As The Simpsons nears the record for most episodes of an American scripted prime-time show - the Fox series celebrated its 600th episode, just 35 behind all-time champ Gunsmoke - the minds behind the animated program sometimes get hit with the question:
So when is the show finally going to ride off into the Springfield sunset?
"Never!" replies a laughing David Silverman, the longtime Simpsons producer who directed The Simpsons Movie (2007), as well as Sunday's virtual-reality "couch gag."
"We don't want it to end," says Silverman, who has been there since the very beginning, animating the interstitial shorts when the Simpsons debuted in 1987 on The Tracey Ullman Show.
"We say, 'Keep it going!' 600? I say: '1,000! Do I hear 2,000!'" says Silverman, his voice elevating for effect while speaking Monday at a suburban Washington pub - not so far from where he spent part of his youth in Silver Spring, Maryland.
For the sake of comparison, as well as inspiration, Silverman cites the run of Looney Tunes, the classic animated comedy shorts from Warner Bros. that spanned 1930 to 1969.
"It wasn't that they were running out of ideas, per se," says Silverman, citing Tex Avery's Oscar-nominated A Wild Hare (1940) as the pinnacle of Looney Tunes animation. "They just ran out of a delivery system." The Warner Bros. Cartoons studio closed as the '70s dawned, marking the end of the "golden age" of animation.
"For The Simpsons, so far, we haven't run out of the delivery system," notes Silverman, whose show holds the record for most seasons (27) of an American scripted prime-time show, with the renewal already announced for season 28.
"I don't know what's going to happen to the future of home entertainment," the producer continues, "but I think there's always going to be some aspect of the big TV screen."
"I don't know why you'd stop it," says Silverman of The Simpsons, which was co-created by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks and the late Sam Simon. "We're having a great time."