Promoting The Simpsons Movie, Matt Groening has moved from one upholstered chair to the next, delivering polished one-liners. So we were thrilled to see the man go sincere in the July/August issue of Film Comment. In a surprisingly moving “Guilty Pleasures” column, he comes clean about the B-movies and 'toons that shaped his dysfunctional aesthetic. “During the forest-fire scene [in Bambi],” he says, “I was convinced the theater was burning down, and my older sister Patty had to carry me sobbing to the mezzanine.” Go buy the issue — but since the article’s not available online, we’ve sampled a few choice bits and matched video to his memories, below.
“I have had a lifelong fascination with cartoons in which cute animals are force-fed by machines ever since seeing the indelibly-etched-on-my-brain Pigs Is Pigs, a 1937 Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Friz Freleng ” Groening says he honored the film with “The Devil and Homer Simpson,” in which a Feed-A-Matic chair forces Homer to “eat all the donuts in the world!” Of course, Homer eats them all and asks for more.
“A grimy little pinball arcade in downtown Portland was where I saw my first naked movie lady. Way in the back, in a dark corner, was a dusty-hand-cranked Mutoscope machine. For one penny my buddies and I watched a skinny-dipping Heddy Lamarr in a 30-second excerpt from Ecstasy (1933).”
Another favorite? A YouTube classic, Groening says: “the immortal Pinky the Cat.”
We especially adore China’s Mr. Vampire flicks, which, Groening reminds us, star “the great Lam Ching Ying as the unibrowed Taoist priest.”