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HOMER SWEET HOME; CAN REAL SPRINGFIELD EVER LIVE UP TO TOON TOWN?

THE long-awaited Simpsons movie is released this week - and will make the cartoon family's home of Springfield the most talked-about town in the world.

Cities across the USA with the same name fought for the right to be named the official Simpsons setting, with the title eventually going to Springfield in Vermont.

But can the real one live up to the fictional home of Homer and co? Here's what makes their 'toon town so special.

Springfield has great restaurants. Blink and you'll miss them in the show but they include pastry cafe The French Confection, The Texas Cheesecake Depository and a Middle Eastern restaurant called Two Guys from Kabul.

Gay marriage was legalised in 2005. Homer was ordained on the internet to perform a string of ceremonies and guests included Marge's sister Patty, who revealed she was a lesbian.

Megalomaniac power station owner Monty Burns once ran for governor - but his plans were scuppered when Bart caught a three-eyed fish in the river next to his nuclear plant.

The town's minor league baseball team are called the Springfield Isotopes. They have a fierce rivalry with the neighbouring Shelbyville Shelby-Villains. Homer was once the Isotopes' mascot.

Town bar is Moe's Tavern, which you can call on 764- 84377. On a phone keypad, the letters which correspond to those numbers spell the name of another character, Smithers.

The voice of bungling, doughnut-loving police chief Clancy Wiggum is based on Edward G. Robinson.

The rivalry with nearby Shelbyville is thought to have been inspired by creator Matt Groening's home state Oregon. There's a Springfield there which has a fierce rivalry with nearby Eugene.

The founder of the town is Jebediah Springfield, who has his own statue. The town motto is: "A Noble Spirit Embiggens the Smallest Man."

Mayor "Diamond" Joe Quimby - based on Senator Ted Kennedy - once changed the name of the town to Libertyville to restore old-fashioned American values after Bart mooned the Stars and Stripes. In the contest to name the real Springfield, Kennedy campaigned for Springfield in Massachusetts, which he represents.

Springfield was once divided by a Berlinstyle wall after a row about area phone codes. When it was brought down, The Who made a special appearance.

Districts in Springfield include Bum Town, Chinatown, Crackton, East Springfield, Greek Town, Junkieville, Little Bangkok, Little Italy, Little Newark, Ethnictown, Lower Eastside, Pressboard Estates, Recluse Ranch Estates, Skid Row, Springfield Harbor, Springfield Heights, Springshire, Tibet Town and West Springfield. There are also flammable, gay and Russian districts.

There is a Springfield in Scotland. The population of the village near Cupar, Fife, has two residents named Bert Simpson...but sadly no Bart.

The biggest city expressway is named after one-time guest star Michael Jackson.

The international airport in the city has the motto: "We treat you like cattle." Bus firm Springfield Travel's slogan is: "Now get outta here."

An annual snake whacking day used to be held annually in memory of Jebediah Springfield driving snakes out in the 18th century. But it was stopped when Bart discovered it was invented as an excuse to beat up the local Irish population.

In an early episode Springfield invested in an ill-fated monorail. Homer became the driver and had to save the city when the train went out of control. He dropped an anchor to slow it, which hooked on to a huge doughnut sign.

Springfield has its own gorge, glacier, national forest and the tallest hill is the Murderhorn.

The biggest newspaper is the Springfield Shopper, while their local TV news is read by controversial anchor Kent Brockman. Cheerful like Jackie Bird he isn't.

Pollution is a major worry thanks to an enormous self-sustaining tyre fire which has been burning since 1966.

CAPTION(S):

Simply the best: Shopkeepers in Springfield, Vermont, celebrate being crowned the setting for the hit show; Alike: Quimby and Ted; News: Kent and Jackie
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 15, 2007
Words:642
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