April 1, 2006

Fans Get Taste of ‘The Simpsons’ Movie

LOS ANGELES -- To learn some long-awaited news about "The Simpsons," television's most popular cartoon family, fans had to go to the movies on Friday.

Film studio 20th Century Fox released a 25-second promotional trailer at showings of its new computer-animated movie "Ice Age: The Meltdown" to announce the first big-screen version of "The Simpsons" would be coming to theaters on July 27, 2007.

The trailer begins with a giant superhero-sized letter "S" while an announcer declares, "Leaping his way onto the silver screen ... the greatest hero in American history!"

The scene cuts to Homer Simpson sitting on his couch in his underwear, saying, "I forgot what I was supposed to say."

Now in its 17th season, "The Simpsons" is the longest-running U.S. comedy series in prime time.

Beginning as a string of cartoon shorts on "The Tracey Ullman Show" in 1987, "The Simpsons" made their debut as a half-hour series on the then-fledgling Fox network in December 1989.

At the outset, the series centered on the antics of the wisecracking, underachieving 10-year-old Bart Simpson, a spiky-haired misfit who darts around town on his skateboard and drives his fourth-grade teacher nuts.

But as the show evolved, the focus shifted to Bart's bone-headed father, Homer, who works at a nuclear power plant and punctuates his frequent mistakes with the anguished, half-syllable utterance "D'Oh!"

Rounding out the Simpsons brood are beehive-haired mother Marge, the sensible, good-natured anchor of the family, and Bart's two sisters -- pacifier-sucking baby Maggie, a silent observer of all, and second-grade prodigy Lisa, a baritone saxophone virtuoso and intellectual of the family.

Behind them is a huge cast of regulars who populate the fictional town of Springfield -- extended family members, neighbors, teachers, classmates, Homer's co-workers, his pals at Moe's Tavern, Apu the Kwik-E-Mart clerk, police chief Wiggum and even the Comic Book Guy.

The series averages 9.6 million viewers a week on Sunday nights, down from its peak ratings several years ago, but remains a critical favorite and worldwide pop culture phenomenon seen in dozens of countries.

It also is a cash cow for 20th Century Fox TV for the handsome revenues it generates in syndication.