(originally aired October 2, 1994)
As a kid with Floridian grandparents, I was obsessed with Disney World: the rides, the environment, the weird overall aura of the place. So I would always be thrilled when this episode popped up in syndication, since it does such a phenomenal job recreating and lampooning so many theme park staples, from the namings, abused costume characters, lame gift shop items, even down to small stuff like Disney Dollars. But around all the Disney bashing is a vein of an emotional story, of Marge’s desire to have one family vacation that doesn’t end up a disaster, which oddly enough, concludes on a positive note that both amuses and satisfies. This is one of those episodes that’s filled with so many great individual elements; just saying the title to a fan will make them laugh at the ten things that immediately pop into their heads. It’s an absolute classic.
Not much of a plot here, until the very end, as the Simpsons take a vacation to Itchy & Scratchy Land, the new theme park based on the homicidal cat and mouse team. Although they are transported to the park via a Jurassic Park helicopter, the allusions to Disney parks start almost immediately, with the park map mirroring Disneyland with its many lands (Searing Gas Pain Land, Unnecessary Surgery Land) and sad, sad men in giant mouse costumes who get used and abused by children. Bart and Lisa enjoy the ridiculous rides, and learn more about the history of Roger Myers, Sr., the Walt Disney expy here, and see his previous works, including the exquisitely done parody “Scratchtasia.” Homer and Marge meanwhile enjoy Parent’s Island, a wonderful riff on Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney, which has more adult-oriented fare, like a retro disco, and the unfortunately mentioned-but-not-seen recipe-related bumper cars.
Marge is humiliated when he has to bust Bart and Homer out of Disney jail (another spectacular send-up of the lavish underground facility under the Magic Kingdom) when unbeknownst to them, chaos has set in on the park. Professor Frink’s chaos thoery (another Jurassic Park reference) has come to fruition as the Itchy & Scratchy robots go haywire and begin to attack guests, leading to a full evacuation. The Simpsons are left behind, though, leading them to fend for themselves. This ending is a bit silly, but it’s still neat to see the Simpson family work together to get themselves out of trouble. I like how Marge is the running focal point of the show, starting from her not wanting to go to I & S Land, then being swayed and eventually won over by the park, then her dissatisfaction about Bart and Homer, and in the end conceding that it was actually a great vacation… that they will never speak of ever again. It’s the perfect ending and in-character of Marge to want to sweep this tale under the rug. Stupendous show.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The I & S cartoon at the beginning always disturbed me, how it seemed that Itchy would have Scratchy die slowly and painfully by blood loss. Then they give an ad for the theme park, and Itchy jams scissors into Scratchy’s brain. The cat takes them out, as well as the organ, and proceeds to drool profusely. Very sick. And very funny.
– I like how Bart and Lisa run into Homer in the living room, who is inquisitively looking at a Bible. I almost wish they hadn’t have Homer talk about it, like have that be a joke on its own. Also great bit of animation and sound effects when Bart runs into the kitchen and screeches to a halt, his sneakers squeaking against the tile floor.
– Homer, the most obnoxious touristy tourist ever, packs his suitcase: “Lobster hat, Fishnet Speedo Junior, wheelie shoes, ‘Invisible Dog’ leash…”
– Nice quick moment with Grampa, befuddled at the task of watching the Simpson house (“What was that last thing you said? Grampa’s Little Helper?”) He sadly asks the pets which one of them is the mailman, and the animals give each other a glance.
– A lot of quick bits on the road, from Homer’s paranoia about the fruit and vegetable check-point (he nervously looks over at a pamphlet “Smuggled vegetables: the road to E-Z success,”) country AM radio, which is all religious stations spewing damnation (very true,) and the fabulous fake-out of Homer seemingly falling asleep at the wheel and crashing the car in a fiery wreck. And then the great finale of Homer taking a shortcut through a corn field… and ending up at the park with their car destroyed. It’s one of those great jokes that says so much with no description. There’s an army missile lodged in the back, a Homecoming banner, a chicken flies out of Marge’s hair, you can come to your own conclusions as to what the hell happened.
– First great Disney swipe of the gigantic Itchy lot, and the equally as big Scratchy lot. The Disney lots have a bit more variety, but one Goofy lot is pretty much that size.
– I like the smarmy I & S Land official who keeps popping up to reassure guest concerns. When he gets cornered by Marge’s concerns regarding the cartoon, he makes a swift exit.
– I absolutely love that in the Tavern on the Scream restaurant, there’s a light muzack version of the I & S theme song playing. It’s such a wonderful minor detail that is really great.
– Great I & S parade, which kind of mocks the various Disney parades. I like when Lisa coos about the baby axe, and Marge still expresses mild disdain (“It’s cute, but I’m sure it’s very sharp and probably dirty.”)
– The log ride is spectacularly dumb. Let’s look through how dangerous it is. The arrows and cannon fire could have been timed by the ride’s proximity, so that’s safe. Then are the spikes, which seem to be molded to just barely pierce the Simpsons precisely. Now even that could be explained if the ride seats two small children in the front and the adults in back. But the giant buzz saw slicing through the ride vehicle seems like it would raise some red flags about safety. I love how there’s just mats placed at the bottom for people to land on. Also what a waste of a good log, that ride must cost a fortune to maintain.
– Nice bit at Itchy’s Disco (est. 1980) with a sheepish John Travolta as bartender, who at the time was in a career slump. Actually Pulp Fiction came out that year, so it right before his insurgence, I guess.
– I love the idea of the Itchy & Scratchy & Friends hour, like at some point studio executives forced them to make more characters so they could sell more toys, with memorable characters like Disgruntled Goat and Ku Klux Klam. I’d love to see a clip of that show.
– The Roger Myers Story building is perfect: the set-up of the standing room with guard rails is just like in Disney World, where they have a similar thing for Walt’s story. The narration is brilliant: “Roger Meyers senior, the gentle genius behind Itchy and Scratchy, loved and cared about almost all the peoples of the world. And he, in turn, was beloved by the world, except in 1938 when he was criticized for his controversial cartoon, ‘Nazi Supermen Are Our Superiors’.” I mentioned Scratchtasia, but also great is Pin-itchio and Dan Castellaneta’s great Italian Scratchy (“OUCH-AH!”)
– Underground, super sterile and industrial I & S Land is so wonderful. Passing the control room are three jokes, but what’s great is that two of them call back to previous events, one being the waiter at T.G.I. McScratchy’s seems to be attempting suicide, and the other that the gift shop is out of Bort license plates.
– I like Homer’s indignation about his wrongful incarceration (“I kicked a giant mouse in the butt! Do I have to draw you a diagram?”)
– During the robot fight, Bart, mimicking Ah-nold, tells a Itchybot, “Say cheese” before scrambling its circuits. He comments, “With a dry, cool wit like that, I could be an action star.” Later Homer emerges from a pile of robots, “Die, bad robots, die!” He then attempts to repeat Bart’s earlier comment, but Bart cuts him off, not paying the least bit of attention.
– Great final swipe with showing the completely deserted Euro Itchy & Scratchy Land (“My last paycheck bounced! My children need wine!”)