrace in the town of Springfield in the United States. Homer, the father, works as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, a position at odds with his careless, buffoon personality. He is married to Marge Simpson, a stereotypical American housewife and mother. They have three children: Bart, a ten-year-old troublemaker; Lisa, a precocious eight-year-old activist; and Maggie, a baby who rarely speaks, but communicates by sucking on a pacifier. The family owns a dog, Santa's Little Helper, and a cat, Snowball II. Both pets have had starring roles in several episodes. Despite the passing of yearly milestones such as holidays or birthdays, the Simpsons do not physically age and still appear just as they did at the end of the 1980s. Although the family is dysfunctional, many episodes examine their relationships and bonds with each other and they are often shown to care about one another.

Creation

Groening conceived of the idea for the Simpsons in the lobby of James L. Brooks's office. Brooks had asked Groening to pitch an idea for a series of animated shorts, which Groening initially intended to present as his Life in Hell series. However, when Groening realized that animating Life in Hell would require the rescinding of publication rights for his life's work, he chose another approach and formulated his version of a dysfunctional family. He named the characters after his own family members — his father Homer, his mother Margaret, and his younger sisters Lisa and Maggie. He substituted "Bart", an anagram of "brat", for his own name, and modeled the character after his older brother, Mark.

The five family members were given simple designs so that their facial emotions could easily be changed with almost no effort and so that they would be recognizable in silhouette. Groening submitted only basic sketches to the animators and assumed that the figures would be cleaned-up in production. However, the animators merely re-traced his drawings, which led to the crude appearance of the characters in the initial short episodes.

The Simpson family made their debut on April 19, 1987 in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night". In 1989, the shorts were adapted into The Simpsons, a half-hour series airing on the Fox Broadcasting Company. The Simpson family remained the main characters on this new show.

Casting

Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Yeardley Smith all began voicing their characters on The Tracey Ullman Show. Nancy Cartwright was the only one of the group who had been trained to be a voice actor while Castellaneta had done some voice over work in Chicago. Castellaneta and Kavner had been part of the regular cast of The Tracey Ullman Show and voices were needed for the shorts, so the producers decided to ask them to voice Homer and Marge rather than hire more actors. The producers decided to hold casting for the roles of Bart and Lisa. Yeardley Smith had initially been asked to audition for the role of Bart, but casting director Bonita Pietila believed her voice was too high. Smith later recalled, "I always sounded too much like a girl. I read two lines as Bart and they said, 'Thanks for coming!'" Smith was given the role of Lisa instead. On March 13, 1987, Nancy Cartwright went in to audition for the role of Lisa. After arriving at the audition, she found that Lisa was simply described as the "middle child" and at the time did not have much personality. Cartwright became more interested in the role of Bart who she found more fascinating because he was described as "devious, underachieving, school-hating, irreverent, [and] clever." Matt Groening let her try out for the part instead, and upon hearing her read, gave her the job on the spot.

Homer Simpson

Homer Jay Simpson, voiced by Dan Castellaneta, is the father of the Simpson family. He embodies several American working class stereotypes: he is crude, overweight, incompetent, clumsy, thoughtless and a borderline alcoholic. He has occasionally displayed flashes of great intellect and fitness whenever the situation calls for it, and an integrity reflecting his own values, including a fierce devotion to and protectiveness of his family. His voice started out as an impression of Walter Matthau but eventually evolved into a more robust voice during the second and third season of the half-hour show, allowing Homer to cover a fuller range of emotions. Homer has since become one of the most influential fictional characters and has been described by the UK newspaper The Sunday Times as the greatest comedic creation of modern time. He has inspired an entire line of merchandise and his catchphrase, the annoyed grunt "D'oh!", has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Marge Simpson

Marjorie "Marge" Simpson (née Bouvier), voiced by Julie Kavner, is the well-meaning and extremely patient wife of Homer and mother of Bart, Lisa and Maggie. She often acts as the voice of reason, but displays exaggerated behavior traits of stereotypical mothers and takes the blatant dysfunctionality of her family for granted, unlike the other family members, who are aware that they are eccentric. Her most notable physical feature is her blue hair, styled into an improbably high beehive. Julie Kavner received a Primetime Emmy Award in 1992 for voicing Marge in the episode "I Married Marge". For her performance in The Simpsons Movie, Kavner received a nomination for "Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature" at the 2007 Annie Awards, but lost to Ian Holm in Ratatouille. Kavner's emotional performance in the movie got positive reviews and one critic said she "gave what must be the most heartfelt performance ever". Part of Kavner's contract says that she will never have to promote The Simpsons on video because she does not want to "destroy the illusion for children". In 2008, CityNews published an article entitled "Top 10 Greatest TV Moms of All Time", and placed Marge in eighth spot.

Bart Simpson

Bartholomew "Bart" JoJo Simpson, voiced by Nancy Cartwright, is the eldest child in the family -- at age 10. Bart's most prominent character traits are his mischievousness, rebelliousness, disrespect for authority and sharp wit. During the first two seasons of The Simpsons, Bart was the show's main character. The name "Bart" is an anagram of the word "brat". Groening conceived Bart as an extreme version of the typical misbehaving child character, merging all of the extreme traits of characters such as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn into one person. Groening's older brother Mark provided most of the inspiration for Bart. Bart's catchphrase "Eat My Shorts" was an ad-lib by Cartwright in one of the original table readings, harking back to an incident when she was at college. In 1998, Time magazine selected Bart as 46th of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, and the only fictional character to make the list. He had previously appeared on the cover of the December 31, 1990 edition. Bart is rebellious and frequently escapes without punishment, which lead some parents' groups and conservative spokespeople to believe he provided a poor role model for children. This prompted George H. W. Bush to rally, "We're going to keep trying to strengthen the American family. To make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons." Bart, and other Simpsons characters, have appeared in numerous television commercials for Nestlé's Butterfinger candy bars from 1990-2001, with the slogan "Nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger!"

Lisa Simpson

Lisa Marie Simpson, voiced by Yeardley Smith, is the eldest daughter and middle child of the family. She is an extremely intelligent eight year old girl, one of the most intelligent characters on the show. Lisa's political convictions are generally socially liberal. She is a vegetarian, and a supporter of the Free Tibet movement, and while still supportive of the Christian church in which she was raised, Lisa became a practicing Buddhist following her decision to follow the Noble Eightfold Path. In the Tracey Ullman Show shorts, Lisa was more of a "female Bart" and was equally mischievous. As the series progressed, Lisa began to develop into a more intelligent and more emotional character with "Krusty Gets Busted" being one of the first episodes where her true intelligence is fully shown. Many episodes focusing on Lisa have an emotional nature, the first one being "Moaning Lisa". The idea for the episode was pitched by James L. Brooks, who had wanted to do an emotional episode where Lisa is sad because the show had done a lot of "jokey episodes". In 2001 Lisa received a special "Board of Directors Ongoing Commitment Award" at the Environmental Media Awards. "Lisa the Vegetarian", an episode from the seventh season, won both an Environmental Media Award for "Best Television Episodic Comedy" and a Genesis Award for "Best Television Comedy Series, Ongoing Commitment". In Japan, the broadcasters of the series found they were able to turn the apparent viewer dislike of the series around by focusing marketing attention on Lisa. Lisa's well-intended but ill-fated struggles to be a voice of reason and a force of good in her family and city struck a chord with the Japanese.

Maggie Simpson

Margaret "Maggie" Simpson, is the youngest of the five main family members and is almost always seen as a baby. She was quite prominent in the Tracey Ullman Show shorts, often being featured alongside Bart and Lisa but has since become the least seen and heard of the five main Simpsons.It has been revealed that Maggie has outstanding artistic abilities. Maggie rarely speaks, but has been voiced by several different actors including Jodie Foster, Elizabeth Taylor, James Earl Jones, Harry Shearer, who used his Kang voice, Yeardley Smith, and Nancy Cartwright.

Pets

Santa's Little Helper

Santa's Little Helper, voiced by Frank Welker and Dan Castellaneta, is the Simpsons' pet greyhound. He first appeared in the series premiere as a race dog adopted by Homer and Bart and has been in the series ever since.

Snowball II

Snowball II is the Simpsons' pet cat. There have been several different Snowball's throughout the series. Snowball I has only appeared briefly during flashbacks and dream sequences, but has been mentioned numerous times. Snowball II is the second cat in the Snowball lineage, but is killed in "I, D'oh-Bot". Lisa attempts to replace Snowball II with Snowball III and Coltrane (Snowball IV), but they are also killed in accidents. The Crazy Cat Lady appears and throws a cat at Lisa, which she quickly adopts and names Snowball V, but decides to call it Snowball II to prevent having to spend money on a new named dish and to pretend that the whole incident never occurred. Snowball V is the current pet cat of the family.

Extended Simpson family

Abraham Simpson

"Grampa" Simpson
Abraham "Grampa" Simpson, voiced by Dan Castellaneta, is the patriarch of the Simpson family, the father of Homer. He is a World War II veteran who was later sent to the Springfield Retirement Castle by Homer. He is known for his long rambling stories and his love of Matlock. He shares his name with one of Matt Groening's relatives, in this case his grandfather. However, Groening says he refused to name him, leaving it to other writers to choose a name. By coincidence, the writers chose the name Abraham.

Mona Simpson

Mona Penelope Olsen, voiced by Glenn Close, is Homer's long-lost mother. Her first major appearance was in "Mother Simpson" where she reveals that she was forced to abandon her family after being caught up in the hippie movement and participated in various acts of political activism. The writers used this episode as an opportunity to solve several little puzzles, such as where Lisa's intelligence came from. Prior to the seventh season, Mona Simpson had only made two brief flashback appearances, the first being season two's "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" and the second being season six's "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy" and in both episodes she was voiced by Maggie Roswell. Mona dies in the episode "Mona Leaves-a", as Homer struggles to come to terms with her death. The character is named after writer Richard Appel's wife, whose maiden name is Mona Simpson. Mona was designed in a way so that she has little bit of Homer in her face, such as the shape of her upper lip and her nose. There were several design changes because the directors were trying to make her an attractive older and younger woman, but still be Simpson-esque. Glenn Close recorded original material for another episode, season fifteen's "My Mother the Carjacker". Mona also has a speaking appearance in season ten's "D'oh-in in the Wind", this time voiced by Tress MacNeille.

Herbert Powell

Herbert "Herb" Powell, voiced by Danny DeVito, is Homer's half-brother. He resembles Homer, though a lot slimmer and boasting a full head of hair. His first appearance was in the season two episode "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", in which Homer discovered he had a previously unknown half-brother as his mother insisted on concealing his existence. Herbert was the product of a short-lived affair between Homer's father and a carnival prostitute. He put himself through college by working odd jobs, then founded Powell Motors, a car company based in Detroitmarker. Herb was overjoyed to learn that he had a birth family and bonded with his nieces and nephew, and — in his role as CEO — allowed Homer to design a car. However, the miserable failure of Homer's car bankrupted the company, and Herb became a street vagrant. The episode was written by Jeff Martin but the idea of having Herb voiced by Danny DeVito had been pitched by Sam Simon. Some were upset with the sad ending of the episode, and as a result the producers decided to write a sequel.

Herb re-appeared the next season in "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?", and briefly settled in the Simpson household, despite his intense continuing antipathy toward Homer. Homer loaned Herb $2000, which Herb used to build an invention that translated infantile speech into comprehensible English, based on observations he made of Maggie. He proceeded to mass-produce his new product and regained his fortune. In gratitude, he bought gifts for each member of the family and paid Homer back with a vibrating chair, along with his forgiveness. Herb has not had a speaking appearance since this episode, although Homer once referenced him as his "seldom seen half-brother".

Amber Simpson

Amber Pai Gow Simpson is Homer's former "Vegas wife" from the season ten episode "Viva Ned Flanders". Homer and Ned Flanders visit Las Vegasmarker for the weekend, get drunk and unknowingly marry two women. Amber reappears in "Brawl in the Family", where the Simpson family trick her into marrying Grampa, and in the process forsake all other spouses. Amber is horrified at the deception and runs away, much to Grampa's disappointment. In "Jazzy and the Pussycats", the Simpsons attend her funeral after she dies from a drug overdose.

Other Simpson family members



Extended Bouvier family

Jacqueline Bouvier

Jacqueline Ingrid Gurney, voiced by Julie Kavner, is the rarely seen mother of Marge Simpson, Patty and Selma Bouvier, and the wife of the late Clancy Bouvier. She was first referenced in a flashback in the episode, "Moaning Lisa", but made her first physical appearance in the episode "Bart vs. Thanksgiving". She also had a sister named Gladys, who is now deceased. Like all Bouvier women, she is voiced by Julie Kavner, and has large, unique hair, closely resembling Marge's, only a light purple color. She smokes heavily and speaks more raspily than Patty and Selma. She barely has any voice, she never smiles, except in "Lady Bouvier's Lover", thus seeming largely pessimistic, critical and unsociable. She also seems to disapprove of Marge's marriage to Homer, such as stating that Homer is to never address her as "Mom".

Clancy Bouvier

Clancy Bouvier, voiced by Harry Shearer, is the deceased father of Patty and Selma Bouvier and Marge Simpson and the husband of Jacqueline Bouvier. His first appearance was in the episode "The Way We Was". He didn't appear again until "Fear of Flying" where it was revealed that he was one of the earliest male flight attendants. Marge initially believed he was a heroic pilot and was somewhat traumatized when she discovered he was a flight attendant instead. The cause or time of his death is undetermined, but Homer reveals that he got Marge a "white-noise machine" to help her deal with her father's death.

Patty and Selma Bouvier

Patty and Selma Bouvier, both voiced by Julie Kavner, are Marge's older twin sisters. They work at the Springfield Department of Motor Vehicles, and possess a strong dislike for their brother-in-law, Homer. Selma is the elder by two minutes, and possesses a strong desire for family while her sister, Patty, is the show's only openly gay recurring character. Kavner voices them as characters "who suck the life out of everything". Kavner makes Patty's voice more masculine and a lower register, while Selma's voice is a little sweeter. The origins of their names are unknown, Matt Groening has a sister named Patty, but unlike the other Simpson relatives, this has not been explicitly revealed.

Ling Bouvier

Ling Bouvier
Ling Bouvier, voiced by Nancy Cartwright, is Selma Bouvier's adopted daughter. In "Goo Goo Gai Pan", Selma discovers that she has reached menopause and adopts Ling in China, after lying that she is married to Homer Simpson, to fool the Chinese authorities into thinking that Ling would be part of a traditional family as opposed to being raised by a single mother. The authorities briefly reclaim Ling, but the adoption agent relates on her experiences of her childhood with her single mother and allows Selma to adopt Ling. Ling has since become a recurring character and has appeared in several episodes.

Gladys

Gladys, voiced by Julie Kavner, is Marge's aunt and the sister of Jacqueline. Her death was noted in the episode "Selma's Choice", in which she died of a bowel obstruction.

Notes

References




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