For a show that has so thoroughly mocked corporate culture and Madison Avenue hucksterism for nearly three decades, The Simpsons has proved itself remarkably amenable to commercial endorsements. A fan-curated wiki traces the legacy of Simpsons commercials back to 1988, when the cartoon was merely a segment of The Tracey Ullman Show. The animated yellow family got its own half-hour weekly showcase in 1989, and the ads have been coming at a steady clip ever since. YouTuber Antonio Volante (aka Fry J. Apocaloso) has collected over 40 minutes of these ads in a thorough compilation entitled “The Simpsons: The Big Fat Commercial Collection.” It contains roughly two whole episodes’ worth of animation, gags, and voice acting from most of the cast. The product most closely associated with The Simpsons is Butterfinger, and the first 11 minutes of the video are devoted to the “crispity, crunchity, peanut buttery” candy bars. But the compilation goes way, way beyond that. At the 28-minute mark, for instance, there’s an assortment of rarely seen foreign Simpsons ads in French, Spanish, and Japanese.
This collection of commercials serves as a miniature history of the show’s evolving look, including its character designs, backgrounds, and animation quality. The ads also demonstrate how The Simpsons’ focus has widened over the decades. In the early days, bratty Bart (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) was the breakout star, and the ads certainly reflected that. As flustered family man Homer (Dan Castellaneta) became more central to the show, his role in the commercials increased. But The Simpsons has one of the biggest supporting casts in all of TV, so plenty of Springfield residents make cameo appearances, including Krusty and Ned Flanders. By the end of the collection, even miserly Mr. Burns (Harry Shearer) can be the focus of an elaborate Coca-Cola ad. About the only regular Simpsons cast member you won’t hear here is Julie Kavner, the voice of Marge. The blue-haired matriarch is curiously taciturn through most of these, letting her husband and son do most of the talking.