Treehouse of Horror

Treehouse of Horror, also known as The Simpsons Halloween specials, are a series of Halloween-themed episodes of the animated series The Simpsons, each consisting of three separate, self-contained segments. These segments usually involve the Simpson family in some horror, science fiction, or supernatural setting. They take place outside the show's normal continuity and completely abandon any pretense of being realistic, being known for their far more violent and much darker nature than an average Simpsons episode. The first, entitled "Treehouse of Horror", aired on October 25, 1990, as part of the second season and was inspired by EC Comics horror tales. Since then, there have been 28 other Treehouse of Horror episodes, with one airing every year.

Episodes contain parodies of horror, science fiction, and fantasy films, as well as the alien characters Kang and Kodos, a special version of the opening sequence, and scary names in the credits. The show's staff regard the Treehouse of Horror as being particularly difficult to produce, as the scripts often go through many rewrites, and the animators typically have to design new characters and backgrounds.

Many of the episodes are popular among fans and critics of the show and have inspired a whole offshoot of Simpsons merchandise, including action figures, playsets, video games, books, DVDs, comic books, and a special version of Monopoly. Several of the episodes have won awards for animation and sound editing. In 1996, 2013, and 2015, "Treehouse of Horror VI", "Treehouse of Horror XXIII", and "Treehouse of Horror XXV" were respectively nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award in the "Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour)" category.

Treehouse of Horror series DVD
Cover of a DVD collection of "Treehouse of Horror" episodes

Segments

Treehouse of Horror episodes typically consist of four parts: an opening and Halloween-themed version of the credits, followed by three segments. These segments usually have a horror, science fiction or fantasy theme and quite often are parodies of films, novels, plays, television shows, Twilight Zone episodes, or old issues of EC Comics. Although they are sometimes connected by "wraparounds", the three segments rarely have any kind of continuing connection within the episode. The two exceptions are "Treehouse of Horror V", in which Groundskeeper Willie is killed by an axe in a similar fashion in all three segments, as well as in Treehouse of Horror XXVIII, in which Maggie is possessed by the demon Pazuzu in the first segment and is still recovering in the next segment.[1] The episodes are considered to be non-canon and always take place outside the normal continuity of the show, since each character appears to be fine afterwards.[2]

From "Treehouse of Horror" to "Treehouse of Horror XIII", all three segments were written by different writers. In some cases there was a fourth writer who wrote the opening and wraparound segments.[3] For the original "Treehouse of Horror", there were three different directors for the episode.[4] Starting with season 15's "Treehouse of Horror XIV", however, only one writer has been credited with writing each Treehouse of Horror episode.[5][6][7][8][9]

On occasion, the episodes will be used to showcase special animation, such as the "Treehouse of Horror VI" segment "Homer3", in which a computer-animated Homer is shown in a non-animated setting. At the time (1995), it was groundbreaking, as it was unusual for a television show to use such animation. The segment was executive producer Bill Oakley's idea and included live action directed by David Mirkin.[10] "Treehouse of Horror XX" included the segment "There's No Business Like Moe Business", which was the first to be musically-themed.[11]

Traditions

Opening sequence

Treehouse of Horror Tombstone
Three of the tombstones from the opening segment of "Treehouse of Horror"

Every Treehouse of Horror episode opens with a special introductory segment. The first, second, and fifth Treehouse of Horror episodes open with Marge standing on a stage and warning parents about the content of the episode, advising them to put their children to bed. The warning in the first episode was put in as a sincere effort to warn young viewers, as the producers felt it was somewhat scary.[12] The entire segment was a parody of the opening of the 1931 film Frankenstein.[13] Marge's warnings quickly became a burden to write. After "Treehouse of Horror V", they were permanently dropped,[14] and the writers did not make any attempts at reviving them.[10]

Other Treehouse of Horror episodes have opened with parodies; for example, "Treehouse of Horror III" had Homer introduce the episode in a manner similar to Alfred Hitchcock in Alfred Hitchcock Presents,[15] "Treehouse of Horror IV" had Bart introduce the episode and segments in a manner similar to Night Gallery, and "Treehouse of Horror V" featured a parody of The Outer Limits.[16] The sixth and seventh episodes featured short clips with no lines because the episodes had run long, and longer segments were cut.[10] Following "Treehouse of Horror VII", the opening has been upwards of a minute long and sometimes featured an introduction by a character, such as Mr. Burns in "Treehouse of Horror XVII"[8] or included over-the-top violence, such as "Treehouse of Horror VIII" (which showed a Fox Network censor being brutally murdered) and "Treehouse of Horror XIV" (which showed the Simpson family killing each other).[5]

In the opening segment of the first five episodes, the camera zooms through a cemetery where tombstones with humorous epitaphs can be seen. These messages include the names of canceled shows from the previous season, deceased celebrities such as Walt Disney and Jim Morrison,[17] and a tombstone with an inscription that read "TV violence" that was riddled with bullets as the camera panned on it.[3] They were last used in "Treehouse of Horror V", which included a solitary tombstone with the words "Amusing Tombstones" to signal this.[16] The tombstone gags were easy for the writers in the first episode, but like Marge's warnings, they eventually got more difficult to write, so they were abandoned.[13] Another reason they were dropped was that the tombstones would list television shows that had been canceled the previous season; after a few years, several of the shows that were canceled were produced by former Simpsons writers.[18] However, after two decades, this gag made a brief comeback in Treehouse of Horror XXIX at the very beginning, this time appearing before the main opening sequence and title.

While the early Treehouse of Horror episodes featured a Halloween themed opening sequence, the later ones only included the title and the "created by" and "developed by" credits. Every episode between "Treehouse of Horror II" and "Treehouse of Horror X" featured a couch gag with a Halloween theme, including the Simpson family dressed as skeletons,[17] zombies,[3] and characters from previous Halloween episodes.[19]

Wraparounds

The first four Treehouse of Horror episodes had brief wraparounds that occurred before each segment and loosely tied together all three stories. "Treehouse of Horror" was the only one that actually included a treehouse as a setting.[2] In that episode, Bart and Lisa sat in it telling stories to each other.[2][4] "Treehouse of Horror II" presented all of the segments as being nightmares of Lisa, Bart and Homer;[17] "Treehouse of Horror III" had Lisa, Bart and Grampa telling stories at a Halloween party;[15] and "Treehouse of Horror IV" is presented by Bart in a parody of Rod Serling's Night Gallery.[3] After a few years, the amount of broadcast time for an episode was shortened, allowing less time to tell a proper story.[14] There were no wraparounds for "Treehouse of Horror V" because they had been cut to make more time for the segments. Following that, the writers permanently dropped them.[20]

Kang and Kodos

Two characters that are virtually exclusive to the Treehouse of Horror series are Kang and Kodos, a pair of large green space aliens who were introduced in the "Hungry are the Damned" segment of "Treehouse of Horror". Kang and Kodos have since appeared in every Treehouse of Horror episode, sometimes as important parts of a story, but often just for brief cameos. In some episodes, they only appear in the opening segment,[5][19] but often they will make a cameo appearance in the middle of a different story. For example, a story about zombies attacking the town briefly cuts to them in their space ship, watching the events and laughing maniacally at the Earthlings' suffering. The action then switches back to the actual story.[15] The unofficial rule is that they must be in every episode,[12] although quite often they will be forgotten and are added at the last moment, resulting in only a brief appearance.[2] Their scene in "Treehouse of Horror VIII" nearly did not make the final cut of the episode, but David X. Cohen managed to persuade the producers to leave the scene in.[21]

Kang and Kodos were prominent characters in the 2015 episode "The Man Who Came to Be Dinner," which was not Halloween themed.

Scary names

Treehouse of Horror Spooky names
The "scary names" for the writers in "Treehouse of Horror IV".

Beginning with "Treehouse of Horror II", the producers decided to give the cast and crew of the show "scary names" in the opening and closing credits. Although the names quickly became more silly than scary, there have been a wide variety of special credits, from simple names like "Bat Groening" to complex ones like "David²+S.²=Cohen²".[22] Sam Simon, who left the show during the fourth season but still receives "developed by" and "executive producer" credits, and until Treehouse of Horror XXVI, he had been listed in Treehouse of Horror episodes as "Sam 'Sayonara' Simon". Since his death in 2015, he has been credited simply by his real name.

The idea for "scary names" came from executive producer Al Jean, who was inspired by EC Comics because some of the issues also used "scary" alternate names.[12] The "scary names" became such a burden to write that they were cut for "Treehouse of Horror XII" and "Treehouse of Horror XIII", but after hearing complaints from the fans, Jean decided to bring them back.[23] Matt Groening's rule for the "scary names" is that they cannot be longer than a person's real name, but this is rarely followed by anyone else.[24]

Cultural references

References to films, novels, plays, television shows, and other media are commonly featured, and many segments have been parodies of a specific work in the horror, science fiction, or fantasy genre. Many segments are spoofs of episodes of The Twilight Zone, and entire segments will be based on a single episode.[25] Some of the Twilight Zone episodes parodied include "A Kind of a Stopwatch", "To Serve Man",[26] "A Small Talent for War",[27] "Living Doll",[28] "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet",[29] "Little Girl Lost",[30] and "The Little People".[31] The "Bart's Nightmare" segment of "Treehouse of Horror II" parodies the episode "It's a Good Life" and is even presented in a format similar to an episode of The Twilight Zone.[27] The Halloween episodes also regularly parody horror and thriller films such as The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror,[26] King Kong, Night of the Living Dead,[28] The Shining,[32] A Nightmare on Elm Street,[30] The Fly,[33] Psycho,[11] Paranormal Activity, and Dead Calm.[34] Robert Englund, who portrays Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm street franchise, had a cameo appearance in "Treehouse of Horror IX" as the character.[35] Science fiction films have also occasionally been used as inspiration for segments, and in later episodes, many of the segments were based more on science fiction than horror. Science fiction works parodied include The Omega Man,[36] the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four,[32] E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,[37] and Orson Welles's The War of the Worlds radio broadcast.[38] In "Treehouse of Horror", Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" is read by James Earl Jones, while the parts are acted by various characters.[26] Recent parodies have included films and television specials in more varied genres, including Mr. & Mrs. Smith,[37] It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Transformers,[39] Sweeney Todd,[40] the Twilight film series,[41] and Jumanji.[34]

A modified version of the production logo for Gracie Films is displayed after the closing credits. The shushing sound is replaced by a scream, and the jingle is played in a minor key on a pipe organ.

Production

David Mirkin by Gage Skidmore
David Mirkin believes the episodes should be both scary and funny and has been responsible for some of the more gruesome moments.

The first Treehouse of Horror episode aired in 1990 as part of the second season, and its on-screen title was "The Simpsons Halloween Special." It was inspired by EC Comics Horror tales.[12] Although every episode is entitled "Treehouse of Horror", the first one was the only episode that actually used the treehouse motif.[2] During production of the first episode, Matt Groening was nervous about "The Raven" segment, and felt it would be "the worst, most pretentious thing [they had] ever done."[2]

The Treehouse of Horror episodes are difficult for both the writers and the animators.[13] The episodes were originally written at the beginning of the production run, but in later seasons they were written at the end and aired at the beginning of the next season as holdovers, giving the animators more time to work.[12] Part of the difficulty for the animators is that the episodes always involve many complex backgrounds, new characters, and new designs.[12] They are difficult for the writers because they must produce three stories, an opening and, in the early episodes, a wraparound. They would have to try to fit all of this into a 20–22 minute episode.[42] The episodes often go through many last minute changes, with rewrites requiring new lines to be recorded.[43] "Treehouse of Horror III" in particular underwent somewhere between 80 and 100 line changes in the six-week period between the arrival of the animation from Korea and the airing of the episode.[23] By the fourth season, executive producers Al Jean and Mike Reiss were less enamored of Treehouse of Horror episodes and considered dropping them, but the other writers insisted that they be kept.[23]

Bill Oakley2
Bill Oakley (along with Josh Weinstein) executive produced two episodes and wrote one segment.

Part of the attraction for the writers is that they are able to break the rules and include violence that would not make a regular episode.[2] In some cases, the writers will have an idea that is too violent and far-fetched or too short for a normal episode, but can be used as a segment in the seasonal special.[12] Several of the writers, former executive producer David Mirkin among them, believe that the episodes should be scary and not just funny.[42] "Treehouse of Horror V" has been described by Mirkin as being one of "the most intense, disturbing Halloween show ever" as it was filled with violence and gore in response to new censorship rules.[1] Earlier "Treehouse of Horror" episodes began with Marge issuing a disclaimer that "if you have sensitive children, maybe you should tuck them into bed early tonight instead of writing us angry letters tomorrow."[44] However, these episodes seem mild compared to the carnage that followed in later episodes, according to Jean, who calls it "a societal thing". He points out that his 10-year-old daughter loves films like Coraline, and that, "[in] the age of scary stories [...] appropriateness has gotten lower."[44]

Although gruesome for the most part, some segments, such as "Citizen Kang" in "Treehouse of Horror VII", satirize political issues. The opening segment of "Treehouse of Horror XIX" featured Homer attempting to vote for Barack Obama but a rigged electronic voting machine instead registers a vote for John McCain.[45] Rather than taking sides in the election, Al Jean says it is "mostly a comment on what many people to believe to be the irregularities in our voting system.[sic]"[46] In "Treehouse of Horror XVII", a segment called "The Day the Earth Looked Stupid" ends with Kang and Kodos taking over Springfield as part of a mission called "Operation: Enduring occupation". The script originally called for Kodos and Kang to look over the smoking ruins of Springfield and say "This sure is a lot like Iraq will be." The Fox network did not have any objection to the line, but it was rejected by some of the writers as too obvious and was cut from broadcast. While cut from the aired version, the line does appear in the "review" version sent to newspapers and magazines.[38]

Al Jean by Gage Skidmore
Al Jean has been executive producer for more Treehouse of Horror episodes than any other EP.

The first Treehouse of Horror episode was the first time that an alternate version of the theme that airs over the end credits was used. Originally it was supposed to use a theremin, but one could not be found that could hit all the necessary notes.[2] Usually when the producers submit an episode for the Primetime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore)", they submit a Treehouse of Horror episode,[12] and to date, seven episodes have been nominated.[47] The closing of "Treehouse of Horror IV" features a version of the theme that is a combination of the instruments used in The Munsters theme song and the harpiscord and clicking from the Addams Family theme song.[42]

Üter Zörker is so far the only human character introduced in a Treehouse of Horror episode to make it into the canon. His debut episode was "Treehouse of Horror IV" in the segment "Terror at ​5 12 Feet". He is an obese German exchange student obsessed with candy and is voiced by Russi Taylor.

Executive producer Al Jean revealed that 2019's Treehouse of Horror will be the 666th episode of The Simpsons series. Jean stated that this was planned ever since the show began airing in 1989.[48]

Scheduling

Although Treehouse of Horror episodes are Halloween-themed, for several years new episodes premiered in November following the holiday, due to Fox's coverage of Major League Baseball's World Series.[49] Season 12's "Treehouse of Horror XI" was the first episode to air in November. There have been several references to this in the show, such as in "Treehouse of Horror XIV" where Kang looks at a TV Guide and says, "Pathetic humans. They're showing a Halloween episode... in November!" and Kodos replies "Who's still thinking about Halloween? We've already got our Christmas decoration up." The camera then cuts to a shot of the fireplace with Christmas decorations, and festive Christmas music plays over the opening credits.[5] Season 21's "Treehouse of Horror XX" aired October 18, before the World Series, but the following year's episode, "Treehouse of Horror XXI", aired in November.[50] Season 23's "Treehouse of Horror XXII aired on October 30, however, as the World Series (which went the maximum of seven games) had concluded on October 28.[51] Subsequent Treehouse of Horror episodes have premiered in the month of October.

Merchandise

There has been a variety of merchandise based on the Treehouse of Horror episodes, including books, action figures, comic books, video games, DVDs and a "Treehouse of Horror" version of Hasbro's board game Monopoly.[52] Although every Treehouse of Horror episode until "Treehouse of Horror XVI" has been released along with its season in a boxset, in 2003, The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror DVD was released. It includes Treehouse of Horrors V, VI, VII and XII.[53] A Treehouse of Horror comic book has been published annually since 1995, and collected into several books, including The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Fun-Filled Frightfest, Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror Spine-Tingling Spooktacular, Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror Heebie-Jeebie Hullabaloo and The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Hoodoo Voodoo Brouhaha.[54] Several video games based on The Simpsons include levels with a Halloween theme, including The Simpsons: Hit & Run and The Simpsons Game. In 2001, Fox Interactive and THQ released The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror on Game Boy Color. The entire game has a Halloween theme as the player tries to save the Simpson family from the Treehouse of Horror.[55]

Many of the special character designs featured in the episodes have become action figures.[23] Four different playsets have been made by Playmates Toys and released as Toys "R" Us exclusives. The sets are:

  1. The "Treehouse of Horror I" set was released in 2000 and included a cemetery playset as well as "Devil Flanders", "Bart the Fly", "Vampire Burns", and "King Homer". It also came with an "Evil Krusty Doll" and Gremlin as accessories.[56]
  2. The "Treehouse of Horror 2" set was released in 2001 and included an interior alien spaceship playset as well as Kang, Kodos and "Alien Ship Homer". The entire set was based on "Treehouse of Horror".[57]
  3. The "Treehouse of Horror 3" set was released in 2002 and included a playset based on the "Ironic Punishment Division" of Hell in "Treehouse of Horror IV". It came with "Donuthead Homer", "Witch Marge", Hugo Simpson and "Dream Invader Willie".[58]
  4. The final "Treehouse of Horror 4" set was released in 2003 and included a playset based on Comic Book Guy's "Collector's all-plastic lair". It came with "The Collector", "Clobber Girl Lisa", "Stretch Dude Bart" and Lucy Lawless. All the designs were based on "Treehouse of Horror X".[59]
  5. On 2019, Funko revealed a 2-pack Kang and Kodos vinyl figure set presented as an exclusive for San Diego Comic Con 2019, along with a Treehouse of Horror Pop! wave, including King Homer (Treehouse of Horror III), Fly Bart (Treehouse of Horror VIII), Cat Marge (Treehouse of Horror XIII), Demon Lisa (Treehouse of Horror XXV), and Alien Maggie (Treehouse of Horror IX).

After the Playmates Toys sets were finished, McFarlane Toys produced four Treehouse of Horror themed playsets including the "Ironic Punishment Box Set" released in 2004,[60] the "In the Belly of the Boss — Homer & Marge Action Figures" released in 2005,[61] "The Island of Dr. Hibbert Box Set" released in 2006,[62] and a "Lard Lad Box Set" released in 2007.[63]

Reception

The Treehouse of Horror episodes are often among the top-rated episodes of their seasons[23] and many of the Treehouse of Horrors have generally been well-received by fans. However, like The Simpsons itself, critics have noted a decline in the quality of the later episodes.[64] In its first airing, "Treehouse of Horror" finished with a 15.7 Nielsen rating and a 25% audience share and would lose to The Cosby Show.[65] It was said that it "set a level of excellence that viewers never expected creator Matt Groening to repeat",[66] although it was also described as "kind of stupid and unsatisfying".[67] "Treehouse of Horror V" is considered the best episode by several critics: it finished ninth on Entertainment Weekly's top 25 The Simpsons episode list,[68] fifth on AskMen.com's "Top 10: Simpsons Episodes" list,[69] and was named best episode of the sixth season by IGN.com.[70] In 2006, James Earl Jones, who guest starred in "Treehouse of Horror" and "Treehouse of Horror V", was named seventh on IGN's "Top 25 Simpsons Guest Appearances" list.[71]

In 2006, IGN.com published a list of the top ten Treehouse of Horror segments, and they placed "The Shinning" from "Treehouse of Horror V" at the top, saying it was "not only a standout installment of the annual Halloween episode, but of The Simpsons, period."[72] Rounding out the list were "Dial "Z" for Zombies", "The Devil and Homer Simpson", "Time and Punishment", "Hungry Are the Damned", "Clown Without Pity", "Citizen Kang", "If I Only Had a Brain", "Bart Simpson's Dracula", and "Starship Poopers". The third, fourth, and fifth episodes were each represented by two segments. The most recent episode on the list was "Treehouse of Horror IX", which first aired in 1998.[72]

"Treehouse of Horror VII" is Simpsons creator Matt Groening's seventh favorite episode, and the line he likes best is "We have reached the limit of what rectal probing can teach us."[73] "King Homer" of "Treehouse of Horror III" is one of Matt Groening's favorite segments.[74] "Treehouse of Horror III" is also noted for the moment where Homer shoots Ned Flanders and Bart says "Dad, you killed the Zombie Flanders!" only for Homer to reply, "He was a zombie?"[72] It is also one of Groening's favorite lines.[74]

Awards

In 1996, the "Homer³" segment of "Treehouse of Horror VI" was awarded the Ottawa International Animation Festival grand prize.[75] In 1998, "Treehouse of Horror VIII" won a Golden Reel Award for "Best Sound Editing – Television Animated Specials"; the recipients were Robert Mackston, Travis Powers, Norm MacLeod, and Terry Greene. Bob Beecher also received a nomination for "Best Sound Editing in Television Animation – Music" for "Treehouse of Horror X".[76]

The second, third, fifth, eighth, ninth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and eighteenth[77] Treehouse of Horror episodes were nominated for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore)" at the Primetime Emmy Awards. The second and third "Treehouse of Horror" episodes were also nominated for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a Special".[47] In 1996, "Treehouse of Horror VI" was submitted for the Primetime Emmy Award in the "Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming less than One Hour)" category because it had a 3D animation sequence, which the staff felt would have given it the edge.[47] The episode failed to win, and Bill Oakley later expressed regret about submitting the episode.[78] The twenty-third and twenty-fifth Treehouse of Horror episodes were nominated for the same award in 2013 and 2015 respectively.[47][79]

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Groening, Matt (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Treehouse of Horror" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  3. ^ a b c d O'Brien, Conan; Weinstein, Josh; Oakley, Bill; Daniels, Greg; McGrath, Dan; Canterbury, Bill; Silverman, David (1993-10-28). "Treehouse of Horror IV". The Simpsons. Season 04. Episode 05. Fox.
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  6. ^ Odenkirk, Bill; Silverman, David (2004-11-04). "Treehouse of Horror XV". The Simpsons. Season 16. Episode 01. Fox.
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  14. ^ a b Jean, Al (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Treehouse of Horror II" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
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  39. ^ Topel, Fred (2008-09-10). "Simpsons Parodies Transformers". Sci Fi Wire. Archived from the original on 2008-09-13. Retrieved 2008-09-10.
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External links

Kang and Kodos

Kang and Kodos Johnson are a duo of fictional recurring characters in the animated television series The Simpsons. Kang is voiced by Harry Shearer and Kodos by Dan Castellaneta. They are green, octopus-like aliens from the fictional planet Rigel VII and appear almost exclusively in the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes. The duo has appeared in at least one segment of all twenty-eight Treehouse of Horror episodes. Sometimes their appearance is the focus of a plot, other times a brief cameo. Kang and Kodos are often bent on the conquest of Earth and are usually seen working on sinister plans to invade and subjugate humanity.

The duo first appeared in season two's "Treehouse of Horror". The first drawing of Kang and Kodos came from writers Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky. The finished design was based on an EC Comics issue cover. Kang and Kodos had brief cameo appearances in several non-"Treehouse of Horror" episodes and have appeared as villains in several of The Simpsons video games.

List of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes

This is a list of Treehouse of Horror episodes produced by the animated television series The Simpsons. Treehouse of Horror episodes have aired annually since the second season (1990) and each episode has three separate segments. These segments usually involve the family in some horror, science fiction, or supernatural setting and always take place outside the normal continuity of the show and are therefore considered to be non-canon. The original "Treehouse of Horror" episode aired on October 25, 1990 and was inspired by EC Comics Horror tales. Before "Treehouse of Horror XI", which aired in 2000, every episode has aired in the week preceding or on October 31; "Treehouse of Horror II" and "Treehouse of Horror X" are the only two episodes to air on Halloween. Between 2000 to 2008 and 2010, due to Fox's contract with Major League Baseball's World Series, several episodes have originally aired in November; as of 2011 every Treehouse of Horror episode has aired in October. From "Treehouse of Horror" to "Treehouse of Horror XIII", all three segments were written by different writers and in some cases there was a fourth writer that wrote the opening and wraparound segments. For "Treehouse of Horror", there were even three different directors for the episode. Starting with season fifteen's "Treehouse of Horror XIV", only one writer was credited as having written a Treehouse of Horror episode, and the trend has continued since.As of 2018, there are twenty-nine Treehouse of Horror episodes, with one airing every year. They are known for being more violent than an average Simpsons episode and contain several different trademarks, including the alien characters Kang and Kodos who have appeared in every episode. Quite often the segments will parody well-known movies, books, radio shows, and television shows. The Twilight Zone has been parodied quite often, and has served as the inspiration for numerous segments.

Treehouse of Horror (The Simpsons episode)

"Treehouse of Horror" is the third episode of The Simpsons' second season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 25, 1990. The episode was inspired by 1950s horror comics, and begins with a disclaimer that it may be too scary for children. It is the first Treehouse of Horror episode. These episodes do not obey the show's rule of realism and are not treated as canon. The opening disclaimer and a panning shot through a cemetery with humorous tombstones were features that were used sporadically in the Treehouse of Horror series and eventually dropped. This is also the first episode to have the music composed by Alf Clausen.

The plot revolves around three scary stories told by the Simpson children in the family's treehouse. The first segment involves a haunted house that is based on various haunted house films, primarily The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist. In the second segment, Kang and Kodos are introduced when the Simpsons are abducted by aliens. The third segment is an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". James Earl Jones guest starred in all three segments. The episode was received positively, being included on several critics' "best of" lists. Critics singled out The Raven for praise, although Simpsons creator Matt Groening was concerned that it would be seen as pretentious.

Treehouse of Horror II

"Treehouse of Horror II" is the seventh episode of The Simpsons' third season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 31, 1991. It is the only Treehouse of Horror episode to date where each segment name is not stated inside the episode. It is the second annual Treehouse of Horror episode, consisting of three self-contained segments, told as dreams of Lisa, Bart and Homer. In the first segment, which was inspired by W. W. Jacobs's short story The Monkey's Paw and The New Twilight Zone episode "A Small Talent for War", Homer buys a Monkey's Paw that has the power to grant wishes, although all of the wishes backfire. In the second part, which parodies the Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life", Bart is omnipotent, and turns Homer into a jack-in-the-box, resulting in the two spending more time together. In the final segment, Mr. Burns attempts to use Homer's brain to power a giant robotic laborer.

The episode was written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jeff Martin, George Meyer, Sam Simon and John Swartzwelder while Jim Reardon was the director. The episode is presented in a similar format to the previous season's "Treehouse of Horror" and contains several similarities to the previous episode, such as Marge's opening warning, the tombstones in the opening credits and the appearance of the alien characters Kang and Kodos. "Treehouse of Horror II" was the first episode that employed the "scary names" idea, in which many of the credits have unusual names. The episode contains numerous parodies and references to horror and science fiction works, including The Twilight Zone, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Thing with Two Heads and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

In its original airing on the Fox Network, the episode had a 12.1 Nielsen rating and finished the week ranked 39th. The episode received positive reviews, and in 2006, IGN listed the third story as the eighth best Treehouse of Horror segment. The episode was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a Special and Alf Clausen for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series.

Treehouse of Horror III

"Treehouse of Horror III" is the fifth episode of The Simpsons' fourth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 29, 1992. In the third annual Treehouse of Horror episode, Homer buys Bart an evil talking Krusty doll, King Homer is captured by Mr. Burns, and Bart and Lisa inadvertently cause zombies to attack Springfield. The episode was written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarsky, Sam Simon, and Jon Vitti, and directed by Carlos Baeza.

Treehouse of Horror IV

"Treehouse of Horror IV" is the fifth episode of The Simpsons' fifth season and the fourth episode in the Treehouse of Horror series of Halloween specials. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 28, 1993, and features three short stories called "The Devil and Homer Simpson", "Terror at ​5 1⁄2 Feet", and "Bart Simpson's Dracula". The episode was directed by David Silverman and co-written by Conan O'Brien, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Greg Daniels, Dan McGrath, and Bill Canterbury.

In "The Devil and Homer Simpson", Homer Simpson announces he would sell his soul for a doughnut, and the Devil appears to make a deal with Homer. Homer tries to outsmart the Devil by not finishing the doughnut but eventually eats it and is sent to Hell. A trial is held between Homer and the Devil to determine the rightful owner of Homer's soul. In "Terror at ​5 1⁄2 Feet", while riding the bus to school, Bart Simpson thinks he sees a gremlin disassembling the bus piece by piece. Nobody sees it except for Bart, so he tries to remove it by himself. In "Bart Simpson's Dracula", Mr. Burns is a vampire and Bart falls victim to his bite. Lisa and the rest of the family go to Burns' castle to kill Burns so Bart can return to normal.

As with the rest of the Halloween specials, the episode is considered non-canon and falls outside the show's regular continuity. The episode makes cultural references to television series such as The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Peanuts. References are also made to films such as Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Lost Boys. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 14.5, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.

Treehouse of Horror IX

"Treehouse of Horror IX" is the fourth episode in the tenth season of the American animated television series The Simpsons. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 25, 1998. This is the ninth Treehouse of Horror episode, and, like the other "Treehouse of Horror" episodes, contains three self-contained segments: In "Hell Toupée", Homer gets a hair transplant and is possessed by the spirit of an executed criminal; in "Terror of Tiny Toon", Bart and Lisa are trapped in a special, extremely violent episode of The Itchy & Scratchy Show; and in "Starship Poopers", Marge reveals that Maggie is the product of a one-night stand with the alien Kang.

"Treehouse of Horror IX" was written by Donick Cary, Larry Doyle and David S. Cohen, and directed by Steven Dean Moore. "Terror of Tiny Toon" includes a live-action segment starring Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford. Jerry Springer and Ed McMahon also appear in the episode, voicing themselves, while Robert Englund provides the voice of Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street film series. The episode also features Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th series while various characters visit the talk shows Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and The Jerry Springer Show.

In its original airing on the Fox Network, the episode had an 8.6 Nielsen rating. In 1999, composer Alf Clausen was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series for his work on the episode.

Treehouse of Horror V

"Treehouse of Horror V" is the sixth episode of The Simpsons' sixth season and the fifth episode in the Treehouse of Horror series. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 30, 1994, and features three short stories titled The Shinning, Time and Punishment, and Nightmare Cafeteria. The episode was directed by Jim Reardon and written by Greg Daniels, Dan McGrath, David Cohen, and Bob Kushell.In The Shinning, the Simpsons are hired as caretakers at Mr. Burns' mansion. Deprived of television and beer, Homer becomes insane and attempts to murder the family. In Time and Punishment, Homer repeatedly travels back in time and alters the future. In Nightmare Cafeteria, Principal Skinner begins using students in detention as cafeteria food.

David Mirkin deliberately placed more graphic violence in the episode due to complaints about excessive violence in the show. The episode features James Earl Jones as the voice of an alternate timeline Maggie. The episode was critically acclaimed, with The Shinning segment receiving the most praise.

Treehouse of Horror VI

"Treehouse of Horror VI" is the sixth episode of The Simpsons' seventh season and the sixth episode in the Treehouse of Horror series. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 29, 1995, and contains three self-contained segments. In "Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores", an ionic storm brings Springfield's oversized advertisements and billboards to life and they begin attacking the town. The second segment, "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace", is a parody of the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series, in which Groundskeeper Willie (resembling Freddy Krueger) attacks schoolchildren in their sleep. In the third and final segment, "Homer3", Homer finds himself trapped in a three dimensional world. It was inspired by The Twilight Zone episode "Little Girl Lost". The segments were written by John Swartzwelder, Steve Tompkins, and David S. Cohen respectively.

An edited version of "Homer3" would appear alongside several other shorts in the 2000 American 3-D animated anthology film, CyberWorld shown in IMAX and IMAX 3D.

The first version of the episode was very long, so it featured a very short opening sequence and did not include several trademarks established in previous Treehouse of Horror episodes. "Homer3", pitched by executive producer Bill Oakley, features three dimensional computer animation provided by Pacific Data Images (PDI). In the final scene of the episode, Homer is sent to the real world in the first ever live-action scene in The Simpsons. "Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores" includes a cameo appearance from Paul Anka, who sings the song "Just Don't Look".

In its original broadcast, the episode was watched by 22.9 million viewers, acquired a Nielsen rating of 12.9, finishing 21st in the weekly ratings, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired. In 1996, the "Homer3" segment was awarded the Ottawa International Animation Festival grand prize and the episode was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour).

Treehouse of Horror VII

"Treehouse of Horror VII" is the first episode of The Simpsons' eighth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 27, 1996. In the seventh annual Treehouse of Horror episode, Bart discovers his long-lost twin, Lisa grows a colony of small beings, and Kang and Kodos impersonate Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in order to win the 1996 presidential election. It was written by Ken Keeler, Dan Greaney, and David S. Cohen, and directed by Mike B. Anderson. Phil Hartman provided the voice of Bill Clinton.

Treehouse of Horror VIII

"Treehouse of Horror VIII" is the fourth episode of The Simpsons' ninth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 26, 1997. In the eighth annual Treehouse of Horror episode, Homer Simpson is the last man left alive when a neutron bomb destroys Springfield until a gang of mutants come after him, Homer buys a transporter that Bart uses to switch bodies with a housefly, and Marge is accused of witchcraft in a Puritan rendition of Springfield in 1649. It was written by Mike Scully, David X. Cohen and Ned Goldreyer, and was directed by Mark Kirkland.

Treehouse of Horror X

"Treehouse of Horror X" is the fourth episode of The Simpsons' eleventh season, and the tenth annual Treehouse of Horror episode, consisting of three self-contained segments. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on Halloween 1999. In "I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did", the Simpsons cover up a murder and are haunted by an unseen witness. In "Desperately Xeeking Xena", Bart and Lisa gain superpowers and must rescue Xena star Lucy Lawless from the Comic Book Guy's alter ego The Collector, and in "Life's a Glitch, Then You Die", Homer causes worldwide destruction thanks to the Y2K bug.

"Treehouse of Horror X" was directed by Pete Michels and written by Ron Hauge, Donick Cary and Tim Long. The episode contains numerous parodies and references to horror and science fiction works, including Doctor Who, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Battlestar Galactica. It also features actress Lucy Lawless and actors Tom Arnold, and Dick Clark as themselves. In its original broadcast, the episode was seen by approximately 8.7 million viewers, finishing in 34th place in the ratings the week it aired. Since its airing, the episode received positive reviews from critics.

Treehouse of Horror XI

"Treehouse of Horror XI" is the first episode of The Simpsons' twelfth season and the 249th overall, and the eleventh Halloween episode. The episode features "G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad", "Scary Tales Can Come True" and "Night of the Dolphin" and was written by Rob LaZebnik (story by Mike Scully), John Frink and Don Payne and Carolyn Omine and directed by Matthew Nastuk.

This year's installment sees Homer as a wandering spirit who must do one good deed before going to Heaven ("G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad"), Bart and Lisa as genre-savvy peasant children who end up lost in a fairy tale forest in "Scary Tales Can Come True", and Springfield's population at war with sea mammals in "Night of the Dolphin".

The episode first aired on November 1, 2000, beginning a practice of the show's Halloween episodes debuting after the holiday itself due to Fox's late-October prime time schedule being pre-empted by the network's coverage of 2000 World Series. (Through 2010, all subsequent Halloween episodes save for 2009's "Treehouse of Horror XX" premiered in November, although beginning with 2011's "Treehouse of Horror XXII" the network has resumed airing the episodes on or before Halloween.) This was also the first Simpsons episode to have mixed-case closed captioning. The episode received positive reviews from critics.

Treehouse of Horror XVI

"Treehouse of Horror XVI" is the fourth episode of the seventeenth season of The Simpsons. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 6, 2005. In the sixteenth annual Treehouse of Horror, the Simpsons replace Bart with a robot son after Bart falls into a coma, Homer and various other male characters find themselves on a reality show where Mr. Burns hunts humans for sport, and costumed Springfieldians become whatever they are wearing, thanks to a witch who was disqualified from a Halloween costume contest. It was written by Marc Wilmore and directed by David Silverman. Terry Bradshaw and Dennis Rodman guest star as themselves. Around 11.63 million Americans tuned in to watch the episode during its original broadcast.

Treehouse of Horror XVII

"Treehouse of Horror XVII" is the fourth episode of The Simpsons' eighteenth season, and the seventeenth Treehouse of Horror episode. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 5, 2006. In "Married to the Blob", Homer eats green extraterrestrial slime and morphs into a rampaging blob with an insatiable appetite; in "You Gotta Know When to Golem", Bart uses Krusty's golem to wreak havoc on his tormentors; and in "The Day the Earth Looked Stupid", the residents of an early-1930s Springfield refuse to believe news of an actual alien invasion after being duped by Orson Welles's War of the Worlds radio broadcast.It was written by Peter Gaffney and directed by David Silverman and Matthew C. Faughnan. Dr. Phil and Sir Mix-a-Lot guest star as themselves, Richard Lewis and Fran Drescher guest voice as the male and female Golems, respectively. In its original run, the episode received 10.43 million viewers.

Treehouse of Horror XVIII

"Treehouse of Horror XVIII" is the fifth episode of The Simpsons' nineteenth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 4, 2007. In the eighteenth annual Treehouse of Horror episode, Bart harbors Kodos the alien in "E.T., Go Home," Homer and Marge are husband and wife assassins who try to take each other out in "Mr. & Mrs. Simpson," and Ned Flanders is given God-like powers during his demonstration on the wages of sin in "Heck House." It was written by Marc Wilmore and directed by Chuck Sheetz.

Treehouse of Horror XXI

"Treehouse of Horror XXI" is the fourth episode of The Simpsons' twenty-second season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 7, 2010. This is the 21st Treehouse of Horror episode, and, like the other "Treehouse of Horror" episodes, consisted of three self-contained segments: In "War and Pieces", Bart and Milhouse discover a real-life board game that they must win to return home; in "Master and Cadaver", Marge and Homer go on a honeymoon on a sailboat, and rescue a mysterious castaway named Roger; and in "Tweenlight", Lisa falls in love with a vampire named Edmund.

"Treehouse of Horror XXI" was written by Joel H. Cohen and directed by Bob Anderson. Daniel Radcliffe and Hugh Laurie both guest starred in the episode. The first segment references Jumanji, the second is a loose parody of Dead Calm and the third satirizes the Twilight novel and film series. The episode also contains references to The Office, A Clockwork Orange and Sesame Street.

In its original airing on the Fox Network during the November sweeps period, the episode had a 3.7 Nielsen rating viewed in approximately 8.2 million homes. Critical opinion of the episode was mixed, with "Tweenlight" generally being regarded as the best of the three segments.

Treehouse of Horror XXII

"Treehouse of Horror XXII" is the third episode of the twenty-third season and the twenty-second Halloween episode of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 30, 2011. The episode is part of the Treehouse of Horror series, which is an episode divided into three separate stories and an opening that is a parody of scary or Halloween themed stories. This episode's stories were primarily spoofs of the French film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the television series Dexter, and the American film Avatar. The opening was a parody of the autobiographical film 127 Hours, in which the subject Aron Ralston loses an arm.

The episode was written by Carolyn Omine, directed by Matthew Faughnan, and featured guest voices from Aron Ralston and Jackie Mason. In its original American broadcast, it was viewed by approximately 8.1 million people. The critical reception was very diverse, ranging from a plea to end the show to a statement that the show is on top of its game and should not be cancelled. The episode featured a reference to the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. After watching the show, the producers of the musical released a press statement in which they told how flattered they were when their show was mentioned on The Simpsons.

Treehouse of Horror XXIV

"Treehouse of Horror XXIV" is the second episode of the 25th season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons, and the 532nd episode of the series. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 6, 2013. The episode was written by Jeff Westbrook and directed by Rob Oliver.

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