Original air date: 3/17/1996
Production code: 3F16
Bart meets a vagrant named Chester J. Lampwick, who claims to have created "Itchy", one half of the popular Itchy and Scratchy, but was left penniless when the idea was stolen. With Bart's help, he successfully sues the studio, but this means that the famed cat-and-mouse duo will be no more.
Episode SummaryBart and Lisa attend the Itchy and Scratchy Diamond Anniversary paradenote , accompanied by Homer. While they arrive in the middle of the night (before going to see an X-rated film of the characters and a very old drawing at the comic book store), their view of the parade is blocked by a giant crowd. Bart decides to join in the parade instead, but it turns out the whole thing was planned quite poorly, crossing to the wrong side of the tracks. The parade speeds out from the place, but Bart cannot keep pace. He then finds a hobo throwing tomatoes at the float honoring creator Roger Meyers Sr. and asks him to be more respectful to the man who created Itchy & Scratchy. The hobo then reveals to him that Itchy's creator isn't Meyers but him, Chester J. Lampwick, and that before Itchy, all that cartoon characters did was play the ukulele.
Bart does not believe him at first, so Lampwick presents him a film can entitled Manhattan Madness, starring 'Itchy, the Lucky Mouse'", made in 1919. Lampwick shows the cartoon to Bart and Milhouse, but the nitrate film is suddenly destroyed. Unable to prove their case to Meyers Jr., Bart decides to hide Lampwick in the Simpson residence. While the rest of the family quickly notices, they have no issue with letting him stay for some time, until he has a fight with Grampa, who accuses Lampwick of not painting his chicken coop in 1947.
Bart and Lampwick then hire Lionel Hutz to sue Itchy & Scratchy Studios for $800 billion. While he claims Meyers, Sr. only created stick figures for characters and stole from others, he carries no evidence unlike the defense (he also has a fight with Krusty the Klown over an unpainted fence). Bart then notes the similarity between the mouse in the film and the one in the animation cel he saw at the comics store. Turns out said drawing also has a message dedicated from Lampwick to Meyers, Sr., dated September 3, 1919. After Lampwick proves his claim, Meyers, Jr. retorts that animation has always relied on plagiarism, but this only leads Lampwick to win the case and the $800 billion (though the judge does say it will likely come down on appeal), a sum that ends up bankrupting the studio, meaning that there will be no more Itchy & Scratchy cartoons (replaced on Krusty's show by a radical right parody of Schoolhouse Rock).
With Meyers Jr. unable to pay royalties (or to keep his father's brain frozen) and Lampwick preferring to live like a millionaire, Bart and Lisa look for any legal precedent that could give Meyers Jr. his studio back. Just when they find one, it turns out that another brother-and-sister duo, Lester and Eliza, have proven that Mr. Zip, the U.S. Postal Service mascot, was a plagiarism of the "Manic Mailman", one of Meyers Sr.'s stick figure characters (at the same time, they also acquit Apu for an indecency charge and manage to reunite Krusty with a former wife). While they are happy to see their favorite characters back, Bart and Lisa are unnerved that a problem could be solved without their help.
"The Day the Violence Died" features examples of:
- 555: The phone number to Lionel Hutz' law practice starts with 555. The rest isn't revealed to the viewers.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Apparently, Meyers, Sr. loved giving his characters an Alliterative Name.
- Anvil on Head: Lampwick tells Bart the story of how Meyers Sr. dropped an anvil on him after he requested royalties for his creation. Luckily, he says, he was carrying an umbrella at the time.
- Artistic License – Law: Although the episode does a good job on copyright law, it kinda missed a few points, as LegalEagle described in a review.
- As Herself: Suzanne Sommers as one of the news anchors.
- Aside Glance: A hilarious one at the end of an Itchy & Scratchy short when Itchy and the mouse god he prays to wink at the audience.◊
- Ass Pull: A rare intentional and Played for Laughs example, with Bart and Lisa being beaten to the punch from saving Itchy and Scratchy Studios by their lookalikes who weren't even once foreshadowed and abruptly come out of nowhere. Bart's In-Universe reaction is to feel unsettled about the whole situation and the episode ends on a pretty sinister note as Lester appears to be stalking Bart.
- When Krusty is put on the stand during the trial:Lawyer: Krusty, have you ever seen this so-called animation genius before?
Krusty: Yes, I have.
Lawyer: [surprised] You have?!
Krusty: I gave him a couple of blintzes to paint my fence, but he never did it!
- Lionel Hutz does a literal one, changing his business card from "Works On Contingency — No Money Down" to "Works On Contingency? No, Money Down!"
- When Krusty is put on the stand during the trial:
- Borrowed Catchphrase: Bart says "D'oh!" when the only copy of "Itchy the Lucky Mouse in Manhattan Madness" is destroyed.
- Brother–Sister Team: Bart and Lisa, per usual. Lester and Eliza, from out of left field.
- Call-Back: The ending of the episode, where Lester rides by the Simpson household on his skateboard and gives Bart a menacing glare while sinister music plays, mirrors the scene of Bart doing the same to George Bush five episodes prior.
- Celebrity Paradox: A strange one — Meyers Jr. flat out acknowledges that Chief Wiggum is a fictional character, who's a plagiarism of Edward G. Robinson. Wiggum himself can be seen looking confused in the background at this point.
- Censorship by Spelling: When Marge sees Grampa and Lampwick fighting, she says one of them must leave and Homer picks Grampa. Marge says she meant "the B-U-M".
- Charlie Chaplin Shout-Out: Chaplin is seen in the slums when Bart first meets Lampwick. A deleted scene had Homer asking Lampwick to eat a shoe for him, in reference to the Chaplin movie The Gold Rush.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Early on, Bart sees an animation cel for sale in the Android's Dungeon. It ends up being the damning piece of evidence needed to prove that Meyers Sr. plagiarized Itchy from Chester.
- During the trial where Lampwick is suing Meyers, Lampwick mentions characters like "Manic Mailman" as the only ones Meyers Sr. might have really created. Meyers Jr. gets enough money to reopen his company when Lester and Eliza point out the U.S. Mail's Mr. ZIP was a plagiarism from Manic Mailman.
- Continuity Nod:
- The Android's Dungeon has some of the dolls from "Itchy & Scratchy Land". Later on, the Blue Haired Lawyer cites Disgruntled Goat as one of Meyers Sr.'s creations.
- The Itchy & Scratchy parade passes through Bumtown (from "The Springfield Connection"). The abandoned 4-H Club from "The Boy Who Knew Too Little" can be seen as it enters.
- The Blue Haired Lawyer presents the cartoon "Steamboat Itchy" to the court, which originally appeared in "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie." The brief animation and audio that plays is the same as it appeared in that episode, though the credits shown afterwards are unique to this episode.Blue-Haired Lawyer: And so, the credits for the very first Itchy & Scratchy cartoon clearly say: "Written, Created, and Directed by Roger Meyers, Music by Roger Meyers and George Gershwin, Produced by Roger Meyers and Joseph P. Kennedy."
- When Marge is listing Bart and Lisa's accomplishments, she references the events of "Like Father, Like Clown", "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song" and "Homer's Triple Bypass", as well as the multiple incidents where they foiled Sideshow Bob's evil plans.
- The idea that Roger Meyers Senior wasn't especially talented was first hinted at in "The Itchy and Scratchy Movie", where we see his early effort (a short, plotless cartoon with Scratchy in a solo role that had no violence and did poorly).
- Couch Gag: The family are colorless blobs until mechanical arms color come down and detail the family.
- Death Glare: Lester gives Bart a menacing glare at the end of the episode.
- Deliberately Monochrome: "Itchy the Lucky Mouse in Manhattan Madness".
- Deliberate Values Dissonance:
- The 1919 "Itchy" cartoon, where Itchy attacks an Irishman, in a parody of the older theatrical cartoons that have racist caricatures in them.Milhouse: Look out, Itchy! He's Irish!
- The "Schoolhouse Rock" parody features the amendment-to-be threatening to say Ted Kennedy is gay.
- The 1919 "Itchy" cartoon, where Itchy attacks an Irishman, in a parody of the older theatrical cartoons that have racist caricatures in them.
- Deus ex Machina: Somewhat of a minor case, since Bart and Lisa likely could have saved the day in the end, but instead of their plan, two characters we have never seen before show up out of nowhere and save the day for not just Roger Meyers, but Apu and Krusty as well.
- Didn't Think This Through:
- Whoever decided the Itchy & Scratchy parade route should travel through Bumtown.
- Lionel Hutz insisting on a $1,000 retainer instead of working on contingency means he didn't get any of the damages (contingencies typically pay 30%).
- Digging Yourself Deeper: Roger Meyers Jr. tries to justify his father stealing Itchy by claiming that the animation business is built on plagiarism. Needless to say, it doesn't help.
- The End... Or Is It?: After making clear that he feels unsettled about Eliza and Lester, Bart looks out the window of his room to see Lester skateboarding past the Simpsons' house, looking straight at Bart, with sinister music playing in the background.
- Facepalm: The Blue-Haired Lawyer does this during Meyers Jr.'s "Animation is built on plagiarism" speech.
- Funny Background Event: When Meyers lists animated characters who are plagiarised, he includes Chief Wiggum in the list. Wiggum himself is sitting in the background and looks over in confusion.
- Gainax Ending: Bart and Lisa come up with a plan to get Itchy & Scratchy Studios back in business, only to abruptly find two kids who heavily resemble their Tracey Ullman-era selves (called Lester and Eliza) had already solved the problem first. The episode ends with Bart and Lisa discussing how weird the situation is before Lester (Bart's lookalike) ominously skateboards past the Simpsons' house.
- God Is Evil: In the Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, Itchy prays to God, who helps him kill off Scratchy and throws the cat off into the eternal pit of Hell fire. Seems very unethical for a Supreme Being. Then again, he appears to be a mouse.
- Going Postal: One of Meyers Sr.'s less-than-inspired characters is a crudely-drawn postal worker called "Manic Mailman", who ends up saving Meyers Jr. from bankruptcy when he sues the postal service for a vaguely similar character named "Mr. ZIP".
- Historical Domain Character: Theodore Roosevelt appears in Itchy the Lucky Mouse in Manhattan Madness and gets decapitated in Itchy's gruesome tirade.
- Idea Bulb: Lampwick's movie features Itchy whacking an Irishman with one.
- Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Bart tells Chester he can sleep on the floor in the basement, "just remove the bed".
- Jerkass: Chester has a repeated habit of doing services in exchange for food, only to never finish them, claiming the food was "lousy".
- Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Chester by the end. He starts by refusing to do the chores Grampa Simpson and Krusty hired him for because he didn't like the food they paid him with, but when he finally gets the riches he desires for creating Itchy... he pays the Simpsons the bare-minimum $1,750 they shelled out to hire Lionel Hutz and buy the evidence to prove his claim, despite having over a hundred million. Then he makes clear that he's perfectly okay with his settlement having shut down Meyers' company because it made him rich and refuses to help keep "Itchy and Scratchy" alive. And, despite being incredibly wealthy, he still loiters on the street outside his mansion and harasses passersby.
- Kick the Dog: Lampwick sent Meyers Sr. a portrait of Itchy with a note telling him that his passion makes up for his lack of talent. Meyers proceeded to use the character as his own without crediting his friend.
- Kid Hero: The episode pokes fun at what a familiar setup this has become for Bart and Lisa, with Marge reeling off a list of callbacks to similar episodes to encourage them before they're beaten to the punch by another Brother–Sister Team with a lot of time on their hands.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Meyers Jr. tries to justify his father's stealing Itchy by claiming that animation is built on plagiarism and cites several examples to bolster his case. However, it's one thing to draw on earlier influences when creating an entirely new character...but it's quite another to outright steal the original character and pass them off as your own.
- Let Me Get This Straight...: Meyers Jr. reacts like this when a bum he never saw before shows up claiming to be Itchy's real creator and expecting $800 billion for this in spite of not having any proof of his claim.
- The Main Characters Do Everything: Subverted in that now Bart and Lisa know what it's like to have two kids solving everyone's problems — and it isn't them.
- Mr. Alt Disney: Roger Meyers keeps his father's head inside a fridge, a reference to the urban legend that Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen after his death.
- Mysterious Middle Initial: Chester J. Lampwick.
- Mythology Gag: Lester and Eliza are based off the old designs for Bart and Lisa when they were on The Tracey Ullman Show.
- Named by the Adaptation: In the "I'm just a bill" video parodied in this episode, two unnamed laws are briefly seen walking down the capitol stairs. In this parody, they're replaced with "Freedom of Speech" and "Voting Rights".
- National Stereotypes: In reference to ethnic stereotyping in old cartoons, Itchy kills off a stereotypically clothed Irishman by sticking him between a trouser press.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: By helping Chester attain the money he was owed for creating Itchy, Bart causes Itchy and Scratchy Studios to go bankrupt and gets his favorite cartoon pulled off the air.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Why did Meyers Jr.'s lawyer Face Palm during his rant? Bart introduced evidence that hadn't been verified as authentic, and never went through judicial review. Basically, Roger incriminated himself unnecessarily.
- Non-Protagonist Resolver: When Bart and Lisa think of a plan to save Itchy & Scratchy Studios they rush over, only to discover that two previously unseen characters named Lester and Eliza (who look like Bart and Lisa did in The Tracey Ullman Show days) have already saved it.
- Noodle Incident:
- Subverted with Apu's legal trouble. At first, it seems the only explanation the viewers would get about him being in jail is Lisa reading codes and statutes about public nudity but, right after Roger Meyers, Jr. explains how Lester and Eliza saved Itchy & Scratchy, Apu shows up and gives a detailed account of what happened.
- The estrangement between Krusty and his wife is given no explanation other than the fact Lester and Eliza helped them.
- When Meyers is claiming his father created Itchy and a host of other characters, he says as a Weird Aside that Flatulent Fox was based on a true story.
- Oh, Crap!: The Simpsons' cat Snowball II runs away screaming when Chester introduces himself to the Simpsons as the guy who invented cartoon violence. Given the horrifying fates Scratchy suffers in every Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, this shouldn't be a surprise.
- The Only One: Lampshaded when the problem of the week is solved, not by Bart and Lisa, but familiar looking Lester and Eliza.Bart: Well, I wasn't the one who solved the problem, and neither was Lisa. There's something unsettling about that.
- Parody Assistance: That was the real Jack Sheldon as the voice of the Amendment in the Schoolhouse Rock! parody, "I'm An Amendment to Be".
- Plagiarism in Fiction: Roger Meyers, Sr. plagiarized Itchy from Chester J. Lampwick; and Lester and Eliza showed that the U.S. Mail's Mr. ZIP was a plagiarism from a character created by Roger Meyers, Sr. Ironically, Roger Meyers, Jr. points out a number of characters are based on figures from other fiction, just changed to be their own character. Even then, that doesn't let his father off the hook for stealing a character that wasn't his.Roger Meyers, Jr.: Animation is built on plagiarism! If it wasn't for someone plagiarizing The Honeymooners, we wouldn't have The Flintstones! If someone hadn't ripped off Sergeant Bilko, there'd be no Top Cat! HuckleberryHound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear? Hah! Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney.
- Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title "The Day the Violence Died" is a reference to "The Day the Music Died", the nickname for the February 3, 1959 event when rock 'n' roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper all died in a plane crash. The nickname was thought up by Don McLean in his song "American Pie".
- Punctuation Changes the Meaning: Bart objects to Hutz's request for money upfront, because his card says "Works on Contingency No Money Down." Hutz corrects the card by adding punctuation so it reads "Works on Contingency? No, Money Down!"
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Hutz asking Meyers Jr. if he happens to have a copy of the original "Manhattan Madness" film seems like just another example of Hutz's sheer absurdity, but, as pointed out in the aforementioned Legal Eagle review, the underlying concept isn't as out there as it seems; there are actual procedures for requesting that kind of information from the opposing party, and the rules of legal ethics would require that party to turn the evidence over.note (However, making the request in the courtroom mid-trial is not the way this is done — the real-life iteration would be argued through motions long before the case ever came to trial.)
- Reluctant Gift: When Roger Meyers, Jr. presents the check, he refuses to let go for a few seconds and Lampwick struggles with him. When Lampwick finally wrests the check away, he bites it as if testing for a counterfeit coin.
- Retraux: We see the first appearance of Itchy in the black and white 1919 short Itchy the Lucky Mouse in Manhattan Madness.
- Riddle for the Ages:
- How did Bart and Lisa expect to save the cartoon company? Was it the same way Lester and Eliza did?
- When did Apu get busted for indecent exposure? And what about Krusty and his estranged wife?
- We learn who created Itchy in this episode, but who created Scratchy? Did Roger Meyers Sr. steal him from another cartoonist the way he did Itchy, or did he create Scratchy himself?
- What in the world happened to inspire the creation of Flatulent Fox?
- Ripped from the Headlines: Aspects of this episode borrow from the disputes over the creation of Felix the Cat.
- Running Gag: Someone offers Chester food for a job, which he never does and complains the food was awful. Then they demand him to do the job he's hired to do, Chester says "Make me!", and a fight ensues.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Chester sues the animation studio that stole it from him. Bart discovers the key piece of evidence that wins the trial and bankrupts the studio, which - the kids realize too late - means the end of Itchy and Scratchy cartoons. Bart and Lisa desperately try to solve this new problem, and after nearly giving up (and starting on trying to get Apu out of jail), Lisa finally discovers something in a legal textbook, and the kids rush to the studio only to find everyone celebrating the return of Itchy and Scratchy, the release of Apu, and Krusty's reunion with his estranged wife, all thanks to Lester and Eliza, two kids who strongly resemble Tracey Ullman Show-era Bart and Lisa.Marge: You kids must be so happy, your cute little cartoon friends are back on the air!
Lisa: Yes, well, technically everything worked out alright, but...
Bart: Well, I wasn't the one who solved the problem, and neither was Lisa. There's something unsettling about that.
- Itchy & Scratchy Meet Fritz the Cat is a reference to Fritz the Cat, which was Ralph Bakshi's animated cult film that (at the time) was notorious for showing animated depictions of sex, nudity and drug abuse (which went farther than anything The Simpsons did due to Fritz's roots as an underground comic).
- When Bart wants to buy the original cel of Itchy, Comic Book Guy says, "Are you the creator of Hi and Lois? 'Cause you're making me laugh!"
- The very first Itchy cartoon is a stylistic parody of silent animated cartoons like Felix the Cat and Gertie the Dinosaur. Itchy is referred to as "Itchy the Lucky Mouse", referencing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney's original cartoon star that he lost the rights to, thus necessitating the creation of Mickey Mouse.
- Steamboat Itchy is a clear reference to Steamboat Willie.
- Bart and Lisa watch a rerun of Schoolhouse Rock! on TV.
- The final Itchy & Scratchy cartoon where Itchy chases Scratchy in a desert landscape over a road brings Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner to mind.
- Shown Their Work: Lisa peruses "Copyright Law, 1918-1923", because of the Copyright Act of 1923. Lampwick marking his film (c) 1919 would have made his claim legitimate as well, since then — as today — merely putting a lower-case "c" in between two parentheses would also be a valid way to copyright a work rather than filing it.
- Similar Squad: Lester and Eliza, who resemble Bart and Lisa and serve their exact function at the end.
- Song Parody: "I'm an Amendment-to-Be", a parody of the Schoolhouse Rock! song "I'm Just a Bill".
- Special Guest: Kirk Douglas voices Chester Lampwick, and Jack Sheldon voices the Amendment-To-Be.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Grampa Simpson and Krusty the Clown. Both of them offered Chester food as payment for chores he refuses to perform because the food was awful and fight Chester when he dares them to make him do the chores.
- Tempting Fate: After Bart watches the 1919 cartoon, he says Lampwick will become rich and famous as soon as people watch it. The film strip then catches fire.
- Three Stooges Shout-Out: One of the amendments utters a Curly-esque "whoop-whoop-whoop" at the end of the Schoolhouse Rock parody.
- Undisclosed Funds:
- After ordering Myers' company to give Lampwick the $800 billion, the judge comments the amount may be reduced in an appeal. When the check Lampwick receives is given a close up, it's being held in a way that hides how many billions it's worth.
- It's never said how much Meyers Jr. received as compensation from the Government for plagiarizing Manic Mailman other than it being enough for Meyers to reopen his company.
- The Unreveal: We'll never know what plan Bart and Lisa concocted to help save Itchy and Scratchy Studios, since two lookalikes beat them to it.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Bart didn't consider that Chester's plagiarism lawsuit for potentially decades of unpaid royalties and revenue could end up bankrupting Itchy & Scratchy Studios.
- Voice for the Voiceless: Lester speaks for his sister Eliza, who never says a word.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The check Lampwick receives has "Springfield, USA" written on it.
- Writing Around Trademarks: The "Schoolhouse Rock" parody is never identified as such (outside of Lisa calling it a "Campy 70s throwback that appeals to Generation Xers"), but it looks, feels, and sounds like one.