Notable Oregonians: Matt Groening - Cartoonist, Producer, Writer
Matt Groening (rhymes with "raining") was born in Portland, Oregon on February 15, 1954. His father Homer Groening, a cartoonist himself, encouraged his son's drawing from an early age. In high school he drew cartoons for the school newspaper, until he was dropped from the staff. He later attended Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, taking full advantage of the school's no-grade, no-required-courses policies.
Groening graduated in 1977 and drove to Los Angeles to become a writer. As part of his less than auspicious beginning, his car broke down in the fast lane of the Hollywood Freeway at 2 a.m. He found work for a time as a chauffeur and "biographer" for an unsuccessful 88-year-old movie director. Unhappy with his lot, Groening decided to send a message to friends in the form of a comic book describing life in Los Angeles. He called it Life in Hell and it soon became an underground success in Los Angeles. The comic strip ran in hundreds of newspapers around the world until Groening ended it in 2012. Eight Life in Hell books have been published over the years.
Noted film and television producer James L. Brooks, who also founded Gracie Films, showed interest in Matt's work in 1985 and hired him to work on some animated projects for his comedy series The Tracey Ullman Show. To meet the request for something new and original, Groening sketched a quirky looking family consisting of one father, one mother, two girls and one boy. He named them each after his own family members (with the exception of Bart, which was an anagram for brat).
This was the genesis of The Simpsons animated television show on the Fox Network. In 1990 The Simpsons debuted as the network's highest-rated program and earned critical praise for its wit and clever satire. In 1997 the show surpassed the The Flintstones as the longest-running prime-time animated show in history. Several characters in The Simpsons were named for Portland streets such as Flanders, Lovejoy, Powell, Quimby, and Terwilliger.
Groening also created and was executive producer of the Futurama animated television show for four years on the Fox Network. New episodes of the series began appearing on the Comedy Central cable channel in 2010. Groening has been nominated for 25 Emmy Awards and has won 12, ten for The Simpsons and two for Futurama. In May 2003 he was honored with the 2002 Reuben Award as "cartoonist of the year" by the National Cartoonists Society. Previous winners include Charles Shultz, Rube Goldberg, and Gary Trudeau. Groening received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.