In November 2016, the artistic group behind “The Simpsons” started work on a particular hour-long episode. It was a hip-hop parody of “The Nice Gatsby” — laden with references to the Fox cleaning soap “Empire” — that may succeed or fail primarily based on the music.
The issue, within the view of government producer James Brooks, was the present’s 75-year-old composer. Alf Clausen had scored greater than 500 episodes in 27 years on the present, penning such immortal work as “We Put the Spring in Springfield.” However the producers knew that hip-hop was effectively outdoors his consolation zone.
“Brooks questioned whether or not Clausen was the best individual to arrange rap music and questioned his work extra usually,” stated Richard Sakai, a producer on the present, in a courtroom declaration filed on Tuesday.
In a couple of months, Clausen could be ousted from the present. Final 12 months, he filed a wrongful termination lawsuit towards Fox and Brooks’ firm, Gracie Movies, saying he had been fired as a consequence of his age and incapacity.
Fox’s attorneys filed their response on Tuesday, laying out their case that Clausen was let go for authentic “artistic” causes. The submitting included declarations from Brooks and a number of other producers and executives, providing a uncommon glimpse into the workings of the present.
The battle over the rap episode, titled “The Nice Phatsby,” was solely one of many points. The producers additionally acknowledged that the present had been trying to trim prices, and the 35-piece stay orchestra utilized by Clausen was an apparent place to chop. As well as, the producers expressed alarm that Clausen was farming out his work to different composers, together with his son, with out permission. In addition they stated that he may very well be tough to collaborate with.
At backside, although, they felt that he had not saved up with the instances. Matt Selman, one in every of two showrunners, stated in a declaration that Clausen was most comfy with classical, huge band and jazz music. In the event that they wanted one thing else — rap, hip-hop, grunge, or EDM — they’d typically go to the laborious technique of bringing in an outdoor composer.
“(O)ur artistic prospects have been restricted by Clausen’s skills,” Selman stated within the declaration. “The Simpsons has been broadcast now for over 30 years. In my opinion, it’s important for the present to reference and use the musical genres which are well-liked on the time or that evoke related cultural references, as a result of the present entertains not solely by telling a narrative but additionally by making these cultural references — and musical references are extremely vital for that. Sooner or later, it turned clear to me that Clausen was not adept at composing all of the myriad types of music desired for the present.”
In an amended criticism earlier this month, Clausen revealed that he has Parkinson’s illness, although on the time he was nonetheless engaged on the present it was below management with treatment. Nonetheless, his attorneys stated that after he was fired he suffered “extreme emotional penalties,” and his bodily and emotional situation quickly deteriorated.
The criticism additionally cites Clausen’s 23 Emmy nominations, and argues that he “carried out the important duties of his job exceptionally effectively and to Defendants’ full and complete satisfaction.”
On “The Nice Phatsby,” the producers introduced in Jim Beanz, who wrote a lot of the music on “Empire,” to work with Clausen. Brooks was excited in regards to the episode, based on Selman’s declaration, as a result of he thought it was a “enjoyable idea.”
However when Brooks heard Clausen’s orchestral cues, he was “not happy,” Selman stated. “As showrunner, I additionally thought we may do higher as a result of the episode didn’t appear as musically wealthy or vibrant as I had hoped.”
Writing for the AV Membership, Dennis Perkins gave the episode a usually favorable assessment, whereas acknowledging the present’s limitations.
“Look, The Simpsons is just not the hippest present on the town,” Perkins wrote. However, he wrote that the episode had been infused with “sufficient authentic blackness to make the entire ‘Simpsons do a rap episode’ factor much less cringe-inducing than maybe the preliminary description made it sound.”
For Clausen, the hook was coming. Brooks was troubled by the revelation that Clausen’s son was doing a lot of the work, and held a sequence of conferences together with his producers.
“I believed that the sequence may do higher with regard to the music,” Brooks stated in a declaration. “We determined we should always look to discover a new composer.”
Brooks turned to Hans Zimmer, who had labored on “The Simpsons Film” and plenty of different movies. Finally, they determined to rent Bleeding Fingers Music, a composing collective that Zimmer had began, and to let Clausen go.
Bleeding Fingers relied far more closely on pc “synth” music. The change saved about 40% of the present’s music prices. (In his declaration, Sakai stated that cash now goes to animation and “further artistic content material,” and that the price range has not modified.)
Clausen was given an “emeritus composer” credit score for the following two seasons, together with $2,500 per episode.
Whether or not the music has improved up for dispute. Selman, who hoped to develop the “breadth and relevance” of music, stated in his declaration that Bleeding Fingers “can deal with completely different genres higher than Clausen as a result of they’ve many composers.” He additionally stated the synth music was so good that he couldn’t hear the distinction.
However based on Clausen’s criticism, the brand new music is “inferior in high quality, depth, vary and sound, but stylistically related in substance.”