By now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the brilliant opening that Guillermo del Toro created for the Simpsons episode ‘Treehouse of Horror XXIV.’ If not, stop reading and watch it. Now.
The Simpsons have gotten pretty clever with their openings in the past few years, with creating a lip dub set to ‘Tik Tok’ by Ke$ha for the Fox Rocks week back in 2010 and giving street artist Banksy free reign to direct the world’s most depressing couch gag.
However, del Toro’s opening is just pure nerdy bliss packed to the gills with horror and fantasy references that it’s worth a rewatch or five to catch things you might have missed the first time. Here are five of my favorites that made their way into the final cut.
1.) Winslow Leach as Lisa’s Music Teacher
There’s a super clever part in the opening where del Toro has Lisa in music class with all of the iterations of the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera. And I do mean all because he even put in Winslow Leach from Phantom of the Paradise as Lisa’s music teacher!
For those who don’t know, Phantom of the Paradise was a 1974 film directed by Brian DePalma that retells The Phantom of the Opera, the legend of Faust, and The Picture of Dorian Gray in a tale about the music industry. Well, that’s the simple version. It’s kind of a crazy film, but it’s a fun movie about music, love, and Satan and one of my favorite movies ever. Not a lot of people have heard of it, but it was a huge influence on French electronica duo Daft Punk and filmmaker Edgar Wright. In fact, Wright has said that one of the primary influences for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was indeed Phantom of the Paradise and the film’s star and songwriter Paul Williams was featured on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.
Still, I don’t think that’s nowhere near as thrilling as seeing The Phantom and his music room immortalized in The Simpsons thanks to Guillermo del Toro, especially after actor William Finley’s death last year.
2.) Gipsy Danger and Knifehead fighting against the Springfield skyline
Being the sneaky bastard that he is, del Toro stuck in references to every film he’s directed. And probably a few he’s worked on outside of that. I’m fairly certain I saw a panda in one of the paintings in the music classroom.
However, my favorite del Toro internal reference was not to Hellboy, Blade, or Cronos. It was to Pacific Rim.
Keep an eye to the left of the screen when the camera pans into the bullies cutting off the head of the Jebidiah Springfield statue. If you look closely, you can see a giant robot fighting a giant monster with a giant horn jutting out of it’s face with appropriate Godzilla sound effects. Doesn’t that look super familiar?
Sure, Pacific Rim may have not done best in the box office, but the director loved it enough to sneak analogs of Gipsy Danger and Knifehead into the opening credits of the longest running show on television.
3.) Cthulu having tea with HP Lovecraft
There’s a part where Bart skates by a row of men after riding the tentacles of Cthulu on his skateboard. You might miss it the first time, but they’re actually famous science fiction and horror authors with some of their most famous creations! Richard Matheson stands with the Omega Man, Ray Bradbury draws on the Illustrated Man, and a raven lands on Edgar Allen Poe’s shoulder (which is even more appropriate since one of the first Treehouse of Horror sketches was a reading of ‘The Raven’).
However, I think it is more than appropriate that the first one you see as Bart slides down from the tentacles is HP Lovecraft having tea with his eldritch creation. Oh Lovecraft, you brilliant, racist bastard.
4.) Xenomorphs, Skeletons, and Rod Serling… Oh my!
Okay, the part right before the cars pull into the garage makes my brain hurt from how much is packed into one shot. Hans Moleman paints Alfred Hitchcock’s silhouette onto the wall. Ray Harryhausen’s skeletons run by ready to attack. A Xenomorph pops up from behind the wall. The cast of Freaks sits around and watches. Rod Serling is manhandled by the Robot from Lost In Space! There’s so much in this scene that I’m not even sure of everything in there.
5.) The Hypnotoad down the rabbit hole.
Okay, this one isn’t obscure, but makes my heart happy as a lifelong Futurama fan. When Lisa falls down the rabbit hole in her couch and lands on a toadstool, who is there to join her but the Hypnotoad itself!
It makes me sad that Futurama has died its third and apparently final death earlier this year, but with fans like these, how can it every really die?
What were your favorite references in Guillermo del Toro’s opening? Would you like to see del Toro direct an actual segment for the Treehouse of Horror in the future?