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Fox entered the modern arena of live primetime television in a big way with Grease: Live in late January and will carry on with Tyler Perry’s live Jesus musical at the end of March. Now, news has come out that Fox is trying for something even more ambitious - although decidedly less musical - with live television. An animated episode of The Simpsons will end with three minutes of live footage.
Simpsons executive producer Al Jean teased the exciting and somewhat bizarre news on his Twitter account earlier today. The episode will hit the small screen on May 15 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox, and both the East Coast and the West Coast airings will feature differing live animated scenes. Marge, Lisa, and Bart will turn over the show to Homer, who will take questions and deliver answers straight to the audience live.
Over its 27 seasons so far, The Simpsons has seemed to achieve the impossible with bringing animated television into the mainstream using a plethora of various techniques, but live animation feels inconceivable even for the Fox juggernaut. As it turns out, however, the team at The Simpsons have a plan in place to turn the May 15 episode of the show into something unforgettable in the best way.
According to Al Jean, in a chat with The Wrap, the final minutes of the episode will use motion capture technology to animate master improviser and voice actor Dan Castellaneta in real time. Considering that Castellaneta has been bringing the laughs as Homer since 1989, we can be sure that he’ll be pulling his weight in the Simpsons' first go at live TV.
Of course, Dan Castellaneta can’t possibly pull off a successful few minutes of live animation all alone, and so The Simpsons will be drawing on the proven motion capture techniques developed by Fox Sports in order to bring Homer to life. Early tests have shown that the motion capture can work well with the animation style of The Simpsons, and there’s almost definitely enough time between February and mid-May for any and all kinks in the process to be worked out.
Possibly even more exciting for fans than the idea of live footage is that they will have the opportunity to get involved in the episode. Starting on May 1 and running until May 4, viewers will be able to tweet questions to be answered during the May 15 installment with the hashtag of #HomerLive. While the early deadline may seem a bit suspicious given Al Jean’s promise that the three minutes will be 100% live, the reality is that the team at The Simpsons will need time to obtain the proper permission from tweeters. In fact, Jean has teased that a few clues will be included in the broadcast to tip viewers off that Homer’s comments couldn’t have possibly been pre-recorded.
Sadly, we still have quite a wait ahead of us before we get to see Dan Castellaneta tackle the role of Homer Simpson live on air, but at least knowing that The Simpsons will continue working to keep things fresh even in Season 27 makes watching in the meantime a more appealing prospect.