The inside of Homer Simpson’s head is filled with colorful drawings of the characters from the show named after his family, a giant video screen covering the top interior of his skull—which is about 20 feet in diameter—a brain (presumably to scale) about the size of an ottoman, and two dozen gaping Simpsons-loving fans staring up at the computer-generated mysterious voyage through Homer’s mind created by the marketing team in charge of the single biggest activation at San Diego Comic Con.
Homer’s Dome is the name of the thing, according to FXX, which bankrolled and created it, but Mr. Simpson’s noggin takes up maybe a fourth of total Simpsons-occupied area, which resembles a small Coney Island-style amusement park, complete with midway games and a cotton candy machine (the fluff itself is blue, of course). It’s close to another big activation by a sister network, Fox’s zipline over a model skyline for its upcoming Batman spinoff. It’s a little like Springfield is a suburb of Gotham City.
FXX Has a Huge Investment to Promote.
FX surprised the television industry when it convinced sister network Fox to keep the syndication rights to The Simpsons, an asset worth at least $1 billion, in-house. The cable network is wildly successful as a solo venture; with FXX and its older-skewing sibling, FXM, FX Networks is hoping to triplicate that success. To get attention, it's putting those valuable Simpsons reruns on FXX one after the other, all 552 shows and a movie, starting August 21. The show will take 12 full days to cycle through.
Reruns will also get pushed out via the Simpsons World app, a perk for cable subscribers that allows fans to watch any episode of the show they want at any time they want. “For me to take 12 days and schedule it across 278 hours—276, plus the two-hour movie—that opportunity is probably never going to exist again. But on the other hand we’re launching Simpsons World not too long after that and if somebody wants to watch 552 episodes back to back to back to back, we’re going to give him the vehicle to do that,” says Chuck Saftler, president of program strategy and COO of FX Networks. He's here at the con, as is Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who caused a stir when he visited the extravaganza earlier on Saturday.
Comic Con is, to put it mildly, a venue where you’re likely to run into someone open to that possibility. Fans pose with models of the characters near some of the longest lines this side of the convention’s infamous Hall H—those for giveaways like a doughnut pillow (crafted to look exactly like the Lard Lad doughnuts Homer enjoys). Others wait in line for a treat from Marge’s Sweet Station, where the network is giving away big bouffants of blue cotton candy. A sunblock station keeps fans from frying in the sticky heat—the execution is outside, making it open to everyone, badge or no badge, in San Diego.
Making Sense With Simpsons World
“Today’s fans aren’t the quiet sort,” Saftler said. “They tweet and they socialize and they are on the news and everywhere as a result of what they see at Comic Con. That goes on beyond the borders of San Diego. It goes worldwide virally. This is a fantastic opportunity to incite enthusiasm for what we’re about to offer.”
Like The Simpsons itself, it’s a surprising mixture of highbrow and lowbrow—there are carnival games and doughnut pillows, yes, but there are also huge paintings of the characters that look like Dali and Picasso and Rothko. FXX’s marketing team, Saftler said, “understand that The Simpsons is quite a sophisticated show at its very core.”
SDCC and Homer
And, in fact, the installation itself sets a new bar; there are half a dozen discrete things to do in the little mini-park, and it dwarfs in both size and complexity everything else in the area—probably everything else at the convention. Some may exceed it for square footage, but none for variety. Saftler is quiet about what will happen to the execution after the show is over, but he stresses that this isn’t necessarily the end: “This may very well have a few very cool appearances in the future,” he said.