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'The Simpsons' creator Matt Groening explains why the characters are yellow

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For over three decades, the bright yellow skin of the Simpsons has been a pop culture landmark. But why this unusual color choice? Matt Groening, the show’s creator, shed some light on this enduring mystery in a 2007 interview with the BBC.


Groening's reasoning centered around two key ideas: standing out and simplicity.



An animator came up with the Simpsons’ yellow and as soon as she showed it to me I said, “This is the answer!” When you’re flicking through channels with your remote control, and a flash of yellow goes by, you’ll know you’re watching The Simpsons.


Separately, he also expressed a desire to move away from “conventional cartoon colors” and create a visually distinct family. And, d’oh! The sunshine hue, with its inherent brightness, perfectly captured this goal.


There’s also a practical element at play. Some writers, like former Simpsons showrunner Mike Reiss, suggest the yellow hue might have stemmed from the animation process itself. Reiss, in his book Springfield Confidential, theorizes that the lack of defined hairlines on Bart, Lisa and Maggie made yellow a convenient choice, blurring the lines between skin and hair.


While Reiss’s theory offers an interesting behind-the-scenes perspective, Groening’s emphasis on grabbing viewers' attention seems like the primary motive. The eye-catching nature of yellow ensures that the Simpsons will register even in a fleeting glimpse while channel surfing.


The success of this strategy speaks for itself. The Simpsons’ iconic yellow has transcended the screen, becoming instantly recognizable and solidifying the show's place in pop culture history.




Image: Rokas Tenys | Dreamstime.com

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