The Opening Sequence is one of the most notable hallmarks of The Simpsons. The sequence differs from episode to episode, usually with a different Chalkboard Gag, Couch Gag, Saxophone Solo, and Billboard Gag (Post-Season 20).
Season 1 (January 14-May 13, 1990)
Because the first season premiere is a Christmas special, the first intro sequence was introduced in the second episode, "Bart the Genius." It is more crudely animated than Season 2 and later, and it was done entirely by Kevin Petrilak.
We fade into a dark blue screen. The "Ahh Chorus" synthesizer pad plays and the yellow text, "The Simpsons," materializes out of a mist. Singers intone "The Simpsons..." (NOTE: Season One's theme music, arranged by Danny Elfman, was a bit cruder, and more staccato, for lack of a more descriptive term, than the version used later). The camera zooms, and we move through the letter "P" into the swoop. We fly over the power plant and tire yard, toward downtown Springfield. We move up the street past "Painless Dentistry" toward the lavender colored elementary school. (NOTE: Season One's swoop is relatively crudely animated, and was redone. The difference in perspective is especially noticeable, for instance in the power plant's cooling towers -- which looked quite flat in Season One's opening). We move through the school window and see Bart writing lines on the class chalkboard, as a punishment. In the classroom, the walls are either purple or blueish violet, and three pieces of stick-figure art hang next to Bart. He pauses and strikes a thinking pose, as the bell rings. Then, Bart grins and leaves the class---bursting out the front doors of the school and skating past a grassy field with trees in a crudely drawn background. Then it cuts to the Power Plant, where Homer hears the quitting whistle, gleefully removes his mask, and leaves the building not realizing the rod he accidentally took. Behind him, a bald man eats a sandwich with tongs. The caution sign over Homer's head has two holes on the right side, both blank. The next shot shows Marge and Maggie checking out at a supermarket. Marge reads "Mom Monthly" with Krusty The Clown And Itchy And Scratchy page in the check out line. Maggie is inadvertently scanned along with the groceries. The cashier rings her up at as $847.63 and Maggie is mistakenly packaged. Marge wonders where Maggie is. She pops out of one of the shopping bags, and Marge sighs in relief. Then it cuts again to the school, where the band is practicing. People in the room (right to left):
African-American kid, brown haired boy playing bass violin (back row), blond girl with pigtails (front row), Largo, thin, curly haired girl (back row), blue haired girl, yellow haired boy,
Back row: Lewis (cymbals?) ready to crash, small pupiled African-American boy, a well groomed boy playing tuba, thin girl with purple hair playing French horn (on shoulder?), bulgy eyed boy holding blue trombone, nasty looking buck-toothed boy with green trumpet, large girl with bulgy eyes and a large nose holding a trumpet(?), hidden student, Lewis (again?), Beethoven's bust on cabinet, Front row: red head girl in pigtails playing clarinet (front of Lewis), boy with green glasses playing clarinet, thin girl, with a large nose playing a green horn, nerdy boy wearing glasses and a green shirt playing horn, red head girl wearing a Lisa-like dress playing clarinet, Milhouse playing horn, Sherri and Terri playing flutes, and Lisa playing sax.
Lisa interrupts the rehearsal and plays a loud saxophone solo (The Simpsons theme song). Mr. Largo stops the band and points Lisa out of the door, due to her non-conforming playing. As the other students look on, she dances her way out of the classroom as she continues playing. On their way to their house at 742 Evergreen Terrace, the members of the family weave dangerously through traffic and in between fellow Springfield citizens. Homer is shown first, driving down the street, and uncomfortably discovering the rod in his back. He pulls it out and throws it from the window. It bounces near Moe's. The rod bounces away and the dust clears. Bart comes by on skateboard, with pursed lips in a half grin. His right foot sticks off the board, as he grabs the lamp post to help him make the corner. He skates past a pet store, and a TV store with many Krusty's which he turns and faces. In passing, he grabs the bus stop sign and takes it with him. On a passing bus, a sign says "Can't get enough of that wonderful Duff." The people in the bus include:
Bored bus driver, (first seat) dark skinned man looking out at camera, and primmed up Bart-looking man, (second seat) red haired, white skinned lady, (third seat) man rolling his eyes, woman with light blue hair, (fourth seat) tall, spindly woman with light blue hair and a pointy nose, (last seat) stocky man with purple hair. The people waiting take off and chase the bus as a smiling Marge and Maggie round the corner in a red sedan. (NOTE: When the people pass by the pet store, a tree appears. On the other half of the tree, the background is completely different when Marge and Maggie pull in).
Inside the car, Maggie is shown steering the wheel. With tires screeching, the car passes by a farm and makes a tight curve. As the car approaches another road, Maggie steers again, and the car makes another turn. The camera cuts back to Maggie, revealing that the wheel to be just a toy for her, as the camera pans out to show Marge driving. As the camera is zooming out, Maggie looks at Marge, then back at the road. Then, they both look at each other, and honk the horn twice (NOTE: These honks were short and high, unlike other series where they were long and changing pitch). The camera cuts to a slightly low shot of Lisa, wobbling back and forth on her bike, with a large stack of books in the bike basket and her saxophone case behind her. She hits a bump, and all the books fly into the air, and then land safely back in the basket. She makes a turn (to our left) down the street past a couple of trees, and finally arriving at the house. In an overhead view, she jumps off her bike in the driveway, grabbing her books and instrument case. The bike moves into the garage, the door already opening for Homer's car, as Lisa runs to the door. Homer's car comes from left to right, makes the turn into the driveway and stops. From the right, Bart one-hops his skateboard across Homer's car. Homer gets out just in time to see Marge's car. He screams, and runs into the garage as her car pulls in behind. Looking over his shoulder frightened, he opens the door. (In "Bart the Genius," Homer's scream is absent). Upon entering their house, they speed towards the living room couch, with a different gag occurring. In the living room, the couch is brown, a mouse hole is seen and the painting is a crooked nature painting of a pond. As the theme song ends, the camera cuts to the TV set and show the credits (Created by: Matt Groening. Developed by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon). The TV set (close-up) is orange-brown, with an antenna to the top left. Bottom of TV: Dials (3) are green and there are two buttons.
The only two episodes with the short version of the opening are "Bart the General" and "Life on the Fast Lane". The opening still features the title and town swoop across Springfield, but cuts to the Simpsons's home, after the shot of the school. In this opening, the music starts out normally with the choir and the usual music during the Springfield swoop, but the main melody becomes a more bombastic fanfare. The seventh note is drawn out, with a drum roll leading to a quick repeat of that note, and the start of the episode.
In some broadcasts of "Life on the Fast Lane," this went straight from the title to the TV credits. The music is the 0:01-0:06 of the theme leading up the 1:19-1-27 of the theme.
On some broadcasts of "Some Enchanted Evening," at the power plant, the top circle dims red and the bottom circle dims green.
Season 2-20 (October 11, 1990-January 25, 2009)
The sequence once again opens with the show's title zooming in on the camera and all dies down. But this time, the sky has a much brighter blue color, with several cumulus clouds which part, as the text appears. Flying through the loop, we focus on one purple cooling tower. We see the power plant, welcome sign, and Springfield Prison behind the plant. We fly over the power plant and tire yard, toward downtown Springfield. "Painless Dentistry" is replaced with "Candy Dandy" as we move towards the Springfield Elementary School, which is now orange with purple accents instead of lavender. The infamous streetlamp glitch happens as we move toward the school—it snaps violently to the right (this is only in a handful of episodes in seasons 2-20). The sequence of Bart writing the Chalkboard Gag is also redone. The walls are now dark-green, there is a clock showing 4:00 PM, and a wastebasket stands to Bart's right. A portrait hangs on the right side of the blackboard, and bookcase full of books sits behind him. Bart stops writing for a second and glares at the chalkboard. When the bell rings, he grins, runs out of the classroom, and skates out of the school, flying gleefully past the flagpole. (NOTE: The episode "Little Orphan Millie" has Bart laughing as he runs out of the classroom). Bart also passes a three-story glass and concrete building, a four-story orange building, and some trees and bushes. The animation used during this scene is much smoother and the perspective problem is solved. The next shot shows Homer leaving the power plant, with the small uranium bar stuck on his back. In this scene, the bald man is replaced with Mr. Burns and Smithers, looking at a layout plan when the end-of-shift whistle blows. Mr. Burns puts his watch up to his ear and shakes it, as if he believes it has stopped. The caution sign over Homer's head has a green light on top, and a red light on the bottom.
It then goes to the Grocery store, where Marge is reading the "Mom Monthly" with Itchy And Scratchy page magazine. The background is more orange than red, as in the first season opening sequence. Maggie's hands are also now straight on her side rather than put in triangle position and as she is checked out the cash register flashes $847.63. Back at the school, Lisa is shown at band rehearsal, with a slightly deeper sax solo (either the Simpsons theme or a different tune). Also, many colors of Lisa's saxophone, all of the background, many photos, as well as sax solo characters from the first season intro.
Next, Homer is seen driving and throwing the rod out of the window, but does not bounce near Moe's. Bart skates in with a big grin, past a store with an "Open" sign as he turns into a corner. He makes a better turn, with both feet on the board. He passes Helen Lovejoy, carrying bags from the Springfield Mall, passes a book store, dodges to the right, passes Apu Nahasapeemapetilon walking a small barking dog. Bart then dodges left, passes Moe Szyslak, holding a towel and standing in his doorway, passes an approaching Barney (who belches) on his left, passes Jacques (who's walking right) carrying a bowling ball and dodges left. TV screens with Krusty appear in the window. Bart looks for a minute, then grins again. He passes Bleeding Gums Murphy, who's facing the street with his sax around his shoulder. Bart, then passes Clancy Wiggum standing on the corner, who yells and shakes his baton at Bart. (NOTE: The episodes, "Little Orphan Millie" and "Husbands and Knives" has some voices accompanying the people Bart skateboards past). The town square, with the Jebediah Springfield statue is seen in the background. Marge's car comes from the right and turns on to the street that Bart crossed. In this version and beyond, the car is orange, and a low shot of the car approaching is moved after the second time Maggie steers. In the next scene, Lisa's bike sequence is removed. Instead, the camera very quickly pans over a static landscape shot of various Springfield locales and a mix of both familiar and relatively unknown characters. The zip-pan to the right shot includes: the highway, Milhouse playing baseball with Lewis and Richard, kids playing in a yard, Nelson and his thugs (the Weasels) with a kid in a trashcan, Jimbo and Kearney threatening Martin, Mr and Mrs Winfield in rocking chairs, Patty and Selma suntanning with cone bikini tops, Kent Brockman reporting, Sherri and Terri holding hands, Herman, Grampa and Jasper holding a book, the retirement castle, man reading the retirement castle sign, old folks walking out (like those that Marge sees holding hands in "Life on the Fast Lane)" man holding thumbs up, Lou and Eddie behind a barricade, Marvin Monroe holding a clipboard, Wendell with his head out of the bus ready to puke, Dr. Hibbert comparing notes with Monroe, two blond girls, cat-eye glass girl in street, Otto next to broken down bus, a bucktoothed boy from orchestra in street, a mountain on the background, a bluebird that Maude sees, Flanders house, Ned and Todd, holding another bluebird.
The Simpsons all arrive home at the same time. This time there is oil stain, and Homer arrives home first. Also, after Bart lands on the car roof with his skateboard, the garage door opens and Homer gets out making a face at Bart, closing the door. He quickly dodges Lisa on her bike and yells, "D'oh!" as she takes her bike up to the front door. He steps back out and screams as Marge's car approaches. He looks over his left shoulder, then his right as he runs into the garage. (NOTE: During Marge's view, the car still happens to be red from the first season). This is followed by the Couch Gag. In the living room, the painting is a crooked sailboat pic. The TV set is blueish purple. Dials on right of set: two on top, blue speaker below, on top of the TV a blue VCR and the antenna on top. (NOTE: In "Marge vs. the Monorail," entire characters including Martin Prince, Jr., which will be not in sax solos until the 2009 opening) The theme music was composed by Alf Clausen.
This section is about the original prototype version of this opening, as used on Season Two episodes. Danny Elfman was called back to re-arrange the theme for the second season. This version sounds slightly similar to the first season music, and is louder and more bombastic than the other versions, with the school band sounding slightly distorted. Also, Bart's chalk still squeaks, unlike later episodes and beyond. The final use of the chalk squeaking was in the episode "Homer Defined." The melody when Homer arrives at the driveway is different from other seasons, and Homer's scream is more high-pitched. Also during the driveway scene, Homer's "D'oh!" was muted for almost the first half of the season, when Lisa drives past him. It was eventually added, starting with "Bart Gets Hit by a Car,." A variety of different screams were also used throughout the season, when Marge pulls in. A slightly longer and lower-pitched scream was used in the second episode, "Simpson and Delilah," while Homer's scream from the season 1 opening was reused in "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish." The Homer's "D'oh!" is used alongside the original season 2 scream in "Bart Gets Hit by a Car," having Homer scream once: when Lisa drives past and when Marge pulls in. For the last four episodes of season 2, starting with "Lisa's Substitute," an slightly alternate take of the season 2 scream was used, sounding somewhat similar to the season 1 scream.
In "Bart Gets an F," a variety of darker and brighter colors were used. During the rest of the show (until Season 20), starting with "Simpson and Delilah," everything remained the same, except for the music and the colors in Bart's classroom. This version was used in all of season 2, as well as in "When Flanders Failed," a season 2 holdover that aired during season 3.
Since season 3, the show has used an arrangement of the opening theme by Alf Clausen, which is less staccato and more polished compared to other versions. This season also was the start of Lisa's variable solos (previously, she always played the main theme melody), and Homer's exclamations at the driveway were changed to their more well-known versions. Also, the colors in Bart's classroom remained the same, since the animators used computer animation to rewrite each chalkboard gag. This version of the theme was first heard in its condensed form on the season 3 premiere "Stark Raving Dad," though the full-length version did not debut until "Saturdays of Thunder" in November 1991.
Season 20, starting with Episode 11 (February 15, 2009-present)
This new HD sequence opens with the show's title zooming in on the camera while moving forwards through clouds. (In the HD version it's a lot more clouds than the older intro). A crow with three eyes flies by (it could also be a character) as the chorus sing the title. It continues to zoom in on the town where it goes by the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant Power Plant and the Springfield Tire Yard. Then we see Jimbo Jones and Kearney Zzyzwicz saw off the head of the Jebediah Springfield statue in front of the town square (a reference to The Telltale Head, when Bart cut it off). You can see Springfield Town Hall, The Android's Dungeon, Krusty Burger, Phineas Q. Butterfats Ice Cream, Pawn Shop and other buildings in the background. The head then falls off on Ralph Wiggum, about to eat an ice cream. In the first ten HD episodes he said different things after getting the head on him but they have quit with that now. Panning behind Ralph, the camera passes by The Android's Dungeon and a Lard Lad Donut Statue (where the crow lands) on the left and a new Billboard gag, that changes every episode, on the right. The scene continues to zoom in through a window of Springfield Elementary, where Bart is writing the Chalkboard gag. (NOTE: The newest opening spends a lot more time on the previous gags, so the pan to the Springfield Elementary School to Bart's classroom is quicker, with slightly less time to read the gag before it's all in view). In the classroom, the portrait on the wall is of Homer as an astronaut. In the older episodes it was George Washington. The bell rings and Bart zooms out of the school, onto his skateboard, and lands into a pile of leaves Groundskeeper Willie just finished raked up. As Bart jumps off the pile, Barney Gumble is revealed under the pile and belches drinking. The next scene shows Homer getting ready to head back home with a uranium bar stuck on his back. In the background, Lenny Leonard and Carl Carlson were putting up the number three over the number two on a sign that says 'Days Without An Accident.' However, they fall off the ladder as they hear the whistle for the end of the shift.
The next shot shows Marge reading an magazine with a commercial on the last page with a Absolute Krusty Vodka (it's a parody of Absolute Vodka) and Maggie, with Selma Bouvier and Patty Bouvier purchasing Laramie cigarettes. The items on the conveyor belt include Tomacco juice and Mr. Sparkle power clean detergent (labeled in katakana). When a box of Krusty-O's is scanned, the total amount on the register changes from $236.60 to $243.26, which means the price of the cereal is $6.66. Maggie is inadvertently scanned too, which doubles the register total to $486.52, and she is mistakenly packaged with the groceries. The cashier's race has also been changed, from the original yellow representing Caucasians, to a darker color, possibly indicating an African-American. Marge looks mildly concerned but smiles well as Maggie pops out of the bag. Maggie then sees Baby Gerald and shakes her fist at him as Gerald does the same. During Lisa's sax solo, more "common" characters are shown in the orchestra. Recognizable characters include (back row, right to left) Wendell, Database, Martin Prince, Jessica Lovejoy (the daughter of Reverend Lovejoy, Richard, and Lewis, and (front row, right to left) Janey, Milhouse, Sherri and Terri, and Lisa. Sherri and Terri is now texting on their phones instead of playing their flutes. Also, Largo dismisses Lisa earlier, showing her longer. At the end of her solo, she ducks inside briefly for a flourish and smiles. This part may be of variable length, and a split second longer than the previous opening. Also, there is an additional picture of Bleeding Gums Murphy on the wall. Starting with "Judge Me Tender," Lisa occasionally plays different instruments, aside from the saxophone. In three episodes, Lisa plays a trumpet. In a season 22 episode, Lisa plays the violin, while in "Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts," "At Long Last Leave," she plays a tuba. Lisa also plays a harp in "Monty Burns' Fleeing Circus."
Meanwhile, after Homer discards the uranium bar, it lands on Otto Mann (this time there is no dust when the rod bounces away). Otto, not knowing what it is, eats it. Bart skateboards by and turns the corner with a muted whoosh. He passes Sideshow Bob, who tries to kill Bart by swinging a machete, Helen Lovejoy, Apu and his eight children, Moe (at Moe's), Jeffery Albertson, Disco Stu (who protests, sometimes audibly), a window of HD televisions showing Krusty, Eleanor Abernathy (a.k.a. Crazy Cat Lady), the Rich Texan, who shoots his guns and once again, Clancy Wiggum who waves his nightstick. Hans Moleman peeks out the manhole in the street, but Marge's car slams it shut with a clang as it passes by. In this scene, Grampa is seen in the passenger seat during the Marge reveal (but not until then), with Maggie in the middle. When they honk the horn, he wakes up confused and loses his false teeth as he was sitting right next to them in the car. The camera very quickly pans over the same static landscape shot of various Springfield locales and a mix of both familiar and relatively unknown characters like the last opening, but this time it includes a lot more characters, even God and the Devil. The new shot includes:
Agnes and Chalmers interogating Skinner, Milhouse playing ball with Richard and Lewis, Willie on his tractor, Ralph playing on Frank Grimes's grave, Martin about to be beaten by Jimbo, Kearney, and Dolph, Squeaky-Voiced Teen, Quimby and Miss Springfield wearing each other's sashes, Chazz Busby, the sea captain holding a three-eyed fish, Patty and Selma still sunbathing in those suits, Cletus and Brandine with Plopper the pig, Kang and Kodos in a UFO, Burns and Smithers, Kent and a cameraman, Sherri and Terri still texting, Krusty smoking on a wall with "El Barto" graffiti, Bumblebee Man and Luigi watching the UFO, Eddie and Lou at the bus roadblock, Snake stealing Lou's gun, Fat Tony with Legs and Louie burying someone, Miss Hoover changing the flat tire on the broken-down bus, Wendell still leaning out of the bus (sick), kids in front including Janey, Dr. Hibbert with a clipboard (but no Monroe), Duffman, Jessica Lovejoy, Mr. Teeny and Sideshow Mel, God (whose head is off-screen) fighting the devil (who's standing on a tower), and finally Rod and Todd playing in their yard.
During the driveway scene, there is oil stain on the pavement. Marge is seen driving her car, but inside the car, we can see she's using her telephone as opposed to having both hands firmly on the steering wheel, so she didn't see the road and that she hit Homer. Also, the main change is that instead of running away from Marge's car and screaming, Homer is hit with the car and flattened on the hood; instead of running through the door, he is hurled grunting through it by inertia, leaving a Homer-shaped hole. Upon entering their house, the couch gag follows. The living room is mostly the same, but the TV is now a widescreen HD model, with the antenna still on top. Again, a widescreen set, with four unmarked buttons on the right, speakers below. A VCR or some unit is on top still. As the theme song ends, the television showing the opening credits falls off as if it was hung on the wall. Also, unlike the previous opening sequences, there is no cut to black, and the episode begins immediately. On some episodes including "Bart Gets a Z," the television showing the credits from the opening theme stands there (does not fall off as if it wasn't hung on the wall) before the episode will begin.
The following locations are shown:
- Phineas Q. Butterfat's 5600 Flavors Ice Cream Parlor
- Springfield Nuclear Power Plant
- Springfield Tire Yard
- Springfield Town Square
- Springfield Town Hall
- Aztec Theater
- Skip's Diner
- The Android's Dungeon
- Duff Brewery
- Krusty Burger
- KBBL Radio
- Springfield Sign
- Burns Manor
- Lard Lad Donuts
- Springfield Elementary School
- Evergreen Terrace
- Springfield Cemetery
- Moe's Tavern
Approximately the first half minute of the opening, (until Homer leaving work) remains the same, with a few oddities: the word "BANKSY" is sprayed onto a number of walls and other public spaces, including the billboard gag from "Take My Life, Please." The Chalkboard gag "(I must not write all over the walls)" is written all over the classroom walls, clock, door, and floor.
After the Simpsons arrive at home, the camera cuts to a shot of them on the couch, then zooms out to show this as a picture hanging on the wall of a fictional overseas Asian animation and merchandise sweatshop. The animation color quickly becomes drab and gray, and the music becomes dramatic and similar to that of Schindler's List.
A large group of tired and sickly artists draw animation cels for The Simpsons amongst piles of human bones and toxic waste, and a female artist hands a barefoot child employee an animation cel, which he washes in a vat of biohazardous fluid.
The camera tracks down to a lower floor on the building, where small kittens are thrown into a woodchipper-type machine to provide the filling for Bart Simpson plush dolls. The toys are then placed in to a cart pulled by a panda which is driven by a man with a whip. A man shipping boxes with The Simpsons logo on the side uses the tongue from a decapitated dolphin head to fasten shut the packages. Another employee uses the horn of a sickly unicorn to smash the holes in the center of The Simpsons DVDs. The shot zooms out to reveal that sweatshop is contained within a grim version of the 20th Century Fox logo, surrounded by barbed wire, searchlights, and a watchtower. The entire scene is running on the Simpsons's TV set.
British graffiti artist and political activist Banksy is credited with creating the opening titles and couch gag for this episode, in what amounted to the first time that an artist has been invited to storyboard the show. Executive Producer Al Jean first took note of Banksy after seeing his 2010 film Exit Through the Gift Shop. According to Jean, "The concept in my mind was, 'What if this graffiti artist came in and tagged our main titles?'" Simpsons Casting Director Bonita Pietila was able to contact the artist through the film's producers, and asked if he would be interested in writing a main title for the show. Jean said Banksy "sent back boards for pretty much what you saw." Series creator Matt Groening gave the idea his blessing, and helped try to make the sequence as close to Banksy's original storyboards as possible. Fox's standards and practices department demanded a handful of changes, but, according to Jean, "95 percent of it is just the way he wanted."
Banksy told The Guardian that his opening sequence was influenced by The Simpsons long-running use of animation studios in Seoul, South Korea. The newspaper also reported that the creation of the sequence "is said to have been one of the most closely guarded secrets in US television – comparable to the concealment of Banksy's own identity."
BBC News reported that "According to Banksy, his storyboard led to delays, disputes over broadcast standards and a threatened walk out by the animation department." However, Al Jean disputed this, saying "[The animation department] didn't walk out. Obviously they didn't. We've depicted the conditions in a fanciful light before." Commenting on hiring Banksy to create the titles, Jean joked, "This is what you get when you outsource." Although conceding to the fact that The Simpsons is largely animated in South Korea, Jean went on to state that the scenes shown in titles are "very fanciful, far-fetched. None of the things he depicts are true. That statement should be self-evident, but I will emphatically state it."
Colby Hall of Mediaite called the sequence "a jaw-dropping critique of global corporate licensing, worker exploitation and over-the-top dreariness of how western media companies (in this case, 20th Century Fox) takes advantage of outsourced labor in developing countries." Melissa Bell of The Washington Post felt Banksy's titles had helped revive The Simpsons' "edge," but after "the jarring opening, the show went back to its regular routine of guest cameos, self-referential jokes and tangential story lines." Marlow Riley of MTV wrote "as satire, [the opening is a bit over-the-top. What is shocking is that Fox ran Banksy's ballsy critique of outsourcing, The Simpsons, and the standards and human rights conditions that people in first world nations accept. It's uncomfortable and dark, and not what's expected from the modern Simpsons, which mainly consists of 'Homer hurts himself' jokes."
After season 1, there were several different edits done for this opening. The two original edits (condensed and short) had their own musical arrangements done by both Elfman (season 2) and Clausen (season 3+), and the cut-and-condensed version also had its own Clausen arragement. Others were edited from longer versions of the opening.
The camera goes from the "P" of the title card directly to the classroom with Bart's Chalkboard Gag, skipping the swoop through Springfield. After the bell rings, the scene shifts to Homer at the Power Plant, thus skipping Bart skating out of the front doors of the school. After Lisa's sax solo, the scene goes straight to the driveway, where Homer pulls in.
The version with Elfman's arrangement debuted in January 1991 ("One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish"), and was used several more times during season 2. The version with the Clausen's theme was used frequently during season 3 (starting with "Stark Raving Dad" in September 1991), and occasionally during seasons 4, 5, and 8. It has only been used sporadically since then. It has also been the only short version of the theme to be released on CD. Another version of this opening (with the Elfman arrangement) exists in syndication, muting all sound and vocal effects (the chorus singing "The Simpsons", the school and work bells, Maggie sucking, the cashier beeping, Homer's exclamations), until Marge pulls in.
In this abbreviated version of the opening, the camera goes directly from the "P" to the driveway scene. "Lisa's Substitute" (from April 1991) was the only episode to use this opening with Elfman's arrangement. The version with the Clausen arrangement has its first "official" appearance on "Lisa the Greek" (January 1992), though it appeared on some FOX airings of earlier episodes in order to make room for such events as music video debuts.
This version began to be used more frequently during season 5, and again from seasons 7-9. It was not used during seasons 10-12 (aside from season 9 holdovers), but it made a comeback in season 13 and has remained in regular usage since. Additionally, this opening (with the Clausen arrangement) often replaces longer openings in syndication. It was even used on some airings of "Treehouse of Horror X," the only Halloween episode to use the short opening. However, on the syndication airings and on some stations cut out this opening.
Cut and condensed version
This opening goes from the "P" of the title card to Bart's classroom, then cuts directly to the driveway scene. Since it debuted in season 5, it has only featured a Clausen arrangement, which has markedly different instrumentation than other Clausen versions during the classroom scene.
This version debuted in December 1993 on the episode "$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)." It was used frequently during seasons 5-7, occasionally during seasons 8-9, and only sporadically since then. It was used again in Season 16's "On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister."
More short versions
A very short version was used on some airings of "Sideshow Bob Roberts," including the DVD. It cut directly from the clouds to the "Created By/Developed By" credits on the TV screen, with a slightly different arrangement of the theme's closing bars (which may be one of Elfman's score cues). This short version returns in HD in the Season 26 episode: "The Musk Who Fell To Earth."
In "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular", a special version of the cut and condensed opening retains the Springfield swoop, although still cutting from Bart exiting the classroom to the driveway scene. This is followed by the couch gags from "A Streetcar Named Marge," "Lisa the Beauty Queen," "Marge vs. the Monorail," "Homer's Triple Bypass," "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk," "Homer Goes to College," "A Star is Burns," "Homer the Great," "Homer Badman," "Lisa's Rival," "Bart's Comet" and "Lisa's First Word." During all of this the full version of the opening theme plays.
"Barting Over" and "Homer's Paternity Coot" used similarly edited versions of the full opening, cutting from Lisa's sax solo to Marge and Maggie in the car. "Barting Over" also featured an extended classroom sequence with Bart using an axe to chop the chalkboard, while "Homer's Paternity Coot" featured a slightly shortened version of the Marge/Maggie sequence. Also in "Barting Over," part of the closing theme plays between when the school is shown and after Bart finishes axing the chalkboard.
"Million Dollar Abie" introduced a version of the opening that had a similar sequence to the condensed version, but was edited from the full version. It retained the Springfield swoop and Bart skating out of school, but cut from Lisa's sax solo to the driveway. It has been used occasionally since season 17. "G.I. (Annoyed Grunt)" uses the same version, but cuts from Lisa's sax solo to Homer's scream in the driveway when Marge pulls in. In "500 Keys," the opening cuts out the supermarket scene with Marge and Maggie. This opening was used very frequently in seasons 22 and 23, alongside the short opening with the driveway and couch gag scenes. The full opening even became absent after "Homer Scissorhands." It eventually made a comeback in "A Test Before Trying." This version with the season 2 opening appears in a season 27 episode about Halloween.
A version similar to the cut-and-condensed opening, but shorter, was used on "The Sweetest Apu." It cuts from Bart exiting the classroom to Marge's view of Homer running from the car and into the house.
In "Replaceable You," the opening goes from Bart skating over Barney to the driveway scene. Several episodes, starting with "The Ten-Per-Cent Solution" used a shorter version of this opening, in which after the bell rings in Bart's classroom, we cut to the rest of the driveway scene, after Homer has pulled in.
"The Ned-liest Catch" introduced an extremely short version which went straight from the "P" of the title card directly to the beginning of the episode, and therefore skipping the rest of the opening. This has been used occasionally for several episodes of seasons 23 and 24, and has made a comeback in the Season 28 episode "The Town." In "The Great Simpsina," the entire opening, including the title card, was completely skipped.
In "A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again," the opening goes from the "P" to the couch gag. In "Pulpit Friction" and "Whiskey Business," the TV credits are skipped, going straight to the episode. (The couch gag from "Pulpit Friction" actually becomes part of the episode's plot.)
In "Gone Abie Gone," the opening goes from the "p" to Bart's chalkboard gag, which goes straight to the couch gag, after Bart bounces on Barney.
At the very beginning, the Created by Matt Groening credit zooms in on the clouds. The camera zooms through the "O" and the opening continues, but this time, the Developed by credit is in the first half of the driveway and the TV credits are replaced by the title of the special. The theme looks spacey.
It was the second time they had done so, the first being in September 2000 as part of a weekend celebrating the 10th anniversary of the show premiering in the UK. Except for the very first shot in which the logo appears out of the clouds, every piece of the opening is present in this version, with even multiple chalkboard and couch gags filmed. Attached to the end of this sequence is the message "Come home to The Simpsons on Sky One." A version was also made for cinema distribution. Because the live action sequence was made in the UK, there are some slight cultural differences, such as Homer and Marge driving on the left in a right hand drive car, the actor playing Chief Wiggum wearing a British police uniform, and the quick swoop between the Marge and Maggie and Homer car sequences has been removed.
The sequence was used instead of the regular opening titles on the episode "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife," first broadcast on Fox on March 26, 2006 with the images during the driving scenes mirrored so that the cars appeared to be driving on the right side of the road with the steering wheel on the left side of the car. This intro was produced by Pipeworks Software and directed by Chris Palmer.
For later reruns of the episode, the short opening from "Million Dollar Abie" was used.
Unlike several of the Treehouse of Horror episodes, this episode uses a Halloween-style version of the cut-and-condensed opening. In the classroom, Bart writes "The Simpsons Halloween Special IX." in blood (dipping the brush into a jack-o-lantern bucket when it's time for a refill). After he exits, Homer pulls into the driveway. Bart skateboards in from the right, jumps the retaining wall, and bounces off the roof of Homer's car only to land with a thud in the driveway. Lisa races in on her bike and slams into Bart's battered body. The impact launches her from the bike, and Lisa is firmly lodged into the wall of the garage, just above the door. Marge and Maggie cheerily drive in, beeping their horn, but Homer is too slow in getting out of the way. He becomes a permanent hood ornament for Marge's car. Meanwhile, in the Simpson living room Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees wait vainly for the family to arrive. Freddie glances at his watch, and says they should have arrived by now. Jason just shrugs and takes things in stride. Ironically, Homer being hit by Marge's car would later be incorporated into the updated opening for Season 21 onward (although obviously without Homer being killed or becoming a permanent hood ornament.
A Christmas-themed version was animated for "Kill Gil: Vols. 1 & 2" and later reaired with "The Burns and the Bees." It begins with two lines of instrumental "O Christmas Tree" and then the normal theme music begins. This version is similar to the normal version, except for several key differences:
- Everything outside is covered with snow.
- Bart's skateboard has been replaced with a snowboard.
- Everyone is wearing winter clothes.
- Mr. Burns and Smithers have been replaced by a Scrooge-esque Burns and Ghost of Marley-esque Smithers, and there are several Christmas banners in the plant.
- Lisa's saxophone solo is a jazzy version "Deck the Halls."
- Bleeding Gums Murphy, who is now deceased, has been replaced with Jasper in a Santa costume. Maude Flanders and Marvin Monroe however, remains in the pan across Springfield, despite having also passed away.
- Marge and Maggie's supermarket and car sequence have unfortunately been cut.
In the end, the family sits on the couch and the camera then pulls out to reveal that the family was reflected in a Christmas ornament, which rests on a Christmas tree.
The sequence was completely remade for The Simpsons Movie and features the orchestrated version of "The Simpsons Theme" as adapted by Hans Zimmer, which is slightly different from the first track of The Simpsons Movie: The Music CD. The pre-sequence scene is displayed in a 16:9 television aspect ratio, with black matte bars at either end of the screen. As the sequence begins with the "The Simpsons" logo appearing out of the clouds, Professor Frink flies past in one of his inventions carrying a banner marked "MOVIE" and singing "Moo-vie! On the big screen!!" (on the DVD and VHS version, he says "Moo-vie! On the small screen!!)." When he hits the bar on the left side, both it and the one on the right nudge out of view so that the image fills the entire screen.
Instead of going through the P of "SIMPSONS," the camera goes through the O of "MOVIE" as the banner falls loose. The camera zooms in on the town, with several major landmarks popping-up. The camera then zooms in to Mr. Burns, who is holding a toothbrush in his bathroom with Smithers who gives him toothpaste, the extra weight of the toothpaste causes frail Mr. Burns to collapse. The camera then zooms past Moe's Tavern into the Kwik-E-Mart where Apu is secretly changing the expiration date on one of his products from 2006 to 2008. Next the camera cuts to Springfield Elementary where Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney are hoisting Martin up a flagpole by his underwear and saluting it as if it were a flag. The camera then zooms through the window where Bart is writing lines for detention "(I will not illegally download this movie)" before finishing with Green Day who are hosting a concert at Lake Springfield, playing their version of "The Simpsons Theme and using a teleprompter to get its "lyrics" right.
The Simpsons Movie callback
For "He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs," the first new Simpsons episode to air after the release of The Simpsons Movie, a callback sequence was animated. The sequence begins with Bart writing lines on the chalkboard, writing "I will not wait 20 years to make another movie." The school bell rings and he skates outside the door, showing Groundskeeper Willie, Seymour Skinner, Edna Krabappel and other residents of Springfield restoring the town after the events of the movie. The multi-eyed creature from the movie is seen jumping onto Bart's shoulders, but is hit by a wrecking ball into a billboard of "Burns's Constructions," suggesting that Mr. Burns is attempting to regain his lost wealth by making money from the incident. The camera then pans on a large shard of glass, a piece from the destroyed dome. Bart rides on the piece, and weaves in between characters from the movie; President Schwarzenegger, Colin, Moe Szyslak (in his "Emperor" attire and shouting Hey!), Russ Cargill, and the Medicine Woman, who waves her hand in a similar manner to Chief Wiggum and shouts "Why you..."
The family arrives home to 742 Evergreen Terrace, which is shown to be still under construction. Homer's car arrives with the Pig Crap silo strapped on top. The family arrive to sit on the couch, where Plopper the pig is currently sitting, with the "Spider-Pig" tune being played in the background. Homer then grabs Plopper and proclaims that the pig is his "summer love."
In the Opening of "To Surveil With Love" the Simpsons characters Lip synced to Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" as part of the "Fox Rocks" event on the FOX channel. This is the first canonical episode that does not feature the original theme song in the opening sequence in any capacity, in the show's history. The sequence features the characters performing actions that relate to the lyrics of the song. Lisa wakes up in her room and sings "Wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy." We see Bart open a door behind and say "Yo, what up girl" in his voice, rather than the original. The bedroom set is filed out by children and it ends up being outside of Springfield Elementary, and Lisa sings "Grab my glasses, I'm out the door, I'm gonna hit this city," stealing Milhouse's glasses. Groundskeeper Willie walks in with a Jack Daniels in his hands and sings "Before I leave, brush my teeth, with a bottle of Jack." Edna Krabappel comes in to the shot when Willie starts to walk into the school, and sings "Cause when I leave for the night, I ain't coming back," pulling Willie into one of the classrooms. Sherri, Terri, and Martin are seen with pedicures on their toes singing on a bench and sing, "I'm talking pedicures on our toes-toes." It pans to Ralph in the lost-and-founds basket, covered in clothes, singing "Tryiing on all our clothes-clothes." It goes to Skinner and Chalmers dancing and Jimbo, Kearney, and Dolph blowing up a phone as the lyrics "Boys blowing up our phones-phones" is sung. It goes to the music room where Dewey Largo sings, "Drop-topping, playin' our favorite CD's." The camera pans to outside of the school and shows Otto pulling up to the school in a bus and he sings "Cooling in at the party, trying to get a little bit tipsy," and falls to the ground. It turns to Nelson, who is on the bus, fist-pumping, with Richard, Lewis, Melissa, and Rod and Todd Flanders in the background, and sings "Don't stop, make it pop, DJ blow my speakers up." The camera fades to outside of the bus and goes into Moe's Tavern, where Sam the barfly is fighting a random man, Larry the barfly is fighting Barney, and Lenny and Carl are strangling each other. Moe and Homer have their arms over one another's shoulders singing "Tonight, Imma fight, 'til we see the sunlight." Marge comes in, tapping her arm where a watch should be and sings "Tik tok, on the clock." Marge pulls Homer out of the bar, away from Moe, and Homer sings, "But the party don't stop, no." Snake Jailbird's car passes by and he sings "Oh, oh, oh, oh." Chief Wiggum's police car passes by, with Lou in it with him, and they sing "Oh, oh, oh, oh." As Marge and Homer walk home, we see Apu, Manjula, and the octuplets outside of the Kwik-E-Mart, singing, "Don't stop, make it pop." It fades to Comic Book Guy who sings "DJ turn my speakers up." He has a hot dog that is stolen by Santa's Little Helper before he can eat it. As the lyrics "Tonight, Imma fight, 'til we see the sunlight" are sung, we see Santa's Little Helper run to play with Snowball V, Abe Simpson and Old Jewish Man on scooters, God and the Devil making out, Ned Flanders with a finger over his lips to tell everyone to be quiet, Dr. Hibbert break dancing, Surly Duff, and Patty and Selma doing luau dances. Marge and Homer get home where Bart, Lisa, and Maggie are dancing and singing "Tik tok, on the clock." During the lines "But the party don't stop, no," the Simpsons run into the living room and sit on the couch, which is then lifted into the air by several other characters celebrating their arrival, who are Milhouse, Willie, Skinner, and Krabappel once again, as well as characters absent from the rest of the song, that are Krusty the Clown, Nick Riviera, Rainier Wolfcastle, Dredrick Tatum, Professor Frink, Duffman, Burns, and Smithers. The song ends with the Simpsons tired out on the couch, with Maggie notably sucking her pacifier. The TV set is in a different angle.
In the Opening of "My Fare Lady", the opening is conducted in an 8-Bit synthesizer, while the animation was reminiscient to an eight-bit video game. The overall opening was similar to the Season 2-20 opening sequence, although with the following differences:
- Bart when landing on the pavement on his skateboard does not land on a pile of leaves.
- Frank Grimes has a brief cameo as a angel peeking from behind a corner watching Homer angrily.
- Instead of regular grocery items, Marge's segment has as part of her checkout line a Super Mario Bros. Mushroom, a Chaos Emerald, and a bit coin alongside Maggie. The person who scans Maggie accidentally is Apu, unlike in the original who was an unidentified clerk. In addition, instead of the price for Maggie, it just shows a smiley face on the price display for the scanner when Maggie is scanned.
- The class save for Lisa are playing with handheld gaming systems.
- The rod Homer discards on the way home makes direct contact with Bart, which powers him up and gives him 100 points, whereas in the original opening, it does not actually touch Bart at all.
- In addition, Bart drives past Ned Flanders as well as Maude Flanders's ghost, Princess Kashmir, several dogs, and bounces on Moe's head and gains 100 points, unlike in the original opening where those characters save for Moe aren't bounced on. Also, the Be Sharps have a brief appearance during Bart's stunt. Near the TV store are Poochie, Hans Moleman "deprogrammed" during the events of Burns' Heir, Roy, and Chief Wiggum, the latter of whom is the only character who appeared in the original opening. In addition the Lard Lad statue briefly comes to life and winks just as Bart passes by and Marge drives up.
- During the driving segments for Marge and Maggie, the screen shows an overhead view, with cameos during the first outside car segment including Truckasaurus and a bear, and the second segment including Stampy, one of The Seven Duffs, and Number One of the Stonecutters. When it cuts back to inside the car, besides Marge and Maggie, it is shown that Santa's Little Helper and Snowball II are in the car as well.
- The crowd shot is mostly the same, although it also includes Edna Krabappel, the snakes from Whacking Day, Agnes Skinner, Seymour Skinner and Gary Chalmers talking with each other, Leon Kompowsky and Sideshow Bob, Pepi, McBain, Hank Scorpio, Lyle Lanley, Capital City Goofball, Troy McClure, Jacques, John, Joe Quimby, Prom-era Artie Ziff, Mindy Simmons, Kang and Kodos, Bobo, Charles Montgomery Burns, Waylon Smithers, Jr., Sir Oinks-A-Lot, Horatio McCallister holding Blinky, Krusty the Clown smoking, Mr. Teeny, She's the Fastest, the lamb from "Lisa the Vegetarian", Lionel Hutz, Fat Tony with a shovel, Phillips, Lurleen Lumpkin, Roger Meyers, Jr., Bart's "modified" weather balloon, Jebediah Springfield, and . In addition, during the segment showing Martin Prince being bullied by the bullies, Kearney Zzyzwicz's son, Kearney Zzyzwicz, Jr., is seen with him. The characters from the original opening who are absent are the Winfields, Jasper, Abraham Simpson, Nelson Muntz, and some kids near the street. Maude is also absent, with Ned instead showing his kids a sign saying "left pwr."
- Instead of the interior of the garage when Homer runs inside to evade Marge's car, Homer is seen running through a green cyberspace corridor before disappearing through a corner.
- During the Couch gag, the cyberspace fluctuates before forming a rift that has the family alternating between various forms, referencing various incarnations of them before disintegrating into multiple bits as it shows a surreal pillar showing Mr. Sparkle, Krusty, Kang and Kodos, Bart with an "Eat my Shorts" T Shirt and Lisa as an angel, before finally showing a ghostly Maggie going up to a TV and flying in as it cuts to the TV screen.
Dad Behavior opening
Bart, after writing "I will watch all 600 episodes without sleeping", leaves the school via skateboard, also bouncing off Barney in a leaf pile. This time, however, Barney gets irritated and breaks Bart's skateboard, to Bart's dejection. Meanwhile, Homer is about to take off when the plant whistle blows, but ends up accidentally eating and swallowing a carbon rod, which presumably kills him. Meanwhile, Lisa makes tracks while playing the saxophone as usual, only to accidentally knock herself out. Then Maggie is seen actually driving the car while Marge is asleep in the back seat, causing Marge to, when waking up and realizing what is going on, try to take back the wheel only to drive off a cliff road. Fortunately, the fall wasn't a steep one, causing the car to relatively safely land and plow through a barn, with Maggie putting her pacifier into a chicken. The car, however, runs out of luck when it sinks into a lake, killing Maggie and Marge (the latter turning up as a floating body). Bart, having presumably walked all the way home, then wonders where everyone is. He then grabs the portraits and then arranges them on the couch and mentions he has control of the remote now. It then cuts to the TV screen, which is slightly sliding due to it being balanced precariously on a media center shipping box.
Parodies within the show
The opening sequence is parodied in several episodes of The Simpsons:
- Additional chalkboard gags are sometimes written by Bart during the episodes outside of the opening. These episodes include "Bart Gets an F," "Bart the Murderer and "Separate Vocations."
- A short parody as "The Thompsons" in the episode "Cape Feare," when the Simpsons go into the witness protection program to avoid Sideshow Bob.
- In a scene from "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie," on Parent-Teacher Night, Mrs. Krabappel gives Marge a full report on how badly Bart has been behaving in school, and then forces her to write "I will try to raise a better child" on the blackboard.
- In a scene from "Please Homer, Don't Hammer 'Em," Bart forces Principal Skinner to write "A Baby Beat Me Up" on the blackboard.
- In the episode "Skinner's Sense of Snow" Bart forces Principal Skinner (who is in a dodgeball sack) to write "I ain't not a dorkus" on the blackboard to which Skinner complains it is a grammtical nightmare and about the cramp in his wrist.
- Once as "The Hurricane" in the episode "Hurricane Neddy."
- In a scene from "Lisa's Date with Density," Lisa receives detention for snickering at Nelson spraying Groundskeeper Willie outside. In addition to this, she writes "I will not be a snickerpuss" on the chalkboard.
- In the middle of "The Heartbroke Kid," the words "THE SIMPSONS" read "THREE WEEKS LATER," and instead of writing on the blackboard, a fat Bart is putting coins in the vending machine. He then (due to his weight gain) cracks the pavement when he leaves the school, bends the lamppost, runs over pedestrians, hits Marge's car and sends it spinning off screen, and crushes the roof of Homer's car, squeezing him out, before finally stumbling into the living room and apparently having a heart attack.
- In the episode "Little Big Girl," Bart is awarded a driver's license, and a section of the opening sequence is shown with Bart at the chalkboard writing "So Long Suckers". He bursts through the school doors in Homer's car, instead of on his skateboard, and speeds away, doing all the same gags as the opening sequence, but instead of nimbly dodging all the obstacles, he runs them over. Homer then pulls into the driveway in Marge's car instead of his own and steps out to enter the house, when the other car lands on him, and Bart walks into the house.
- In the episode "At Long Last Leave," when the Simpsons move in to the Outlands, a fake opening begins. Bart uses spray paint, not chalk. Instead of Bart running out of the school, he uses a motorcycle, and the following two sequences are removed completely. When Homer returns home, Lisa has a helicopter and Marge uses a carriage. A fox replaces the TV.
- Sherri and Terri are huge compared to Millhouse before the new opening sequence.
- In the newer sequence, Sherri and Terri appear to be playing on their phones.
- Before the new opening sequence, Marge's car is a sedan instead of a station wagon.
- The Uranium Rod that accidentally gets caught on Homer's back looks suspiciously like the Carbon rod from Deep Space Homer.
- Nelson doesn't appear in the new opening sequence.
- Reverend Lovejoy doesn't appear in any of the opening sequences.
- Ralph can be seen using Frank's grave as a sandbox.