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How an episode of the Simpsons is made (theverge.com)
94 points by pmcpinto on Oct 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments



In the world of animated TV, The Simpsons may be the last of its kind, an expensive, high-touch, slow-paced production built on formulas dating back to Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera.

"Hanna-Barbera" and "expensive" do not belong in the same sentence. Their Saturday Morning cartoons were so cheaply made that they were mocked by the industry.[0]

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanna-Barbera#Production_proce...


The reason Yogi Bear wears a collar and tie was solely so they didn't have to animate the head-body transition and save money.


They must be talking about early Hanna-Barbera. Before they jumped into full limited motion Hanna-Barbera works used to be on par with the classic Disney movies.


They're talking about age ("dating back") though I can see how that could be misinterpreted as a comparison of quality.

Here's how I parsed it:

First idea/statement: In the world of animated TV, The Simpsons may be the last of its kind, an expensive, high-touch, slow-paced production.

Second idea/statement: built on formulas dating back to Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera.


Korean inbetweeners have it rough. In fact, all inbetweeners have it rough! That's kind of like getting a C code from a senior animator (Keyframe) and hand-coding asm from it.

It's interesting they've mentioned discontinued software from ToonBoom. I thought they would be using a full blown Harmony by now or DigiCel Flipbook, at least for animatics.


Why would they be having it rough? Many jobs involve repetitive actions with little to no creative element. But still these animators will have built up a substantial skill and the work output ought to be modestly satisfying.

If code compiling couldn't be automated, the people tasked with performing ASM translation would eventually become extremely skilled at it... to a point where it might seem impossibly magical to the rest of us.


Inbetweening (we call it phasing in Europe) is not repetitive work in a sense of factory work. It's a line of work that requires extreme focus and is repetitive. It's a rough job that taxes your mind, wrists, and back. You have to have a special mindset if you're going to work that for a career. Everybody starts at that step, but not everyone goes further.


"The process is called original equipment manufacturing; Akom is one of many OEM studios in its nation."

Ha ha I think that's very clearly the wrong meaning of that abbreviation.


Overseas export market?



Then again, what Akom does is quite similar to the more popular definition of OEM. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_equipment_manufacture... :

Generally, an OEM is the company that makes a part that is marketed by another company typically as a component of the second company's product


I often have a hard time placing the exact episode, in which The Simpsons jumped the shark, but for me, the "22 Short Films Abount Springfield" episode [0] in season 7 was the first one I distinctly remember having mixed feelings about, while watching it.

By the eighth season for sure, there was even in-show acknowledgement, that the characters were becoming over-developed and being painted into unimaginative corners by established and beloved continuity, while simultaneously being victimized by groupthink, in the Poochie episode [1]. That was probably the last "good" episode, in my humble opinion.

Also, in season 8, with the airing of the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper episode [2], I found that more episodes were frequently disappointing and unfunny, including that episode, and I tuned out.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/22_Short_Films_About_Springfie...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Itchy_%26_Scratchy_%26_Poo...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Viaje_Misterioso_de_Nuestro...


I would say that you are in the minority of Simpsons fans if you dislike "22 Short Films About Springfield" and especially "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer" which is frequently on top 10 episodes lists.

If you often find yourself in conversations about "best simpsons vs downfall" you owe it to yourself to check out The Dead Homer's Society manifesto[0]. One of the author's greatest articles is on what he calls "zombie simpsons"[1].

Ultimately the discussion comes down to taste but Dead Homer's produces a very convincing argument behind his opinion.

[0] http://deadhomersociety.com/manifesto/

[1] http://deadhomersociety.com/zombiesimpsons/


It's interesting how different people draw the line in different places.

I think Behind the Laugher is the last truly good episode. That's a deeply unusual format, of course. I'd count Homer Simpson vs. the City of New York as the last truly good normal episode. I mark the decline as the beginning of season 9. I think season 8 holds up as well as any. I think I've seen others draw the line as late as season 13ish, and as early as around season 4.


Season 8 was fine. The last good episode was definitely the NY one and even then that was very iffy. The Armin Tamzarian episode was what did it. Everyone at school was talking about how it made no sense and I agreed. Although, I saw the episode recently and it's still much better than anything since.. And not as bad as I remember it.


It's funny, I also draw the line at season 9, but think of the decline as starting with the New York episode. I remember watching the premier (the New York episode) and feeling very disappointed, and asking people afterwards if they felt the writing had changed. Of course, season 9 is still better than a lot of the stuff that came later.


There was an episode where the Simpsons held a wedding in their back yard, and an elephant was involved. That was the day they died.

I still watch every episode multiple times, but Im just chasing the dragon.


For me it started to decline in season 9ish, but I did enjoy lots of episodes from seasons 9-12, some of the 13 might be good. But after that I started to actually count with the fingers of one hand the episodes I liked from the current season.

By season 15 I was pretty much no longer a fan. I only got to see a few from 16 and pretty much stopped there.

I actually still see once in a while the old episodes and it's fascinating to see how many layers of pop culture, puns and obscure references to the arts and other refined subjects were able to put in a episode, all while keeping the stupid-funny-haha kind of jokes (like Homer's stupidity).

Also, I found incredible how they could have such funny and "offensive" (By the standards of the time) episodes and also such moving ones, like when Homer meets his mom again... the ending on that one is just pure feelings.

I really am sorry how the simpsons kept going just for the sake of it. They lost the show's soul at least a decade or more ago. They should have euthanized the show a long time ago.. :(


First, that 22 films episode is considered one of the best of the series. Second, just last Sunday they had a "good" episode, depending on your intended meaning of the word "good". I mean just ordinary "good".

Also, the turning point in the series is often thought to be when Homer was raped by a Panda bear. For years it was pure rubbish after that.


I've read that the show took a hit in quality when Groening took some of the shows better writers over to Futurama.

It probably wasn't the first bad episode, but I remember really disliking the one that starts off with Bart getting chased by a dog ("The Lastest Gun in the West").


Interesting theory. The timing certainly fits.


Well they progressively stopped being provocative and became politically correct. The kind of show you dont mind your kids watching. On top of unfunny episodes this is where it went down.


In 1990, a cartoon character who says "eat my shorts" was provocative. In 2010, after Ren & Stimpy and South Park and the rest, a cartoon character who says "eat my shorts" was humdrum.


Honestly, at this point they should just start showing old ones and claim they are new. There's so many I bet most people wouldn't even notice!


The huge jump in quality would give the game away!


Just wanted to point out a link between AKOM and Star Wars (lightsabers actually).

AKOM was founded in 1985 by Nelson Shin, the one who came up with the special effects of the original lightsaber in Star Wars Episodes 4, 5, 6.

Here's an interview with him by CNN in 2007. I remember watching the video on youtube while back but cannot find it now. But here's the text of the interview.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/10/18/talkasia.nelsons...

And this in the interview caught my attention.

I went to the States in 1971. When I arrived in U.S. at that time, the three major networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- started Saturday morning shows on a very large scale for children. This was a new movement in U.S. to bring the animation industry to life, but also to educate the children through this. But despite this large movement, there were no people who could actually work on the animation, which is why most of the work went to Taiwan, Korea and Japan. So because of this reason it may seem that Korea was playing a large role in the animation industry, but a lot of the animators in Korea actually started off by learning and working for these American shows.

Star Wars. Simpsons. Who knew?


It is interesting to see that even animation studios outsource critical parts of the process to other parts of the world, albeit the last stage of animation after most of the creative process is complete. I think that really does prove how flat the world has become over the years.


It seems AKOM's willing to further outsource its animation jobs, including to North Korea: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/IC14Dg03.html


When they went from actually drawing the cartoon to computer-aided animation techniques the Simpsons lost something very essential and organic. I love the Simpsons up until about the fifth season. Beyond that I consider them progressively unwatchable.


"His job is to take all of the digital character layout scenes, along with the timing and everything [else], and he prints them out on paper and those are shipped to [South] Korea."

Why? Don't they have printers in South Korea?


I thought family guy and bobs burger followed roughly the same production structure.


Bob's Burger is CG, so I imagine it has a production structure closer to South Park (also CG) than the Simpsons, in that certain kinds of animation changes are much cheaper to make even late in production.


> Bob's Burger is CG

No it's not, it's hand drawn using Toon Boom Harmony[1]. They offshore to South Korea in a similar fashion to The Simpsons. Sometimes they'll use cel-shaded CGI for static and complex objects (which The Simpsons do as well), but character animation is all regular 2D cel.

[1]: https://www.toonboom.com/news/bob-s-burgers-goes-fifth-seaso...

South Park is animated in Maya, but it's really the style of animation that makes South Park so quick to produce rather than the fact it's CGI (lots of CG animation is equally as time consuming as 2D cel).




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