Monday, March 9, 2015

Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon has died at 59.

NYT reports:

Sam Simon, who was one of the major creative forces behind “The Simpsons” and who left the show after its fourth season in a lucrative arrangement that allowed him to spend much of the rest of his life giving his money away, died on Sunday at his home in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. He was 59. . . . Mr. Simon learned a few years ago that he had colon cancer.

The cartoonist Matt Groening, recruited by the producer James L. Brooks, invented the Simpson family for a series of short animated segments first seen on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in 1987. Mr. Groening named some of the characters after members of his own family, including Homer and Marge, the parents.

Although Mr. Groening is the person most closely associated with “The Simpsons,” Mr. Simon — who had published cartoons while he was a student at Stanford, worked on the cartoon show “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” and been a writer and producer for the sitcoms “Cheers” and “Taxi” — played a crucial role as “The Simpsons” evolved into a half-hour series. It became the longest-running sitcom in television history.

Mr. Simon helped populate Springfield, the fictional town where the Simpsons live, with a range of characters. He insisted that the show be created using some conventional sitcom techniques like having the writers work collectively. He had the voice actors read their parts as an ensemble, with the goal of giving the show more lifelike rhythm and timing. And he hired many of the show’s first writers, a number of whom gave him credit for informing its multilayered sensibility, one that skewers pieties with anarchic humor and sometimes vulgarity while celebrating family and community. . . .

Mr. Simon’s work on the show is also remembered for the way it ended. He and Mr. Groening clashed frequently — Mr. Groening was among several people, including Mr. Simon himself, who said that Mr. Simon could be difficult to work with — and Mr. Simon left in 1993, after four seasons.

It was not an amicable split, but it was extraordinarily profitable for Mr. Simon. He retained the title of executive producer and was given royalties from future home video sales. As “The Simpsons” moved into syndication and lucrative VHS and then DVD sales, it made Mr. Simon wealthy long after he was no longer directly involved in the show. He said in interviews that it provided him with “tens of millions” of dollars each year.
From an article in November 2014:
Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon has described his terminal colon cancer as the 'most amazing experience of my life', because he is surrounded by his loved ones and donating his estimated $100 million fortune to his passion - animal rights. Given three months to live in 2012, Simon immediately decided to team up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) president Ingrid Newkirk, and dedicate his time to the rescue of maltreated animals and conservation.

Having defied that diagnosis’ original death sentence, Simon continues to push ahead and has also funded projects such as 'Feeding Families' to help with the underprivileged in inner cities. . . .

'[Newkirk] came up with almost a therapy for me, where we planned and are still planning a series of animal liberations and actions that I get to participate in and enjoy. It gives me something to look forward. I get to watch these animals that have been in concrete bunkers their whole lives take their first step on grass.'

Simon created the hit cartoon alongside Matt Groening in 1991. He technically retired from The Simpsons in 1993, but still receives tens of millions in royalties every season.

Asked why he decided to dedicate his fortune and final months to animal rights, Simon was unequivocal. 'The thing about animals that speaks to me so much is that my passion for the animals and against animal abuse is based on the knowledge that these creatures which think and feel can't speak for themselves,' said Simon to NBC. 'I feel it is my responsiblity to speak for those who can't speak for themselves.'