Sam Simon, one of the developers of The Simpsons animated cartoon, has died aged 59 after a battle with colon cancer. His colleague Matt Groening says his “sly sense of humour” will be missed.
Simon won nine Emmy awards for his work as a writer, director and executive producer of The Simpsons, the animated Fox sitcom first shown in 1989, which follows a bumbling father and his dysfunctional but loving family.
He was given three to six months to live when he was diagnosed with incurable colon cancer in 2012, and decided to give away his fortune, estimated at $100m.
He told Reuters in August: “I have a desire to help animals. The question of whether it makes financial sense, it’s my money and I get to do what I want with it. It’s an expensive hobby I picked up at the end of my life.”
Simon developed The Simpsons, which is now in its 27th year, with illustrator Matt Groening and James L Brooks, the producer and screenwriter.
Although Groening is most closely associated with the series in the public mind, Simon is thought to have been instrumental in populating Springfield, the fictional town at the centre of the the series, with its range of unique characters.
Groening said: “We will miss Sam’s phenomenal talents, sharp intelligence and sly sense of humour”.
Brad Bird, a former director of The Simpsons, described Simon as “the unsung hero” of the show. Simon designed the models for characters such as Mr Burns and Chief Wiggum.
“Sam helped establish the tone and world of The Simpsons in the early years of this landmark series, and his contributions live on,” Fox Television group said in a statement.
The show was a smart social satire built around crass characters and it became the longest-running sitcom on American television.
After four seasons of The Simpsons, Simon negotiated a deal to leave the show while retaining a percentage of its future earnings, which would bring him between $20m and $30m a year. He is still listed as executive producer in the show’s credits.
In a statement, Simpsons Executive Producer Al Jean said: “I personally owe him more than can be repaid, but I will do my best to help every animal I can in his memory.”
— Al Jean (@AlJean) March 9, 2015
— Graham Linehan (@Glinner) March 9, 2015
A friend brought Sam Simon to my house once. I asked hours of SIMPSONS and TAXI questions. Such a funny, good guy and big animal lover. #RIP
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) March 10, 2015
RIP Sam Simon. Heroic humanitarian & genius co-creator of The Simpsons. D’oh, indeed.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) March 9, 2015
RIP Sam Simon. Your impact on television and the world will not be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/uGure7rMIj
— Larry King (@kingsthings) March 9, 2015