All it took was for 20th Century Fox to have a cow, man, and the unthinkable occurred: Homer J. Simpson came out a winner.
The United Nation's World Intellectual Property Organization has restored the domain name thesimpsonsmovie.com to the studio after Fox bigwigs filed a complaint that a cybersquatter had taken over the Web address and was redirecting users to sites of a blue, rather than yellow, nature.
Keith Malley, a 33-year-old Brooklyn man, originally registered the URL in 1999 and has been using it as a portal to send Simpsons-seeking Web surfers to sites that promote and sell merchandise related to podcasts that Malley produces.
Prior to turning the popular address to a tool of self-promotion, however, Malley used the misleading site to link to another page featuring "off-color and in some cases sexually explicit depictions" of characters from the long-running animated series.
Malley, who offered no defense when the case went to the arbitrating WIPO in May, had previously offered to sell the domain back to 20th Century Fox for $50,000, though the studio opted not to bite.
In the July 22 ruling, WIPO chided Malley's creation of the Website as "bad faith registration and use" and found that he, along with girlfriend and site co-runner Chemda Khalili, not only had "no rights or legitimate interests with respect to the domain name" but that their "aim in registering the disputed domain name was to profit from and exploit" the Simpsons' trademark.
"The animated television series The Simpsons debuted in 1989, and has become one of the longest running network series in television history," the ruling said.
And that's to say nothing of its box-office potential.
After 18 years and more than 400 episodes, The Simpsons Movie is set to hit the big screen this Friday and anticipation for the spectacle is fast-approaching a fever pitch—as are the good reviews.
The Hollywood Reporter, for one, proclaimed the 86-minute trip to Springfield "constantly amusing," and appropriately "a tiny bit rude." The trade held the film in much higher esteem than South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut and Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, calling The Simpsons Movie "caustic and irreverent" but at the same time "charming."
Variety also gave the film credit for not only successfully expanding a 22-minute TV show to feature length but doing it with such aplomb.
"If somebody had to make a Simpsons movie, this is pretty much what it should be—clever, irreverent and satirical," the trade opined, adding the film has much more mass appeal than animated TV adaptations past.
The film's environmentally themed plot centers on Homer's adoption of a lovestruck pig that threatens the existence of Springfield. Along the way, Tom Hanks shows up as himself, Bart drops trou for his first stab at full frontal nudity and the family finds itself relocating to Alaska.
But while some plot points have leaked out in the wake of preview screenings, Fox is doing its best to keep wraps on the story line.
Advance screenings held in England and Australia earlier this week limited filmgoers to just over 10 minutes of highlights rather than the entire big-screen opus. The movie is only now, just three days before its release, being exhibited for U.S. critics.
Fox has attempted to deflect speculation that the last-minute showings were the studio's attempt to shield a subpar film from critics. Instead, the studio claims the move was a courtesy security measure to make sure the film isn't spoiled by eager, scoop-hungry media types.
As it is, the film held its star-studded premiere Wednesday night in Los Angeles, when three theaters were employed to cover the guests. The invite list included virtually every actor who has voiced a character in the series' two-decade history, including David Hasselhoff, J.C. Chasez, Ed McMahon, Dr. Phil McGraw and Michelle Kwan, and even some famous faces who have and likely will never appear on the show turned out, among them Larry Birkhead.