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Treehouse of Horror

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Treehouse of horror
Release date: October 25, 1990
Available on: DVD
"Treehouse of Horror I" (originally known as "The Simpsons Halloween Special I") is the first Halloween episode of the animated sitcom The Simpsons, originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 25, 1990. The episode was inspired by 1950s horror comics, and begins with a disclaimer that it may be too scary for children.

These episodes do not obey the shows' rule of realism and are not treated as canon. The opening disclaimer and a panning shot through a cemetery with humorous tombstones were features that were used sporadically in the Treehouse of Horror series and eventually dropped. This is also the first episode to have the music composed by Alf Clausen, taking over for Danny Elfman who also wrote the show's theme. James Earl Jones guest starred in all three segments.

The episode was received positively, being included on several critics' "best of" lists. Critics singled out The Raven for praise, although Simpsons creator Matt Groening was concerned that it would be seen as pretentious.

SynopsisEdit

Opening sequenceEdit

In a parody of the original Frankenstein film, Marge warns viewers that the following program (The Simpsons) may give their children nightmares, so she suggests the adults to "tuck your children into bed tonight instead of writing us angry letters tomorrow." However, the viewers ignore her and let their children watch it anyway.

When Homer comes back from trick-or-treating, he notices Bart and Lisa are telling ghost stories. He climbs up and eavesdrops while Bart comments on Lisa's first story. Bart starts telling his own story called...

Bad Dream HouseEdit

Bad Dream House
Baddreamhouse

The "haunted" house.

The Simpsons move into a new home at a great price. Lisa and Marge are scared there is an evil presence lurking in the house, though Homer says there's nothing to worry about despite there being a vortex in the kitchen, Homer throws in an orange into the vortex then the ones who live in the world throw it out with a note that asks them not to throw in stuff. Bart being strangled by lamp cord, the house threatening the family to leave, and being thrown up to the ceiling. When everyone tries to settle in to sleep, the house brainwashes everybody to kill each other. When they stop what they're doing, thanks to Marge not being brainwashed, the house threatens that they will die horribly. Marge ends up angrily telling the house to shut up, and after a few moments, it complies. Marge then explains that since they are living in the house, the house is going to have to accept this. The house asks them to leave for a moment as it decides what to do. It determines it would rather die than live with the Simpsons, and the house implodes into nothingness.

Hungry are the DamnedEdit

Hungry Are The Damned
TreehouseofHorror02

Kang and Kodos

The Simpsons are having a barbecue until an alien ship abducts them. When they arrive on the ship, they meet Kang, Kodos, an unnamed alien and Serak the preparer, who treat the Simpsons extremely well by giving them countless amounts of food to hold them over until the great feast at Rigel 4. Lisa becomes suspicious and thus, one night, wanders around the ship & heads into the kitchen when Serak leaves. She mistakes the book "How To Cook For Forty Humans" as "How To Cook Humans" and accuses the Rigelians. They are angered at the Simpsons and they are sent back home to live the life of not gods, but normal human beings. Lisa then speculates that they, the Simpson Family, may be the true monsters.

The RavenEdit

The Raven
TreeHouseOfHorror

Bart as the Raven.

A Simpson's version of the Edgar Allan Poe tale, "The Raven", in which Homer is the main character, Lisa and Maggie are angels, Marge is the lost Lenore, and Bart is none other than the Raven, whose only line is "Nevermore". Also Bart says "eat my shorts" interrupting Lisa

EpilogueEdit

As the episode comes to a close, Bart and Lisa consider the tales before going to bed, not knowing Homer was freaked out by all of the stories. Everybody goes to bed, but Homer has trouble sleeping that night, as he decides he hates Halloween when he hears the Raven outside.

ProductionEdit

Unlike a typical Simpsons episode, "Treehouse of Horror" is divided into three segments. It is the first in the Treehouse of Horror series of Halloween themed Simpsons episodes. It is considered to be non-canon and takes place outside the normal continuity of the show. A Treehouse of Horror episode has since aired around Halloween every season. Part of the series' attraction for the writers is that they are able to break the rules and include violence that would not make it into a regular episode. The episode was inspired by EC Comics horror comics, such as Tales from the Crypt. In the first segment, several haunted house films are parodied, including The Shining and The Amityville Horror. The haunted house being built on a burial ground is inspired by the 1982 film Poltergeist. The house was also designed to look like the Addams family house. The second segment's cookbook is a reference to the 1962 The Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man". The third segment reimagines Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven".

In 2011, staff writer Al Jean commented on the episode: "The idea of it to parody EC Comics was really original and kind of shocking for a cartoon on network television. [Executive producer] Jim Brooks said, 'We better have a disclaimer at the beginning of this Halloween show,' so Marge came out and warned people that they were going to see something scary. And the funny thing is it's now very tame by our Halloween standards and by network animation standards." According to M. Keith Booker, author of Drawn to Television, the warning only made the episode more attractive to children. The entire segment was a parody of the opening of the 1931 film Frankenstein. While similar "warnings" were used to open the second and third "Treehouse" episodes, these quickly became a burden to write and there was no warning for the fourth episode. Instead, it had Marge ask Bart to warn people how frightening the show was during his introduction paying homage to Night Gallery. The tradition was revived for "Treehouse of Horror V"; after that, they were permanently dropped and the writers did not make any attempts at reviving them. In the opening segment of the episode, and the four subsequent episodes, the camera zooms through a cemetery where tombstones with humorous epitaphs can be seen. These messages include the names of canceled shows from the previous television season and celebrities such as Walt Disney and Jim Morrison. They were last used in "Treehouse of Horror V", which included a solitary tombstone with the words "Amusing Tombstones" to signal this. The tombstone gags were easy for the writers in the first episode, but like Marge's warnings, they eventually got more difficult to write, so they were abandoned. Of the series, "Treehouse of Horror" was the only one that included a treehouse as a setting. "Treehouse of Horror" was the first time that an alternate version of the theme that airs over the end credits was used. Originally it was supposed to use a theremin (an early electronic musical instrument), but one could not be found that could hit all the necessary notes.

Alf Clausen, who has scored most of the Simpsons music, began his work on the show with this episode. The first segment, "Bad Dream House", was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Wes Archer. The voice of the house was provided by cast member Harry Shearer. Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky wrote the second segment, "Hungry are the Damned", and Rich Moore directed it. Sam Simon and Edgar Allan Poe wrote the third segment, "The Raven", and David Silverman directed it. The segment was based on Poe's 1845 narrative poem "The Raven". During production, Simpsons creator Matt Groening was nervous about "The Raven" because it did not have many gags, and felt it would be "the worst, most pretentious thing [they had] ever done" on the show. American actor James Earl Jones guest starred in the episode as a moving man, Serak the Preparer (one of the aliens) and the narrator of "The Raven". He recorded his lines at the Village Recorder in West Los Angeles. To get the right drooling sound for the aliens, Jones chewed on a cookie close to his microphone.

The sibling aliens Kang and Kodos first appeared on the show on this episode. Every Treehouse of Horror episode since this one must have Kang and Kodos as characters, states an unofficial Simpsons rule. Despite this rule, the writers say the duo will often be forgotten and then added at the last second, leading to brief appearances. The idea of Kang and Kodos came from Kogen and Wolodarsky. In the script, Kang and Kodos were shown as "an octopus in a space helmet with a trail of goo". The finished design was based on the cover of an EC Comics issue. Although originally designed to constantly drool, Groening suggested that they not drool all the time to make the animation process easier. However, the animators did not mind the work, leading to the drooling staying in the script. Kang and Kodos's names are derived from two Star Trek characters. Kang was a Klingon captain portrayed by actor Michael Ansara in the episode "Day of the Dove", whereas Kodos the Executioner was a human villain from "The Conscience of the King". Harry Shearer voices Kang, and Dan Castellaneta voices Kodos.

ReceptionEdit

In its original broadcast, "Treehouse of Horror" finished 25th in ratings for the week of October 22–28, 1990, with a Nielsen rating of 15.7, equivalent to approximately 14.6 million viewing households. It was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, beating Married... with Children. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, said the first two segments worked better than the third, "but this is a marvelous episode, and set a high standard for the Halloween specials to come." In 2008, Canwest News Service chose "Treehouse of Horror" as one of the top five scariest episodes from the television's past. They singled out Marge saying "This family has had its differences and we've squabbled, but we've never had knife fights before, and I blame this house" as a memorable line from the episode. Two of the episode's segments were singled out by critics as exemplary parts of the Treehouse of Horror series. "The Raven" was selected as the second best Treehouse of Horror segment by Ryan J. Budke of TV Squad in 2005. Budke described the segment as "one of the most refined Simpsons pop references ever" and knows "people that consider this the point that they realized The Simpsons could be both highly hilarious and highly intelligent." "Hungry are the Damned" was selected as the fifth best Treehouse of Horror segment by Eric Goldman, Dan Iverson and Brian Zoromski of IGN in 2008. The IGN reviewers singled out the How to Cook for Forty Humans section of the segment as its funniest moment.

Critics also praised the episode's relationship to various television shows and Poe's "The Raven". Michael Stailey of DVD Verdict described the three Treehouse of Horror segments as "brilliantly crafted tales capturing the best elements of The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, injecting them into the Simpsons' universe." DVD reviewer Doug Pratt described "The Raven" as a "perfect adaptation". Kurt M. Koenigsberger said in his book Leaving Springfield that The Simpsons, while "not strictly a literary form", "is certainly the literate of all situation comedies." Koenigsberger uses "The Raven" as one example in support of the statement "The Simpsons is steeped in the American literary context into which Arnold Bennett made such a splash on his tour in 1911."

CastEdit

Voice actor Character
Dan Castellaneta Homer Simpson / Kodos
Julie Kavner Marge Simpson
Nancy Cartwright Bart Simpson
Yeardley Smith Lisa Simpson
Harry Shearer Evil Laugh / The House / Kang
James Earl Jones Moving Man / Serak the Preparer / Narrator

External linksEdit

The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

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See also: Halloween of Horror

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