Although written by Scully, the episode was originally pitched by former writer Conan O'Brien, while the subplot was suggested by George Meyer. It features references to films such as The Fugitive and Scarface, while production of the episode was affected by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
Lisa tries to befriend her, though she battles her envy and fears that she will lose her purpose. At a band practice, Lisa and Allison battle saxophone to saxophone for the position of first chair; Allison wins as Lisa plays too hard and faints. Their rivalry comes to a climax during Springfield Elementary's annual diorama building competition. Allison constructs a scene from "The Tell-Tale Heart", by Edgar Allan Poe. Lisa goes to great efforts to produce a better diorama, a scene from Oliver Twist, but it is destroyed. Bart and Lisa decide to sabotage Allison's entry by switching Allison's diorama with one containing a cow's heart. When Principal Skinner not only criticizes the diorama but begins to question Allison's overall qualifications, Lisa's guilt overcomes her and she produces the real diorama.
However, Skinner is unimpressed by both Lisa's and Allison's work and proclaims Ralph Wiggum's collection of Star Wars action figures, which have nostalgic value to him, to be the winner. In the end, Lisa and Allison put aside their differences and become friends as they walk off into the sunset, picking up Ralph along the way after he accidentally trips and breaks his action figures.
The episode's subplot follows Homer after he encounters and then steals hundreds of pounds of sugar he finds at the site of Hans Moleman's truck accident. Homer decides he can get rich by selling the sugar door-to-door. He keeps the sugar in a pile in his back yard, where he obsessively guards it from thieves. Soon, the sugar attracts bees from a local apiary. The beekeepers track the swarm down and offer to buy the bees back from Homer for $2,000. Before the transaction can be completed, it begins to rain. The sugar dissolves and the bees fly away, leaving Homer with no money or sugar.
Production of the episode was disrupted by the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which also affected the previous episode "Bart of Darkness". The Film Roman building used by the staff was so badly damaged it had to be condemned. They were relocated to a new building for a year, and much of the animation for the episode was done by people at home. The day after the earthquake, the only staff members who turned up for work were Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein. Overall production of The Simpsons was disrupted for six months, with a month of production time being lost.
Although written by Mike Scully, the episode's original concept was pitched by Conan O'Brien before he left the show. O'Brien suggested having an episode about a rival for Lisa, but the rest of the episode's storyline was written by Scully and other staff members. It was the first episode Scully wrote for the show, and he would later become showrunner. Winona Ryder guest starred as Allison Taylor. She was a fan of the show and was popular amongst the staff. David Mirkin recalled that more writers came to her recording session than any other. Her character's name was taken from two of Scully's daughters, Allison and Taylor. The subplot was pitched by George Meyer. Homer's sugar diatribe was pitched by Meyer off the top of his head and animated by David Silverman, who specifically asked to animate the scene after listening to Dan Castellaneta's performance.
Milhouse's sub-story is a reference to the 1993 film The Fugitive. The film is principally parodied in the scene where Milhouse is at the end of a dam drainpipe, held at gunpoint by an FBI agent resembling Tommy Lee Jones, who uses the film's famous line "I don't care". Homer's "In America" speech while guarding his sugar pile is a direct reference to one of Tony Montana's lines in Scarface, and his line "Oh what a world!" when the sugar melts is the same line used by Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, when she melts. Lisa's hiding of The Tell-Tale Heart diorama under the gym floorboards is itself a parody of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart". The speech patterns of the beekeeper voiced by Hank Azaria were based on Adam West's portrayal of Batman. Lisa's nightmare features her playing in a band with famous backup artists: Art Garfunkel, John Oates and Jim Messina. Ralph's diorama contest entry is just re-packaged Star Wars action figures. His collection includes Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Chewbacca.
In a 2008 article, Entertainment Weekly named Winona Ryder's role as Allison Taylor as one of the sixteen best The Simpsons guest stars, while IGN placed her sixth on their list of the "Top 25 Simpsons Guest Stars." They also highlighted Ralph's "classic" lines: "I bent my Wookiee," and "My cat's breath smells like cat food. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, stated: "Despite being a Lisa show, it is poor Ralph Wiggum who steals the show with three great irrelevant replies, especially those concerning his cat's breath." They also highlighted "great scenes between the Simpson siblings, especially Bart's idea to conquer Allison using a hose pipe."
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