'Simpsons' creator clears up Springfield locale controversy

'Simpsons' creator clears up Springfield locale controversy
In this animated image created by Matt Groening and released by Twentieth Century Fox, Bart Simpson flies through the air in an epic skateboarding trip, in a scene from "The Simpsons" movie. (AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox, Matt Groening)

PORTLAND, Ore. - Deep down, we all knew it already. At least, Oregon residents knew it already. Sort of.

After more than two decades of teasing, obfuscating, audio-obscuring and just plain hinting around, the creator of the long-running animated show "The Simpsons" has finally made it official: the hometown of TV's most dysfunctional, bug-eyed family is named for Springfield, Oregon.

In an interview posted on Smithsonian.com, Simpsons' creator Matt Groening finally put an end to the speculation in plain language: "Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon," he said.

Despite the fact the big premiere for The Simpsons Movie in 2007 did not take place in Oregon's Springfield (some other, ballot-box-stuffing Springfield in snobby Vermont had that honor), Oregonians have always felt the city living in Eugene's shadow was the real home of the yellow, spiky-haired clan.

Groening grew up in Portland, went to Lincoln High School and references to Springfield and Oregon in general are sprinkled throughout the Simpsons' universe.

While Groening has never fully admitted to it, many of the names of characters in the Simpson's correlate to street names and other locations in and around Portland. In the Smithsonian interview, he does admit that the street the Simpsons live on - Evergreen Terrace - is the same street name where he grew up in Portland.

In the interview, Groening said he chose Springfield as a home for the Simpsons because it was one of the most common city names in the nation. There are dozens of Springfields in the nation and at least one in 34 states.

"I don’t want to ruin it for people, you know?" Groening said in the interview. "Whenever people say it’s Springfield, Ohio, or Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, wherever, I always go, “Yup, that’s right.”

Well, not any more.

The show has made a running joke of hiding the true Springfield's location. In one episode, daughter Lisa points to Springfield on a map, but the animated "camera view" is blocked by son Bart's head.

The series has been on the air for more than 20 years, becoming the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program and a cultural phenomenon with colleges devoting courses to studying it.

When Springfield, Ore., community-relations manager Niel Laudati was told about Groening's announcement, he said: "Oh OK, we knew that."

The city has already incorporated the Simpsons into its own town lore. The Springfield Museum features a couch similar to the animated one shown in the show's opening credits, and a plaque marking the movie's release.

"Yo to Springfield, Oregon -- the real Springfield!" Groening wrote. "Your pal, Matt Groening proud Oregonian!"

The Springfield depicted in "The Simpsons" isn't always a flattering portrait. The school is falling apart, there's a constant fire at the town dump and Mayor Quimby is chronically, helplessly corrupt.

"We kind of got past it," Laudati said. "We don't dwell on the bad stuff. Obviously we don't have a nuclear power plant. We don't have a lot of stuff in the Simpsons.

"What we do have are a lot of blue-collar working families that go to church every week and eat dinner together," Laudati said. "That is accurate."