World Magazine, Issue 2.9, December 1997
The Encyclopedia Simpsonica
book review by Joe Toledo
Been dying for a tell-all comprehensive look at The Simpsons? Well, your prayers have been answered with The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family.
I've been watching The Simpsons since it premiered on Fox back in 1989. I used to watch them on The Tracey Ullman Show. I watched the Christmas Special when it premiered. Heck, I even watch the reruns in syndication and I've bought the videotapes. The way I saw it, I knew everything there was to know about The Simpsons. That was until The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family was published.
Published by HarperPerrenial, The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family provides more Simpsons information than you can shake an inanimate carbon rod at. With synopses, secret plot elements, and character bios, The Simpsons Guide contains nearly everything you need to know about Springfield, USA. I know I spent hours browsing it and laughing out loud over all the great moments from episodes past, before realizing that I still had to write this review.
Episode By Episode
In layman's terms, The Simpsons Guide is a compendium, a collection of synopses from all the episodes of The Simpsons. In fact, each episode receives its own page, but the book ends up being so much more. In his introduction to the book, Matt Groening refers to the compendium as the Encyclopedia Simpsonica, and he isn't too far off the mark.
For every episode, there is a brief, three-paragraph plot description. Thank the maker they are brief. We all know what the episodes are about. (Don't lie, you know you know.) Then we get into the meat of the information. For those of us who want to know every detail about each episode, about 70 percent of every page is dedicated to information not readily available: the best quotes from characters, details you never noticed before, and things you would never observe such as inside jokes and other production information. For example, ever wonder why Michael Jackson was never credited for performing the voice of Leon Kompowsky? It's in the book! You can find Bart's chalkboard quotes, lyrics to songs, and cool images from the episodes.
An episode's primary guest character is introduced in a sidebar with a short bio. They cover everyone from Mindy Simmons to the Bumblebee Man to Mr. Sparkle. In addition to the character info, the bio provides production notes. For example, every character has the celebrity name who provided the guest voice for him/her.
Tell Me Something I Don't Know
Even if you aren't interested in information about the episodes, the book provides even more Simpsons knowledge. Ever wanted a list of all the times Homer has said "D'oh!" or "Mmmm?" Have you ever needed a list of all the couch gags the Simpsons performed during the opening credits? Or did you ever want to know who voices your favorite characters? All that information is in there on special insert pages. Several lists compile all the facts and figures that couldn't fit into episode synopses, including the never before published "Itchy and Scratchy" filmography.
The book is built perfectly for browsing. You can just breeze through page by page. If something catches your eye, you stop, take a look, then keep on rolling. You don't have to worry about reading it straight through. It's a reference book. Plus, if you're just interested in finding facts about a particular episode, a rather detailed index is provided in back to point you in the right direction.
What'd I Think?
Judging from the number of Internet web sites dedicated to Simpsons information, a quality compendium is something fans have been wanting for a long time. I applaud Groening and Ray Richmond for putting together a Simpsons book actually worthy of being published.
Previous attempts at Simpsons books were often polluted by half-hearted attempts to recreate the humor and magic of the television show. Well, The Simpsons isn't a book. It is a television show and it's about time Matt Groening and the rest of the folks at The Simpsons realized this. The Simpsons Guide doesn't try to recreate the magic. It captures it by letting you relive all the great moments from the show that you've forgotten and all the subtle ones you missed. In addition, with the insertion of episode production notes, it gives us die-hard fans a little insight into how the show is made.
The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family is a celebration of the show and the years of enjoyment it has brought me as well as fans worldwide. So pick yourself up a copy. Flip through it and relive some good laughs. Quiz your friends. Note all the things you've missed even after five viewings of your favorite episodes. If you love The Simpsons, you are really going to enjoy the book. Don't miss it.
The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family, created by Matt Groening, edited by Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. HarperPerennial, 1997. 249 pages, illustrated. Paperback, $15.95; ISBN: 0-06-095252-0.
The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family,is available at theAWN Store.
Joe Toledo is a project manager for the Jamison/Gold Interactive Agency and was recently named Resident Simpsons Expert to the Animation World Staff. He spends his free time not unlike The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy, but at a lot fewer Dr. Who Marathons.
Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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