'The Simpsons' Showrunner Al Jean On The Passing Of Voice Actor Russi Taylor And Planning Ahead For Seasons 32 And 33 [Interview]

The Simpsons just began its landmark 31st season on Fox, who has renewed the show through at least season 32. The Simpsons is now working under the Disney banner thanks to the merger with 20th Century Fox, and the back catalog of episodes will appear on the Disney+ streaming service.The Simpsons family is still mourning the loss of Russi Taylor, who provided the voice of Martin Prince. When /Film ran into showrunner Al Jean at the Summer Television Critics Association party, he said the show intends to continue with Martin Prince as a character. When other voice actors, like Phil Hartman and Marcia Wallace passed away, they retired their characters.Season 31 of The Simpsons airs Sunday nights on Fox.My condolences about Russi Taylor. Will Martin Prince have to disappear from the show?I'm really sad that Russi passed and it's my belief that she would want the character to continue. She was wonderful to work with and is greatly, greatly missed.Up until what point had she recorded?There wasn't any Martin centered show in the new season. I can't be exactly sure.At what point would you start a recast?I don't want to get into anything thus far.Did the season 19 DVD come through Disney's interest?The person I really want to thank the most is Denise Sirkot at Gracie Films who appreciated how people hated that gap between 18 and 20 in their collections. We finally filled it so I'm very excited.Have they shown any interest in continuing with season 21?Let's just be happy we've got 19. We're still recording commentaries. We're going to record commentary for season 24 coming up and it's all on Disney+ starting in November so I can't repeat that enough. Did the Thanos couch gag come from once you were a part of Disney?No, just because Thanos is such a huge, popular presence, we thought it would be funny. It was not promoting Disney nor anti. It was just Thanos.Did you ever expect Homer using his own backing into the bushes gif to go viral?I should credit Caesar Mazariegos who's the writer of that joke. I should credit him and say I was just surprised it was as big as it was. I guess the snake swallowing its tail really impresses people.When was the first time you acknowledged The Simpsons in the real world? I remember Lisa reading from The Complete Guide to Everything.Oh, long ago the instant a T-shirt with Homer on it and Marge says, "A Simpson on a T-Shirt, I never thought I'd see the day." That was about as soon as we realized we were a hit.So it's established now that Mr. Teeny is an independent contractor?Yes. So that's very important in terms of his W-2s and his tax filings.Krusty made a movie in Mexico. Where was Senor Spielbergo?Well, it was Mexico in the '80s. He might not have started his career yet.Homer mentioned a tour of rocking chairs. Was that an homage to your love of rocking chairs I read about in Springfield Confidential?There's a giant chair somewhere in America. I believe Lyndon Johnson was photographed sitting on it. So I think that was the inspiration for the chair joke.Is it canon now that the flamboyant hairdresser is faking his accent?No. Not everything is canon but I won't say what is.There was a Bruce Willis joke this season.We hope to have one every season.Did you have a run-in with Bruce Willis?No, never met him. When Adi Shankar was running his Apu contest, he'd said he spoke with Simpsons producers anonymously. I know he doesn't represent the show but were you ever worried you had a leak?No. He never said who it was from so as far as I can see, it wasn't correct.In the infamous episode "No Good Read Goes Unpunished," Marge says, "Some things will be addressed at a later time." Were there plans to continue addressing it further before it blew up.I think her statement is correct.Was the gender flipped reboot of Itchy and Scratchy based on the Ghostbusters hubub?A little bit. There's a lot of movies coming out where the gender flip is the premise.Was it also fun to satirize Comic-Con panels?Always. Is including the live-action To Kill a Mockingbird a first?We once used live-action footage from It's a Wonderful Life and we had the live-action original footage in Homer3 in the third dimension. It was the most extensive. We actually had to license it and get permission from both the estate of Gregory Peck and the girl that played Scout. It's such a wonderful movie, I just wanted to put it in.Is it easy to come up with new Ralph gags?No, it's very hard. Very, very hard to write a new Ralph line.He's recapping TV shows now.Yes, the recapping was a great episode and I'd say it got a little personal.How have you not done Wreck-It Ralph Wiggum yet?That's funny. Wreck-It Ralph, it seems like a movie like that is a funny animated movie so it's hard to parody a comedy.Did Seth MacFarlane do Stewie's voice when they went to Family Guy world?No. I think that was Chris Edgerly imitating him. Two more seasons is great news. What are some of your plans?31 we have episode 666 which is "Treehouse of Horrors." We also have a scary Thanksgiving show. We have a show where Artie Ziff gets married. Will that be a permanent marriage?You'll have to watch. Nothing is permanent.Did you rearrange episodes so "Treehouse" would hit 666?Nope. It's just like we intended it from the beginning. What are you spoofing this Halloween?We have a Stranger Things parody and the opening is a little bit of an Omen parody, reflecting on the fact that it's episode 666.You did a Stranger Things parody last year with Odder Stuff.Yeah, this is somewhat different. Stranger Things is such a big thing. It's The Simpsons kids like Bart and Milhouse as the Stranger Things boys.Has it been any different working under Disney the last few months?No, they just said, "Do what you do" and we've been doing it. It's been full speed ahead.