Alf Clausen, the long-time composer for The Simpsons, is suing Fox two years after the company fired him. The lawsuit claims that Clausen, 78, was let go due to his age and disability.
In August 2017, Clausen told reporters that Simpsons producer Richard Sakai had relieved him of his duties, as Fox wanted “a different kind of music.” At the time, it was speculated that the company’s real motivation was to save costs. According to Variety, the composer worked with a 35-piece orchestra — a set-up that the show’s creator Matt Groening had always insisted on, but which cost millions of dollars per year.
Clausen’s suit alleges that Sakai’s justification “was pretextual and false. Instead, Plaintiff’s unlawful termination was due to perceived disability and age.”
Clausen was replaced by Bleeding Fingers Music, a music production company co-founded by Russell Emanuel, Hans Zimmer, and Steve Kofsky; the suit notes that the replacement “was substantially younger in age, who was not only paid less, but was not disabled.” No specific disability is mentioned. The defendants are named as Fox, its new owner Disney, and James L. Brooks’s Gracie Films.
Initially hired for the 1990–91 season, Clausen stayed with The Simpsons for 27 years. He composed the background music, cues, and songs (in collaboration with others), and was responsible for arranging variations on Danny Elfman’s famous theme. He scored more than 560 episodes, picking up 23 Emmy nominations (and two wins) along the way — he’s thought to be the most-nominated composer in the awards’ history.
But it almost didn’t happen. In a 2015 interview (see below), Clausen recalls being approached by Groening. The composer initially said that he didn’t want to work in animation: “I’m more interested in doing long-form feature films.” Groening won him over by replying, “We look upon our show as being not a cartoon, [but] a drama where the characters are drawn, and we would like it scored that way.”
Clausen’s other credits include animated series The Critic and dozens more tv shows and films, among them The Naked Gun and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In addition to his two Emmys, he has won five Annies, all for his work on The Simpsons.