ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
Wilder, a top designer on the hit animation show, The
Simpsons, has appealed to Christians not to “abandon
“I can't imagine what would happen if Christians and
people with a sense of morality and responsibility abandoned
Hollywood," he says.
“Fortunately we're not called to abandon these things,
but we're called to be a light and an example to do our best
and to hold firm to what’s right.”
WORK: Lance Wilder at work as an animation artist
on The Simpsons. PICTURE: Courtesy of ANS.
Simpsons is not anti-Christian, nor is it Christian.
It's an animated television comedy that is supposed
to entertain you for 30 minutes. It has always been
a comedic look into family, school, politics, religion,
friendship and the life at large. Our show has been
on so long that we continue to cover many topics and
changes in the world over the last 15 years."
Responding to comments that some critics say The Simpsons
is anti-Christian, Wilder says: “I know that there has
often been criticism about the show and I think sometimes
it's justified, but most of the time I don't think it is.
The Simpsons is not anti-Christian, nor is it Christian.
It's an animated television comedy that is supposed to entertain
you for 30 minutes. It has always been a comedic look into
family, school, politics, religion, friendship and the life
at large. Our show has been on so long that we continue to
cover many topics and changes in the world over the last 15
“We've had the benefit of developing many characters
and story lines without ever having to age the characters
which has been a luxury that no other TV shows have.”
Wilder was born in Lowell, Massachusetts,
during the late Sixties and grew up in neighboring Chelmsford.
“My dad worked for Hanscom Air Force Base and is an
honest, hard working, semi-regular church going agnostic,”
he says. “My mom became a Christian when I was two to
three-years-old and has been an elementary school music teacher
for many years. I have one brother who was born on my fourth
birthday. I grew up attending the First Baptist Church of
Asked how he became an artist and where he trained, Wilder
says: “My immediate and extended family and friends
were always very encouraging about my ability to draw. I started
drawing when I was two-years-old. I did a lot on my own and
became very influenced by the Disney films and Warner Brother’s
Loony Tunes as far as cartoons went. I loved illustrator
Norman Rockwell and was also influenced by TV shows like The
Andy Griffith Show, Leave it to Beaver and even at an
early age I really enjoyed All in the Family and
“I think the combination of great writing as well as
the mixture of emotion from happy and funny to sad and serious
as well as the variety of characters really caught my eye
early on. I had a very instructive art program throughout
school - especially high school where we had a couple great
teachers who really treated the AP art program like a college
course which helped me build up a really good for four years
where I graduated in 1990 just as The Simpsons was
being picked up for a second season.
Wilder says his involvement with The Simpsons goes
back to 1990 when he first took several animation and design
“I contacted them when I'd heard they had been picked
up for a second season and needed artists. I really felt the
show had great writing, character and the potential to maybe
go three to five seasons. After several weeks of trial and
error I got offered the job of background designer where I
have been designing and supervising for the last 16 seasons.”
Wilder says his job involves receiving scripts and then "basically
creat(ing) everything the writers come up with, in the style
of The Simpsons."
also had the great fortune of writing a script outline for
an episode three seasons ago. The main theme of The Simpsons
is observational humor and satire. It is meant to make many
age groups in many demographics laugh at many different levels
of jokes. Hopefully the result is an enjoyable and entertaining
"(T)he real turning point in the journey came
after being in California for a year-and-a-half and
accidentally coming upon KKLA Christian radio out
of Los Angeles one night. I began listening to some
of their programs while I was designing with the headphones
on. I had a dream job and was getting paid to do something
I'd always wanted to do and yet I felt that there
was something more. I prayed for Christian friends
and a great church and within three to four weeks
I was introduced to a bunch of Christians my age..."
Talking about his favorite characters, Wilder observes that
with so many secondary characters, “I think there's
always something that people can relate to and laugh at".
of my favorite characters has always been Sideshow Bob (played
by Kelsey Grammer)." he says. "There has always
been a lot of character and depth to him.”
Wilder says he became a committed Christian after moving to
Los Angeles to work on the show.
“I've always believed that there was a God ever since
I can remember,” he says. “My church and Sunday
school and members of my family were a good example to me
as well. I knew all the kids songs and Bible stories and believed
them to tell a true story. However the real turning point
in the journey came after being in California for a year-and-a-half
and accidentally coming upon KKLA Christian radio out of Los
Angeles one night.
“I began listening to some of their programs while I
was designing with the headphones on. I had a dream job and
was getting paid to do something I'd always wanted to do and
yet I felt that there was something more. I prayed for Christian
friends and a great church and within three to four weeks
I was introduced to a bunch of Christians my age who had moved
out from Florida whose parents grew up friend with my mom
and my grandparents.
“They invited me to Christian Assembly Church in Eagle
Rock, California, which has been my church home ever since
- but my walk has definitely been a growing and refining process
the entire way.”
Wilder is married to the "love of his life", Maria.
“I first met my wife Maria the first few days of school
at The Rhode Island School of Design. We went on one date
and nothing happened until six years later she moved to LA
to find work with mutual friends of ours. Within a few weeks
she had landed a job on The Simpsons as a layout
artist and a couple months after that she was promoted to
background design where we worked together for a few seasons
until we were married in Massachusetts in September, 1995,
and had our first child, Nathan in August, 1996.”
Wilder says he faced a turning point in his growth as a Christian
about two years ago when his as yet unborn fourth child was
diagnosed with a fatal disease.
"Although Nicholas was stillborn at 39 weeks
I couldn’t imagine not having him or having
the experience of friends, family and our church reach
out in prayer and support. Being a perfectionist with
a bit of workaholism, I find it very difficult to
not have control over something. This situation was
something I couldn't work harder or longer to fix.
It forced me to trust that God had a plan and to just
used that experience to bring my wife and kids closer together
and really helped me think about eternal things more"
Nicholas was stillborn at 39 weeks I couldn’t imagine
not having him or having the experience of friends, family
and our church reach out in prayer and support. Being a perfectionist
with a bit of workaholism, I find it very difficult to not
have control over something. This situation was something
I couldn't work harder or longer to fix. It forced me to trust
that God had a plan and to just let go. The thing that I tell
people is that through that time somehow there was more peace
and hope than sadness.
“My oldest son Nathan - eight , Jessica - six , Jacob
- four and now Miranda who just turned one have been an incredible
blessing - and also enjoy supervised Simpson episodes.”
Wilder says there have been many Christians working on The
“The truth is that there are and have been many Christian
people in many different positions over the years. We had
a regular Bible study here for several seasons too,”
have also had many shows with positive and moral storylines.
But certainly we've had some jokes that are not appropriate
for the younger audience. I believe our biggest demographic
has always been 18 to 49-year-olds, not kids. I think slowly
people have come to realize that just because something is
animated it doesn’t mean it's automatically for children.
Our show has always had an audience with a very wide age difference-and
at the beginning of every episode there is a PG warning.
“We have done many shows that are appropriate for kids
and families and I tell people they can always tape the show
first and/or watch with their kids to explain things. What
goes on the screen is very important but I also know that
what goes on behind the scenes in our day to day life is more
important. The places that God puts us and the different people
He brings into our life is so important. I hope to set an
example to people no matter where it is I am and I hope to
give answers to their questions regarding eternal things.
“We have had several people come to Christ the past
three or four years and have 15 to 20 artists who are Christian
“I believe good comedy is always walking the
tight rope. You observe the things about ourselves
that are based in truth and then presented in a humorous
way that is funny not hurtful. If the intent is to
put someone down or make them feel inferior to you
then you've crossed the line and it's not comedy,
in my opinion."
Asked what he thought of the character, Ned Flanders, and
whether he was really a Christian, Wilder says: “Ned
Flanders and family have always been the Christian neighbors
next door to the Simpsons. I think Ned has changed and grown
over the years as have most of our characters. Again I think
many times Ned represents religion in our culture in general
terms. Our show satires life and the news and when it comes
to Ned Flanders or Reverend Lovejoy or Homer falling asleep
in church - I see it as humor that most people can relate
“I believe good comedy is always walking the tight rope.
You observe the things about ourselves that are based in truth
and then presented in a humorous way that is funny not hurtful.
If the intent is to put someone down or make them feel inferior
to you then you've crossed the line and it's not comedy, in
my opinion. Is Ned Flanders a "Christian"? I have
found that many people don't even know what that means. For
me a Christian is not someone who acts like a goody two-shoes,
has big hair and speaks loudly asking for money on some religious
“I believe Christians are imperfect people of all colors,
all economic backgrounds, and from all cultures who realize
that there is a living God and that we are not Him. I believe
that the only way we can know the true God is if He cared
enough to tell us who He is and what His plan is for each
and every person who asks. I believe a Christian doesn't put
on a show to try to look good enough. Salvation comes through
grace not works. Works done with the skills, talents and time
that God gives us used on the path He has made for every individual
person is the calling of a Christian.
“I work with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, shamans, atheists
and denominations from all over. They are wonderful and talented
people and I wouldn't want it any other way. Where would the
entertainment industry (or other groups of people) be if Christians
got up and left? I didn't realize that Christianity was supposed
to be a closed private club for those ‘good enough’
to get in.
“We are fallen sinners no better than anyone else. It
is only because the one true higher power, the Creator, cared
enough to want personal one-on-one relationships with every
single person that we can become Christian. It's because the
God of Biblical scripture gives freewill and choice to every
person. The Gospel is free for the asking and a free gift
for taking. I have no interest in some 'god' who doesn’t
care enough to reveal himself or his plans. The God of the
Bible talks about love, generosity, caring, discipline, honesty,
and integrity in our churches our schools our politics and
in our jobs.
“God became a human being, born of the Virgin Mary -
just as the Old Testament prophets said. God became one of
us and lived among us for a time to give us the rest of the
story and to set the perfect example. He came to give hope
and proof that He was who He said when He died on the cross
and rose in the flesh and bone to show that He alone held
life and death in His hands.
“No other religion or prophet or philosopher ever made
the claims of Jesus let alone got those claims to stick. It's
because I believe these thing that I try to stay on the straight
and narrow path. It's difficult but when I fall I want to
fall heading in the right direction.
“The Simpsons has afforded me an incredible
job and opportunity to meet and talk with people from all
over the world."
Wooding is an award-winning British journalist now living
in Southern California with his wife Norma. He is the founder
and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints
in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). Wooding
is the co-host of the weekly radio show, "Window on the
World" and was, for ten years a commentator, on the UPI
Radio Network in Washington, DC. Wooding is also the author
of some 42 books, the latest of which is his autobiography,
"From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron