‘The Simpsons’ exhibit in Trout Museum


Kelly Hueckman / Advance-Titan – ‘The Simpsons’ exhibit features hand-drawn art from earlier seasons of the show.

Kelly Hueckman, Managing Editor

America’s favorite family is on display in Appleton’s Trout Museum of art as part of a Simpsons-themed exhibit titled “B(ART)”, after one of the show’s main characters.

“This is a really fun and exciting exhibit,” Lawrence University ethnic studies professor Jesús Smith said. “I think it’s something so unique for the Trout.”

Based on the longest-running animated show, “The Simpsons,” the exhibit features hand-drawn art from the show’s earliest seasons.

The 2-D drawings are on transparent, plastic sheets called cels. The cels are then photographed in sequence, and when played back at a speed of 24 frames per second, imitate the illusion of movement.

“The Simpsons” used this form of animation through their 13th season before making the shift to digital animation. 

The exhibit is composed of cels loaned to the Trout Museum from animation collectors Bill Heeter and Kristi Correa and will be available for viewing through May 28. 

Heeter said the main reason he began collecting Simpsons-themed art is because the show’s comedic aspect.

“I laugh when I see [the cels],” he said. “That’s why I collect them. I have one in my bedroom, and I see it every morning when I wake up and every night when I go to bed and I laugh.”

The exhibit displays comedic scenes from the first 13 seasons, with sections dedicated to each of the main characters and several side characters like Itchy, Scratchy and Carl Carlson. 

Trout Museum employees made “B(ART)” an immersive experience for viewers, with stations where visitors can use lightboxes to trace their own Simpson characters.

They also set up a photo station where visitors can make their own “couch gag,” a running joke on the show where the Simpson family ends up on their couch at the end of each episode’s intro.

“The Simpsons” superfan and visitor of “B(ART)” Jack Zimmerman said the couch gag is a fan-favorite part of the show.

“The couch gag could be from guest animators or funny things [the Simpsons] do,” Zimmerman said. “It’s just what everyone loves.”

Heeter, who began collecting “The Simpsons” cels in the ‘90s, said he wasn’t always a fan of animated series, though, because they were typically directed toward children.

“I was never a fan of that stuff,” he said. “I thought it talked down to kids.”

However, when “The Simpsons” premiered in 1989, Heeter said he was impressed by the sarcastic tone of the comedy.

“This is actually pretty funny and witty and clever,” he said. “It was a little politically incorrect, but I liked that. It can be funny if done properly.”

Smith said “The Simpsons” commentary on social issues like climate change, classism and ageism was not only one of the main attractions of the show, but is what makes it still relevant today.

“It’s a brilliant, brilliant critique of society in general,” he said. “They’re supposed to represent most families around the U.S. Watching “The Simpsons,” there are so many powerful things that we grapple with today.”

One part of the show that appealed to many types of audiences was the rebellious nature of the characters, Smith said.

“Bart was often the kid in school who was misbehaving,” he said. “He was kind of this example of rebellion. On the flip side, Lisa was constantly pushing against the expectations of what was expected of young girls.”

Smith said the exhibit is one example of the impact of different types of art, even non-traditional types like animation.

“[‘The Simpsons’] is such a statement about what activism looks like,” he said. “This is what this animation, this art, can do.”

“B(ART)” will be on display at the Trout Museum of Art through May 28. Admission is free to TMA membership holders or $15 for a one-day visitor pass.