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Believe it or not, it has been nearly three full years since The Simpsons suddenly parted ways with longtime composer Alf Clausen, who had long been an integral part of the Fox (and now Disney) comedy's success. Not many updates have been unveiled in that situation, beyond Clausen's attempt at a lawsuit, but it appears as if the real reasons for the termination have been revealed through court papers filed by Fox execs.
As it has been reported in Fox's court papers (via THR), The Simpsons' producers had already toyed with the idea of replacing Alf Clausen back in 2011 when the show's beloved voice actors and staff took on pay reductions. The execs considered utilizing synthesizers and computer-generated music as a way of replacing Clausen and his live orchestra, but the eventual decision was made to keep the composer on board. (It was reported that he then made $12,000 an episode plus royalties.)
Replacement conversations began anew in 2016 surrounding the production of the musically inspired installment titled "The Great Phatsby." The hip-hop parody of the classic novel The Great Gatsby featured cameos from artists such as Common, Snoop Dogg and RZA, as well as Empire producer Jim Beanz. The latter not only guest-starred, but also helped with the composing, even though it was presumed at the time that Alf Clausen still did most of the work himself.
However, longtime producer and co-developer James L. Brooks stepped in, and another producer allegedly made some damning discoveries behind the scenes about Alf Clausen's work (which isn't to be confused with the work of Danny Elfman, who composed the theme song). Here's how producer Richard Sakai, the head of Brooks' company Gracie Films, put it:
Brooks questioned whether Clausen was the right person to prepare rap music and questioned his work more generally. Around that time, I learned that Clausen had been delegating some of the work of composing music for The Simpsons to others, including his son Scott Clausen. I believed his unauthorized delegation was unacceptable. I called showrunner [Al] Jean and told him that Clausen had been delegating his composing work; he conveyed to me that he was surprised and disturbed as well.
It's reported that James L. Brooks and Richard Sakai then engaged in further meetings with fellow producers Al Jean and Matt Selman, and the decision was made that the show could improve its music output by replacing Alf Clausen.
In his recently amended complaint against Fox and The Simpsons' producers, Alf Clausen alleged that he was released from the animated hit over his advanced age – he's currently 79 years old – and also due to his perceived disability. It turns out Clausen was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Alf Clausen also shared his negative opinions about those who replaced him on The Simpsons. He took shots at Hans Zimmer, whose film score company was brought in after the 2017 firing, and claimed the show's music in recent seasons, despite being similar in style, has been "inferior in quality, depth, range and sound."
At this time, no overall judgments have been made by the courts. That said, it's expected that The Simpsons team will make it through victorious, due to their noted discoveries about Alf Clausen's son being partly responsible for some of the show's music, which serves as a justifiable defense for his firing that doesn't factor in his age or health issues.
Currently, The Simpsons still has episodes left to air, and viewers can find them on Fox on Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET. Its Season 31 finale will be airing on May 17, and viewers can check out our big TV finale rundown to see when other shows will be ending in the near future.