Matt Groening to Receive WGA Honors
Los Angeles – Iconic animation writer-producer Matt Groening, perhaps best known for creating the long-running, acclaimed animation series The Simpsons, will receive the Writers Guild of America, West Animation Writers Caucus’ (AWC) 15th Annual Animation Writing Award, recognizing his outstanding contributions to the craft of animation writing, as well as his assistance in organizing primetime animation with the WGAW.
The AWC’s lifetime achievement award will be presented to Groening this Wednesday, November 28, at the AWC’s annual meeting, reception, and awards ceremony at WGAW headquarters in Los Angeles. Futurama co-developer David X. Cohen will present this year’s award to Groening, with WGAW President Christopher Keyser set to introduce the evening.
“Matt Groening, with his creation of The Simpsons, changed the way the entire world looks at television animation. Not since The Jetsons and The Flintstones first debuted – as primetime series aimed at adults – has there been this kind of attention paid to animation on television. From a world with no animation on during primetime, who could have guessed that The Simpsons would become the longest-running scripted primetime series in history. Matt definitely deserves this award,” said AWC Chair Craig Miller.
Commenting on Groening’s role in the effort to gain union contracts for TV animation writers, Simpsons writer Mike Scully said, “Without the support of Matt Groening and Gracie Films, primetime animation writers might not have succeeded in getting their shows covered by the WGA, which allowed them to receive equal compensation and benefits with their live action counterparts.”
Born in Portland, Oregon, in 1954, Groening began to create his own cartoons at an early age, amusing friends and annoying his teachers. Talent ran in the family: his father Homer was also a cartoonist and filmmaker. Later, he attended Evergreen State College in Washington, where he studied philosophy and continued his interest in cartoons, comics, and music.
After graduating college in 1977, he headed to Los Angeles, where he struggled with what he called “immobilizing and irksome poverty.” Increasingly frustrated by L.A.’s “traffic, smog, and his landlords,” Groening began to vent his angst to his friends by sending them cartoons starring a bug-eyed rabbit named Binky. Soon Groening began to publish and sell these quirky cartoons at a record shop where he worked. Their swift popularity encouraged him to soon syndicate his work, and in 1980, Life in Hell formally debuted in the Los Angeles Reader, eventually running in more than 250 newspapers around the world – and translated into a half-dozen languages – before Groening ultimately concluded the comic strip’s production this year.
In 1987, writer-director James L. Brooks approached Matt to create a series of animated shorts to fit between comedy sketches of The Tracey Ullman Show. Matt agreed, but instead of using his Life in Hell characters, he created an entirely new cast of characters for the show: The Simpsons, which just happen to bear the names of his own family members, Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie – Bart is an anagram for brat. For his contributions to The Tracey Ullman Show, Groening shared three Emmy writing nominations (Variety or Music Program, Series or Special, 1987-89).