Before The Simpsons: Homer Groening Directs a 1969 Short Film, The Story, Starring His Kids Maggie, Lisa & Matt

The Sto­ry (1969) is a cute short film about two kids, Matt and Lisa, telling their younger sis­ter Mag­gie a bed­time sto­ry about meet­ing some ani­mals, and an alien, in the woods. You can watch it above. The Matt in this film is none oth­er than Matt Groen­ing, who would go on to cre­ate The Simp­sons. Their dad, Homer, made the movie. The Simp­sons, as Groen­ing admit­ted in an inter­view with Smith­son­ian mag­a­zine, is more than a lit­tle auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal.

I had been draw­ing my week­ly com­ic strip, “Life in Hell,” for about five years when I got a call from Jim Brooks, who was devel­op­ing “The Tracey Ull­man Show” for the brand-new Fox net­work. He want­ed me to come in and pitch an idea for doing lit­tle car­toons on that show. I soon real­ized that what­ev­er I pitched would not be owned by me, but would be owned by Fox, so I decid­ed to keep my rab­bits in “Life in Hell” and come up with some­thing new.

While I was waiting—I believe they kept me wait­ing for over an hour—I very quick­ly drew the Simp­sons fam­i­ly. I basi­cal­ly drew my own fam­i­ly. My father’s name is Homer. My mother’s name is Mar­garet. I have a sis­ter Lisa and anoth­er sis­ter Mag­gie, so I drew all of them. I was going to name the main char­ac­ter Matt, but I didn’t think it would go over well in a pitch meet­ing, so I changed the name to Bart.

Groen­ing incor­po­rat­ed oth­er auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal ele­ments into The Simp­sons too. For instance, the Groen­ing fam­i­ly, like Bart and com­pa­ny, lived on Ever­green Ter­race. In that same inter­view with Smith­son­ian, he all but admit­ted that the show is set in his native Ore­gon. And he even hint­ed that the names of a cou­ple despised school­yard bul­lies made their way into the show.


The real Homer, how­ev­er, was very dif­fer­ent from the donut-obsessed rube in the car­toon. “My father was a real man’s man, you know. He was a B17 bomber pilot in the War, sta­tioned in Eng­land. So I grew up with this very intim­i­dat­ing, tough act to fol­low,” Groen­ing told the Tele­graph. “The nice thing was that he would leave his pens out for me to play with. But then he was not par­tic­u­lar­ly approv­ing of what I came up with.”

And while the ear­ly episodes of the Simp­sons, which show Homer being per­pet­u­al­ly irri­tat­ed by his smart aleck son, hints at the com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ship Groen­ing had with his father, he also cred­its him – and the movie above in par­tic­u­lar – for inspir­ing his huge­ly suc­cess­ful show.

He used to tape-record the fam­i­ly sur­rep­ti­tious­ly, either while we were dri­ving around or at din­ner, and, in 1963, he and I made up a sto­ry about a broth­er and a sis­ter, Lisa and Matt, hav­ing an adven­ture out in the woods with ani­mals. I told it to my sis­ter Lisa, and she in turn told it to my sis­ter Mag­gie. My father record­ed the telling of the sto­ry by Lisa to Mag­gie, and then he used it as the sound­track to a movie. So the idea of dra­ma­tiz­ing the family—Lisa, Mag­gie, Matt—I think was the inspi­ra­tion for doing some­thing kind of auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal with “The Simp­sons.” There is an aspect of the psy­cho­dy­nam­ics of my fam­i­ly in which it makes sense that one of us grew up and made a car­toon out of the fam­i­ly and had it shown all over the world.

via Laugh­ing Squid/Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Before The Simp­sons, Matt Groen­ing Illus­trat­ed a “Student’s Guide” for Apple Com­put­ers (1989)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing one new draw­ing of a vice pres­i­dent with an octo­pus on his head dai­ly. 

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