Prince Could Have Been On The Simpsons, Here's Why He Wasn't

Prince on The Simpsons
Prince looking up Radioactive Man news. Fox, Screen Cap Via Themusic.com.au

After the tragic news that Prince had passed away at the age of 57, I thought to myself, “Surely Prince must have been on an episode of The Simpsons. It might be a touching tribute to review that episode.” While Prince never lent his voice to The Simpsons, his Simpsonized likeness did appear twice. In the season 20 Halloween episode, Homer kills Prince and other celebrities and uses their likeness in a “Mad Men” advertising spoof.

Prince also appears reading alt.nerd.obsessive about the Radioactive Man movie in season seven. 

However, there were plans for a full episode devoted to Prince, and it wasn’t long before I discovered why there is no “Prince as himself” credit on The Simpsons. Early Simpsons show runner Bill Oakley discussed in a 2012 Twitter session. Thanks to Storify.net for recording it for posterity and Rubbertcat.net for linking. 

Oakley called it “Prince Comes to Springfield” and credits then-Simpsons writer Conan O’Brien for writing the script. Simpsons writer Mike Reiss suggests that O’Brien did a pass on a script written by freelance writers. Either way, imagine if they could unearth and release the script for both Prince and Simpsons fans to read now. It would have been great to see Leon Kompowsky again.

Themusic.com and Rubbercat dug deeper and found on the audio commentary for the DVD release of season three.

Discussing the landmark episode “Stark Raving Dad,” Reiss revealed more details about “The Prince Episode.” Since Michael Jackson guest starred in the season three premiere “Stark Raving Dad,” the Simpsons writers conceived of a sequel to that episode to feature Prince. Reiss explained that Leon Kompowsky, Homer’s mental institution roommate who claimed to be Jackson, would return claiming to be Prince this time.

 

The episode would have been in season five and the plot would feature Kompowsky/Prince teaching Springfield to "loosen up, become more flamboyant; everyone becomes more sexually open, they're dressing in paisley."

Oakley commented on the Prince script in a Q&A with NoHomers.net in 2008. "An entire episode was written to showcase an appearance by Prince," Oakley wrote. "But it turned out Prince was on a completely different wavelength (imagine!) and actually had a friend of his write a script for the episode instead. No reconciliation was ever reached and the episode never happened."

Oakley says they sent the script to Prince, and that’s when it became unfeasible to secure the artist for voice work. Oakley recalls Prince sending back a page of notes detailing what he should be wearing in each scene. It wouldn’t be entirely unfair to let the iconic Prince dictate his animated costumes, even if it was Leon Kompowsky assuming his likeness. Unfortunately, the script notes did not match the actual script.

Prince had the script to a different episode. We may never know who wrote this alternate script. Rumors attribute it to a friend or a chauffeur, that perhaps Prince commissioned after disliking the official Simpsons script.

The Simpsons probably do not accept unsolicited spec scripts, even if they do come from Prince himself. In any event, they elected not to produce Prince’s version either. 

Prince, of course, has a history with The Simpsons producer James L. Brooks. Brooks directed the movie I’ll Do Anything. The film was originally a musical, and some of the songs were written by Prince. When Brooks screened the film for a test audience, they complained about the music so the film was re-conceived as a straight dramedy. The music free version of I’ll Do Anything still did poorly at the box office, and ever since fans have been curious to see the original cut. Unfortunately, since the music was cut from the film, licenses were never paid to the artists. To release the musical cut of I’ll Do Anything would still require paying the music licenses, and paying artists like Prince would be quite expensive, perhaps costing more than even a highly sought after director’s cut of the film could generate in revenues.

Prince reportedly reused some of the music from I’ll Do Anything in future projects, like songs from the film Girl 6

The Simpsons have made references to Prince. Milhouse exclaims, “So this is what it feels like when doves cry!” in the episode “Lemon of Troy.” In the Stonecutters episode “Homer the Great,” a flashback shows the Founding Fathers partying “like ‘twas 1799.” Bart and Lisa name their greyhounds Prince and The Puppy Formerly Known as Prince.  In the flashback “Lisa’s Sax,” Homer says, "Back then, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince was currently known as Prince." 

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