Perhaps even more impressive that the precision of Swiss tourists Janine Wiget and Katrin von Niederhäusern’s viral reenactment of Homer and Lisa Simpson’s iconic culinary tour of New Orleans is the fact that the duo visited 54 New Orleans restaurants in a week to make it possible.
Wiget and von Niederhäusern had visited New Orleans several times in the past few years and had another trip planned for this summer. The friends have a tradition of commemorating their travels with videos (usually involving dancing), so when they watched the New Orleans-themed episode of “The Simpsons” together for the first time in February, they immediately knew what their next video would be.
“When we saw this episode, we looked at each other and we knew that we were going to recreate the scene,” Wiget said. “We actually came up with the idea both together, like it's clear that we need to do it because we both love the Simpsons and we love the city so much.”
There was just one problem: Von Niederhäusern would only be in the city for a week. Pulling this off, they realized, would require meticulous planning, ensuring the endeavor was as efficient as possible. They printed out a storyboard of each shot in the Simpsons scene as well as a giant map of the city — marking the locations of all the restaurants, their addresses and opening hours.
“We basically planned every day because we had to film about eight scenes every day, so we went to eight places every day,” Wiget said. “So we didn't have to drive back and forth so often we really had to schedule which restaurant are we visiting on which day.”
When the week arrived, Wiget and von Niederhäusern set off with their map, storyboard, cell phones and tripod. For shots inside restaurants, the duo had to get staff and management in on the project, as it required them to partake in some unusual activities.
Since they didn't have the creative liberties with the shots that the animators of “The Simpsons” had, getting the right angle often meant moving furniture around, sitting or lying on the floor, setting tables on top of trash cans or in the streets and even entering construction zones.
One shot in the scene shows Homer and Lisa dining at Emeril’s — the restaurant’s logo on the window behind them. But when Wiget and von Niederhäusern arrived, they realized the logo was actually on the door of the restaurant, and had to convince the manager to let them put a table in front of the door.
“We were afraid that the people would not like it if we were doing this because maybe we were disturbing the guests and they don't want us to do that,” Wiget said. “But actually all of them were really excited about it and so happy.”
The project proved to be a great way to get to know the city because it led them to meet people and visit restaurants, particularly eateries outside the French Quarter, they may have never visited otherwise.
Their favorite? Betsy’s Pancake House. They visited on a Sunday morning, when the restaurant was crowded with patrons coming in after church, and ordered a stack of more than a dozen pancakes.
“All the ladies that were working there were so lovely, and they were so excited about the project,” Wiget said. “When they came out with the plate of pancakes, the whole restaurant turned silent. That was just a funny moment.”
Wiget estimates the endeavor cost about $500 total, which is less than they were expecting, she said. For some of the po-boy scenes shot outside restaurants, they were able to rearrange the sandwiches and reuse them, which helped reduce costs. Plus, they saved money by not going out every night.
“We were so tired from filming every day that we would just not go out in the evening. We would have spent just as much money in bars or on food if we would've gone out,” Wiget said.
I have nothing to add here except this is amazing.
The video has amassed nearly 80,000 views on YouTube since they published it to YouTube last Friday. But Wiget said they did not expect the video to be such a hit while creating it.
“Very often, like several times in the day, we were asking ourselves, what are we doing here? We are in New Orleans, we could all just enjoy the vacation and see the live music and go dancing, but instead we're doing this all day long,” she said. “But yeah, we still did it, and it really was just a fun project. We didn't know how the people would react, and we were very surprised about this huge feedback that is so positive.”
Some of that positive feedback has come from people they met in the city during their 7-day filming period.
“We're just so happy to meet all these amazing people and all these restaurants and that they were so supportive of our project that looked very silly most of the time,” Wiget said. “We're just big fans of the city.”