Throughout the seasons America’s favorite yellow TV family, “The Simpsons,” has alluded to their perspective location, leaving the daunting question of which state the city of Springfield is actually located within. Even today the location of the beloved fictional city remains a mystery, setting an emphasis on maintaining an example of “Anytown, USA.” But series creator and Oregon native Matt Groening hasn’t totally left fans in the dark, revealing that Springfield was indeed inspired by a number of real-life locations including our Lane County’s very own city of Springfield!
Plenty of Easter egg tributes can be found throughout the city dedicated to America’s longest-running show, which first aired in 1987. It’s as if Bart himself has run wild throughout our streets with a paint can in hand, causing mischief and tagging walls along the way for what has become an unofficial Simpsons Tour that spans throughout the historic core of downtown Springfield, and even along into the downtown side streets of Eugene (Otherwise known as notorious rival city Shelbyville within the show’s universe).
Our city’s very own Springfield Horseman Statue is a good place to kick off your Simpsons sightseeing adventure. Fans of the show will immediately notice the resemblance between our unknown rider that presides over the entrance of the city to that of the show’s own Jebediah Springfield that resides in the universe’s town square. Groening drew inspiration from the statue that was created by University of Oregon art student Charles Forrester in 1960 in celebration of Oregon’s 1959 Centennial.
It was even painted “Simpsons yellow” in 2007 as part of the national competition for premiering the show’s very first movie. Also in celebration of the film, the city was given a plaque in conjunction with the challenge that was signed by Matt Groening himself. “Yo to Springfield, Oregon – the real Springfield! Your pal, Matt Groening proud Oregonian!” reads on the bottom of the plaque that can be found directly behind the Springfield Museum in Springfield’s City Manager’s office.
At the Emerald Art Center, Springfielders can find the mural that started the Simpsons’ trend throughout the city. The “Official Simpsons Mural” was designed by show creator Groening and print artist Julius Preite in 2014. The 15 by 30-foot mural was approved by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation with Yeardley Smith, the voice of “little know-it-all” Lisa Simpson, presiding over the mural’s dedication. Inside the art center even sits a life-size Simpsons family on a cardboard prop couch that was used for the movie premiere. Thankfully they didn’t take up the whole couch this time around, with just enough room to sit and take a photo with the famous family.
Since this mural’s installation, smaller, sneakier street art has crept into building cervices and along city streets celebrating and immortalizing Springfield’s fictional alter-ego. However, Bart isn’t to blame for all the tribute graffiti though the artist who created them has a nature just as playful and doesn’t like to announce the locations of his newer works, so keep your eyes peeled!
Local muralist Bayne Gardner has been working with the respective cities and private businesses to place these tribute pieces across the Eugene-Springfield metro area. In our real-life Springfield alone there are over 26 tributes to the Simpsons hidden throughout the town, including Bayne’s earliest work — Blinky the three-eyed fish.
Most of the murals downtown are found along unnamed alleyways between Main and A Streets. Chief Wiggum is seen enjoying a coffee and donut on the wall along 5th and A Streets while Snake avoids the law in the parking lot of local tattoo parlor Area 51 Tattoo. Other famous characters to be found include Groundskeeper Willie on the outside of Off Kilter Coffee, Lisa with a lamb on the side of Bright Oak Meats, and Maggie on Main Street.
While on your quest to spot the Simpsons throughout our Springfield, don’t forget to keep an eye out for similarities between the two cities. Rumor has it that the mill smokestacks of the Weyerhaeuser Plant inspired the nuclear plant that Homer works at and it’s believed that Max’s Tavern in Eugene inspired Moe’s Tavern, right down to the jar of pickled eggs on the counter. The exterior is a perfect match to the animated bar and stories say that Groening himself spent time there sketching during his college years. The only downside is they don’t serve Duff beer but that’s okay! Pabst Blue Ribbon is always on tap at the tavern that just so happens to also be Eugene’s oldest bar having opened its doors in 1932.
Yes, the Simpsons have definitely invaded our Springfield, or perhaps their Springfield. The city anticipates more murals to be added of the beloved cartoon family as they continue to work with Gardener to create more pieces. The city itself doesn’t require any special permits for murals and businesses frequently reach out to him, seeking to decorate their storefronts with their own unique Simpsons pieces. In return, Gardener also frequently donates his murals as he himself is just a fan of both the show and art and is just looking for places to paint.
Spotting the Simpsons among the streets of the real-life Springfield has definitely become a scavenger hunt thanks to Gardner as he continues to hide characters all throughout the city. As the number of murals has grown, finding them all had definitely become quite the challenge if you choose to take it on. When you’re done, stop by the Emerald Art Center and check your success on the “cheat sheet” map they have inside and see how well you did!