The Simpsons may never be the same again. After 28 seasons and nearly 600 episodes, composer Alf Clausen has been fired from the long-running animated series by Fox. The network has been working on cutting costs for The Simpsons in recent years and it looks like Clausen's firing is just the latest in a series of moves designed to trim the budget for the show.
Variety broke the news that Alf Clausen, who has been nominated for 21 Emmys and won two for his work on The Simpsons, was fired by the producers ahead of the upcoming season. According to Clausen, he spoke with producer Richard Sakai on the phone and said that Fox is looking for "a different kind of music" on the series moving forward. That likely means they will be using some form of digital composition, as opposed to using the live orchestra that Alf Clausen made use of for his Simpsons scores. Fox has yet to officially comment on the situation.
From the very beginning of The Simpsons, creator Matt Groening insisted that a 35-piece orchestra be used for the show's music every week. When factoring in the cost of musicians, recording and orchestration, the cost for this is said to run in the millions every season. As painful as it may be, getting rid of Alf Clausen and composing the music for the show in a different way may be an effective, if unpopular among fans, way to cut production costs. Variety also noted that The Simpsons still produces massive profits for Fox, but they still feel the need to cut costs as the series gets ready to enter season 29.
Alf Clausen is considered to be the most nominated composer in TV history with a total of 30 Emmy nominations. He has also won five Annie Awards for his work on The Simpsons over the years. His work on The Simpsons spans 560 episodes, which is the vast majority of the 618 episodes that the show has amassed so far. Fox has not yet stated he is going to replace Clausen heading into The Simpsons season 29. The season premiere is set for October 1 and Variety's report notes that Clausen's last full score for The Simpsons was done for season 28, so they will need to hire someone soon to get the upcoming episodes scored, if they haven't already.
The Simpsons has already been renewed for season 30 on Fox, so at the very least, two seasons of the show are going to be scored by someone other than Alf Clausen. The good news is that the report notes that Fox is expected to keep Danny Elfman's iconic opening theme for The Simpsons season 29. Since the network was willing to part ways with someone so heavily associated with the show, one has to wonder what other changes could be in store for the future of the show. In any case, Alf Clausen's work on The Simpsons will live on for a long time.