The Simpsons has done virtually everything with its extended couch gags — thank you, Guillermo del Toro, John Kricfalusi, and Ikea — but the 600th episode of the animated Fox comedy will break new ground with virtual reality.
The opening bit in “Treehouse of Horror XXVII” (Oct. 16, 8 p.m. ET/PT) will be made available as a virtual reality experience, EW has learned.
During the normal, 2-D version of the 45-second couch gag that will kick off the episode — it’s a Planet of the Apes riff titled “Planet of the Couches” — a landing page with a URL where fans can access the Google VR version will be shown on the screen. Fans can enter the Simpsonized world of VR via the Google Spotlight Stories app on iOS or Android and get the full-blown VR experience with Google Cardboard. If fans don’t have the viewer, they can access a limited version of VR by turning their phones in different directions. (The first 25,000 fans to sign up at simpsonscardboard.com will receive a free Simpsonized version of the cardboard viewer.)
What will the VR experience yield? An extra two minutes and fifteen seconds of bonus material, according to Simpsons executive producer Al Jean. “You can see different characters and different jokes and different music, different effects,” he tells EW. “The fun of it as a fan is looking at it and trying to figure out everything we’ve hidden in it. There’s a scene where the Simpsons are in a prison cell. In VR, you can look above them to the ceiling of the cave that they’re in. Below to the floor, over the left and over to right and behind you. You have six different views. Let’s say you see Moe and he does something. You turn again, and you look at him again, and he does something else.”
Any other hints? “There’s one character from Futurama and the clue is: It’s ‘Planet of the Couches,'” he says. “There’s a reference to an upcoming Fox movie. Kang and Kodos are in it.”
The collaboration between The Simpsons and Google began when Google approached the producers about creating a virtual experience with a couch gag. The producers decided to use the already-animated-but-never-used couch gag “Planet of the Couches,” which had been sitting around in reserve, ready for use in an emergency when an episode was running short in length. “I’m certainly not aware of any prime time show having done this before,” says Jean. “I’m so thrilled that we can do this kind of thing, that we’ve been on the air long enough but we still get to do stuff that’s like being back on the first season.”
The Simpsons delved into the world of virtual reality in last week’s episode, in which Mr. Burns hired the Simpsons to play his virtual reality family. For more details on the 600th episode, click here.