Fans of The Simpsons will have to wait a long time for a sequel to the 2007 theatrical movie, according to series creator Matt Groening. Despite its $500 million gross and the enduring popularity of the Fox series, a movie follow-up isn't a priority.
"It took us four years [to make] and it killed us," Groening said Saturday at UCLA's annual entertainment symposium, where he sat for a keynote Q&A with longtime Simpsons producer-director David Silverman. The movie "stole animators from the show," Groening said, and drained other resources. "Maybe another 10, 15 years" Silverman added.
During an hour-long keynote talk that turned into a Q&A with an audience of about 400 entertainment lawyers gathered at the annual two-day symposium hosted by UCLA Law School, Groening discussed the origin of The Simpsons and why he believes it has lasted nearly 25 years on network TV.
"We were in the right place at the right time," he said of the show's launch on the then-fledgling Fox network in 1990. Fox was willing to take a chance and greenlight an animated series unlike anything else on TV. Now, Groening said, when networks attempt to dabble in animation, "they always try to water it down and soften it up, and that doesn't work."
Groening said the show's longevity is due to the versatility of the core characters and the expansive universe its writers have created. "We've got 400 or 500 characters, and about 50 per episode," he said, and he's worked to make sure the show's offbeat sensibility is kept consistent in its licensing and marketing.
"Licensing, when it's well-done, is an extension of the show," Groening said, citing the popular The Simpsons: Tapped Out app as an example of a successful brand extension.
The Groening keynote followed a panel discussion with animation executives including Chris Meledandri of Illumination Entertainment, the studio behind Despicable Me and its upcoming sequel. When asked about the future of animated movies in 3D, given the format's declining appeal, Meledandri said the expectation for Despicable Me 2 is that 30 percent of grosses will come from 3D theaters, down from about 45 percent for the first film. He said he has seen focus group studies showing kids prefer the 3D format but adults overwhelmingly do not.