Simpsons writer Michael Price noted on Twitter that the Lego Star Wars special he wrote, “Lego Star Wars: The Padwan Menace,” finally has an air date in Canada: tomorrow (Friday) at 6:30 p.m. on Teletoon. The show, which doesn’t seem to have gotten a lot of build-up here or in the U.S. (when it aired on Cartoon Network), got me to thinking a bit about the fact that there have been quite a few animated projects over the years created by Simpsons writers who are still working on the show.
This was particularly common during the internet cartoon era – I mean the late ’90s, when the tech bubble caused a lot of money to be invested in webisodes. For example, Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who were both working on The Simpsons at the time (Jean full-time, Reiss part-time) did the Critic webisodes. In Jean’s first season as sole showrunner, the episode “I Am Furious Yellow” is a sort of capsule history of that internet cartoon boom and the experiences of the Simpsons writers who worked for those dot-com companies.
I was just thinking about this because the Simpsons seems to be notable for having a lot of writers do side projects on their own time, sometimes for other companies, or briefly leave and then come back. (And because the shows are made over such a long period of time, a writer might leave and then return without the credits reflecting exactly when that happened.) They have a lot of part-time writers and consultants – so many that they rarely even use the term “consultant” or “consulting producer” any more – and other writers who take leaves of absence but then return to the show in some capacity. On live-action shows, the commitments sometimes seem more rigid, despite the longer down time (animated shows can’t have much down time because production overlaps on two seasons at once).