Alf Clausen, who composed the music for The Simpsons for 27 years, filed a lawsuit against Fox on Monday, claiming when he was fired in 2017, it was because of his age.
Clausen, 78, claims that he was informed the show was “taking the music in a different direction”. The lawsuit states “This reason was pretextual and false…Instead, Plaintiff’s unlawful termination was due to perceived disability and age.”
Clausen has scored or orchestrated music for more than 30 films and TV shows, including Moonlighting, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Naked Gun. However, he’s best known for his work on The Simpsons, having served as its composer from 1990 until 2017, scoring over 550 episodes in that time. While that iconic theme song is the work of Danny Elfman, Clausen did rework it in the third season.
Two of the show’s musical numbers, “We Put The Spring In Springfield” and “I’m Checkin’ In” won Clausen Emmy awards, shared with writer Ken Keeler, and he notched up fully 30 Emmy nominations over the years, including 23 for his work on The Simpsons.
After his dismissal, the show’s scoring was taken over by Bleeding Fingers Music, a music production company co-founded by Russell Emanuel, Hans Zimmer and Steve Kofsky.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that Clausen’s replacement “was substantially younger in age, who was not only paid less, but was not disabled.” (The disability in question was unspecified.) Discrimination of any sort, age or otherwise, would likely make it wrongful dismissal under the relevant employment law, but is tough to prove.
The more pertinent issue may well be the monetary one. Clausen’s own paycheck likely comes into that, the show famously fired Maggie Roswell (voice of Maude Flanders) over a pay dispute. However, possibly more important is the fact that Clausen used a 35-piece orchestra to score the show. While this allowed him to turn his hand to pretty well any kind of music the show needed, and, as stated, created award-winning music, such things do not come cheap.
The lawsuit names Fox, Disney, and James L. Brooks’ production company Gracie Films as defendants. Even if it’s a cut-and-dried case, to take on any one of these bodies in a court of law is, to put it politely, brave.