Collection of Simpsons and Seinfeld scripts and storyboards
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Simpsons, an award-winning animated television program on Fox, was created by Matt Groening and first aired in 1989. "The longest-running primetime scripted show in American television history" (Porter), The Simpsons has won many awards, including numerous Emmy Awards, Annie Awards, Environmental Media Awards, and Genesis Awards. Along with accolades, the show has also met criticism; however, it remains one of America's most watched programs.
Matt Selman, a 1993 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, began writing for television in 1996, first for Seinfeld; and soon after, for The Simpsons. The Simpsons episodes written or co-written by Selman, as of 2019, include "Natural Born Kissers," "Behind the Laughter," "They Saved Lisa's Brain," "Eight Misbehaving,'" "Lisa the Tree Hugger," "Trilogy of Error," "Simpson's Bible Stories," "Simpsons Tall Tales," "Jaws Wired Shut," "The Dad who Knew Too Little," "All's Fair in the Oven War," "Pranksta Rap, "Future-Drama," "Girls Just Want to Have Sums," "The Haw-Hawed Couple," "Husbands and Knives," "That '90s Show," "Bart Gets a 'Z,'" "O Brother Where Bart Thou," "Flaming Moe," "The Foodwife," "The Day the Earth Stood Cool," "Gorgeous Grampa," "Covercraft," "Sky Police," "There Will Be Buds," "The Great Phatsby," "Heartbreak Hotel," and "The Clown Stays in the Picture." He also co-wrote The Simpsons Movie (released in 2007) and a number of video games based upon the show.
Glimpses of Selman's experiences at the University of Pennsylvania can be found in the episode "That '90s Show," with Marge taking the same classes as Selman did and images of the iconic "Button." Selman stated that he considered this episode to be "a love letter to Penn." (Haralson).
Harlason, Jessica. "Meeting Marge at the Button: Revisionism Rules!" Pennsylvania Gazette, 2008.
Porter, Rick. "'The Simpsons' is forever: Series renewed through Season 30 on FOX." TV By the Numbers, 2016 November 4.
This collection consists of television scripts, storyboards, and audiovisual material for Seinfeld (seasons 2 to 7), The Simpsons (seasons 7 to 28), The Simpsons Movie (2007), and a few episodes of other television shows, including The Vindicators, Futurama, and Twin Cities. The bulk of the material relates to The Simpsons.
The collection is arranged in four series: I. Seinfeld scripts; II. The Simpsons scripts, story boards, and audiovisual material; III. Other television shows; and IV. Selman files.
The first series, I. Seinfeld scripts, is arranged by season and episode. The production code of the episode is also included. Types of scripts include first drafts, revised table drafts, shooting scripts, and broadcast scripts. The date listed in the finding aid is the original air date. All of these scripts precede Matt Selman's time working on Seinfeld, which occurred in 1996. Selman wrote one episode of Seinfeld, "The Wait Out," which is not included in this collection.
Series II. The Simpsons scripts, storyboards, and audiovisual material includes material dating from 1993 to 2016, although the bulk of the material is from 1996 to 2012. Types of scripts include outlines, story notes, first drafts, early drafts, writer's drafts, pre-table drafts, table drafts, records, pick-ups, and director's notes. Some episodes, generally those that were written or co-written by Selman, also include storyboards and audio visual material. Together, along with Selman's annotations, these materials show the progress of the creative process as well as the work required to produce a half-hour of television programming. Researchers will find extensive material on the episodes written and co-written by Selman, which often provide a nearly start-to-finish example of the process. These episodes include: "Natural Born Kissers," "Behind the Laughter," "They Saved Lisa's Brain," "Eight Misbehaving,'" "Lisa the Tree Hugger," "Trilogy of Error," "Simpson's Bible Stories," "Simpsons Tall Tales," "Jaws Wired Shut," "The Dad who Knew Too Little," "All's Fair in the Oven War," "Pranksta Rap, "Future-Drama," "Girls Just Want to Have Sums," "The Haw-Hawed Couple," "Husbands and Knives," and "That '90s Show." In addition to notes made about the content of and/or revisions to the episode, Selman's drafts include extensive doodles, as well as more general notes, reminders, and thoughts. The scripts in this series are organized by season and episode; and the production code is included. The date listed in the finding aid is the original air date.
This series also includes drafts and notes on The Simpsons: The Movie which Selman co-wrote. Researchers will find revised table drafts, revised drafts, studio drafts, second round record drafts, screening drafts, as well as some notes and a few extra pages. Selman also wrote The Simpsons-related video games and two of those, as well as a few other The Simpsons-related material is included.
Series III. Other television shows includes scripts and audio visual material for a few other television shows for which Selman wrote (or presumably wrote). Of particular note is The Vindicators, a program about superheroes that was written for Comedy Central. Only a pilot was made for this title, but fairly extensive documentation of the episode is present in this collection. Other titles include Futurama (four episodes), Twin Cities (one episode), and one untitled script.
The final series in this collection, Series IV. Selman files includes a very small number of files including correspondence, memo and notes, research on women and math (possibly research for "Girls Just Want to Have Sums"), scripts which were not written by Selman, a book on The Simpsons which was sent to Selman, and a vhs tape of the Writers Guild of America Awards in 2004 when Selman won for "The Dad Who Knew Too Little."
This collection, as a whole, provides a fascinating glimpse into the writing of one of America's most popular animated television programs. Researchers interested in Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Matt Selman, the creative process behind writing for television programs, and television, more generally, will likely find this collection to be valuable.
Gift of Matt Selman, 2017.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Anthony Lagana
- Finding Aid Date
- 2019 August 20
- Access Restrictions
The bulk of this collection is open for research use in the reading room; however, original audio/visual material and computer files, located in boxes 33 to 35 is restricted. The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) for cost estimates and ordering. Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.
No photographs or reprographic copies of the material in this collection may be made without express written permission of the copyright holder in those materials.
- Use Restrictions
The University of Pennsylvania Libraries does not hold copyright in the material in this collection. Those who wish to reproduce material from this collection must secure permission from the Fox Broadcasting Company and/or other copyright holders as applicable.