Simpsons Land

While procrastinating, I stumbled upon this essay:

http://www.theawl.com/2013/10/is-the-simpsons-land-theme-park-real

Apparently, though I may be late to this party, Universal Orlando’s newest theme park is “Simpsons Land,” which is an immersive adaptation (adaptation?) of the show. As rendered by Universal, the Simpsons experience is: one ride, a fake Moe’s Tavern that serves real beer, a replica of a statue featured on the show, and several fast food-type eateries, some lifted from the show and some newly invented.

The essay makes the point that “The Simpsons” (and, the author seems to suggest, fiction in general) abstract the world to comment on it, and that it is deeply weird to then make the abstract version of reality real. “The Simpsons” made its mark largely by satirizing consumer culture; the new theme park adaptation exemplifies (earnestly) the same consumer culture.

If an Universal Orlando Simpsons Park, by virtue of being an Universal Orlando product, necessarily alters/ignores/overturns the defining spirit of the original, is it an adaptation at all? Does adaptive status require doing more than cashing in on a copied set of aesthetic choices? Is there a difference between a franchise and an adaptation?

7 thoughts on “Simpsons Land

  1. This is blasphemy! I could wax poetic on the Simpsons all day, but instead, I will recommend the weekly Simpsons Club at Nitehawk Cinema (see the link here: http://www.nitehawkcinema.com/blog/simpsonsclub/ ). One of the cool things they do – besides screening an all-October “Treehouse of Horror” marathon (all episodes being parodies of classic horror films, I’m going on the 21st to see “The Shinning”) – is show select episodes with the preserved “original” commercials, for, I’m guessing, nostalgia purposes. I’m wondering if this attempt to recapture the spirit of the original context in which these episodes aired can speak to what you’ve pointed out is a “cashing in” on a satiric series that is critical of popular culture? I think it would be interesting to watch some of these old advertisements that I’ve undoubtedly forgotten, as a kind of comparative study to the more familiar style of modern advertisements. Similarly, that Falstaff Beer commercial was great for opening with two (physically fit) men shooting arrows at a target, in an attempt to be more manly and Shakespearean, I’d hazard, but it’s feels like it’s missing the point. Don’t get me wrong – I think that Falstaff is a great name for a company that has, at different times, sold soda, cured ham, and beer, I just think that this is a pretty esoteric reference for an American audience.

    • Thanks Janie/John,

      Two (unrelated) points. 1. I now seem to be being asked to “approve” comments by our group, when I thought I’d made the site open to anyone: if this continues, there may occasionally be gaps between your posting and the appearance of the post on our blog; and 2. I had perhaps foolishly mentioned the Simpsons Land to my son, at 22 in exactly that demographic you refer to (and of course he’s a great Simpsons fan, though mostly with nostalgia for the early years). He’s now told me that, armed with our syllabus, he wants to do research into the various Simpsons adaptations that might be relevant to our course; so brace yourselves.

  2. I also saw this essay and thought about posting it. I think there’s something more going on, too, when you talk about “the spirit of the original,” that plays deeply into our notions of amusement (parks) and ‘play’, as far as audience expectation versus expected audience. The gamer generation is all grown up, and a whole slew of 20 year-olds have never lived in a world without the Simpsons. It seems to me that it is no coincidence that the author of this piece focusses on Moe’s Tavern, one of the absolutely ‘adult’ areas of both the series and the park. The Simpsons was originally subversive for its very twisting of form versus content that we now take for granted – quite a few of these ‘bored dads’ were part of the generation of youngsters that viewed The Simpsons as both illicitly adult (its primetime spot, its language, its self-referential humor) and implicitly available to them (its deliberate cartoon format / cartoon-ishness, the static ages of Bart and Lisa and the merchandising that accompanied them, etc.). Viewed in this light, The Simpsons was not simply formed as a surreal mirror of reality but to question our notions of childhood/childlikeness and what happens to humor/amusement as we age- perfect themes for the industrial complex amusement parks, with their height requirements, bars (apparently) and inflated costs.

    • Janie, This reply seems to have gone only to John, so I’m sending it separately to you.

      D
      Thanks Janie/John,

      Two (unrelated) points. 1. I now seem to be being asked to “approve” comments by our group, when I thought I’d made the site open to anyone: if this continues, there may occasionally be gaps between your posting and the appearance of the post on our blog; and 2. I had perhaps foolishly mentioned the Simpsons Land to my son, at 22 in exactly that demographic you refer to (and of course he’s a great Simpsons fan, though mostly with nostalgia for the early years). He’s now told me that, armed with our syllabus, he wants to do research into the various Simpsons adaptations that might be relevant to our course; so brace yourselves.

  3. Thanks for letting us/me know about the comment lag, Prof. Greetham. I was having trouble yesterday getting comments to stick, I hope you weren’t inundated. An exhaustive Simpsons adaption list sounds… exhausting, but if your son is up to the task it could be an excellent way to cap the semester! I know the Simpsons have done Hamlet and Macbeth (and maybe Lear?), but I can’t wait to see what else can be found.

    • And apparently there’s a series of “Wishbone” adaptations (90s TV kids, smart ass dog), including “The Tempest”–pretty dreadful as I recall, as well as “Hey, Arnold” and other best-forgotten remnants from that culture. But more to come….

  4. An annotated Simpsons would be nigh-impossible, but there’s a Simpsons wiki and a pretty extensive episode listing on Wikipedia. The Simpsons dip into their sources in different ways, so sometimes episodes are full-blown parodies or rip-offs; other times you’ll merely find quick cameos, references, allusions, or easter eggs within an otherwise unrelated storyline. Since I’ve been watching the Simpsons since before I could remember, I accidentally consumed all of Western culture backwards, vicariously through this series. The first time I watched Citizen Kane, I thought “Wasn’t this a Simpsons episode?” And apparently I was/am not alone – South Park put out an episode entitled “The Simpsons Already Did It”, in which the Butters character attempts to think of something the Simpsons haven’t done, suffers a complete psychotic breakdown, and sees everything in the world of South Park “Simpsonized”.

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