ANIMOTION MACHINE

Otaku My Wife... Please!

The Simpsons homage to legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki that delighted the internet a month or two ago was apparently ten years in the making:

The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean said his team had been trying to work in an homage to Miyazaki on their show for at least a decade, but the eventual episode — in which Comic Book Guy marries a woman from Japan — was well underway before the filmmaker announced his retirement.

In the episode, Homer gets drunk with the Japanese woman’s father for no apparent reason, they have an anime dream because Japan, and the father realizes he should let his daughter be with Comic Book Guy because he sees his face on No-Face from Spirited Away. The whole sequence is rather disjointed from the rest of the episode, and the awkward attempt to justify its inclusion by making it the story’s climax makes for a weird, lazy plot progression (problem → get drunk → problem solved). If the episode was created just so the writers could finally put in a Miyazaki tribute they’d been wanting to put in for over a decade, you’d think they could’ve worked it in better.

Oh, and Miyazaki hasn’t even seen it.

[BuzzFeed]

ANIMOTION MACHINE

Lauren MacMullanFormer Mission Hill and Simpsons director Lauren MacMullan has apparently directed a new Mickey Mouse cartoon for Disney. Gosh!

There is some speculation over whether the cartoon, “Get A Horse!” is new-but-made-to-look old, or if it’s an abandoned short from back in the day that Disney decided to finish decades later (like 2003’s Destino). The late Walt Disney is apparently voicing Mickey once again. Maybe he’s finally being unfrozen??

MacMullan is a wonderful director who gained some notoriety amongst Simpsons fansites for her unique visual flair, and one of many Simpsons directors to have made the jump to Disney. I vaguely remember seeing a short piece she did for MTV featuring vintage-looking cartoon characters (which I can’t find a video of), so it’s good to know things have come full circle for her.

[Jim Hill Media]

ANIMOTION MACHINE

Longest Daycare The Simpsons theatrical short shoved in front of Ice Age 4 last summer, Maggie Simpson in: “The Longest Daycare” (yes, that’s the full title), has been nominated for what’s known in the streets as an “Oscar” award.

Good for them, I suppose. It was definitely one of the better outputs emanating from the Simpsons Franchise Factory this decade. The fact no one had to recite terrible Modern Simpsons dialogue certainly helped. Even those haters at Dead Homers Society enjoyed it. And it was nice to see director and longtime Simpsons drawer-person David Silverman gobsmacked and thanking everybody on Twitter this morning (hey idiot, save the thanks for your acceptance speech!).

It’s the first Oscar nomination for The Simpsons. When The Simpsons Movie was announced, creator Matt Groening quipped “Come next Oscars, we think it’s going to be Milhouse’s night.” Now, I don’t know if they were intentionally gunning for an Oscar then; James L. Brooks just wanted a hit to rebound from Spanglish, and as far as I can tell they never put out one of those “For Your Consideration” advertisements in trade magazines (though voice actor Harry Shearer’s role in For Your Consideration really messes up the search results). But falling short of garnering a nomination in the Best Animated Feature category – deemed not good enough to compete with a movie about a surfing penguin – certainly had to sting. So perhaps this nomination provides some validation for bruised egos, and maybe a win could convince the producers to finally end the show since there’d be no more mountains for the franchise to climb (hahaha, just kidding, this show will go on forever). Win or lose, I’m betting there’ll be more of these shorts, which won’t have to rely on those pesky voice actors and their dumb mortality.

Other notable nominations this year include Wreck-It Ralph, directed by Simpsons alum Rich Moore and written by Simpsons alum Jim Reardon, for Best Animated Feature, and Simpsons arch enemy Seth MacFarlane for a song he wrote for Ted (he’s also hosting the ceremony, if you hadn’t heard). Yes, both The Simpsons and the Family Guy guy are nominated for Oscars this year. Will these Cartoon Wars never cease???

[The Oscars (part of the Go Network)]

ANIMOTION MACHINE, AZTEC THEATRE

I’m gonna wreck itI am real excited about Wreck-It Ralph, an upcoming Disney movie about video game characters, or as I like to think of it, Tron With Jokes. It’s written by former Simpsons director Jim Reardon (he appears in The Simpsons nearly every time there’s a scene at a train station) and directed by former Simpsons director Rich Moore (he’s the first guy on The Escalator to Nowhere). It’s good to see Simpsons alums doing well!

TAG Blog says the animators working on Ralph are “psyched” about it, because as one guy points out, “[t]he company lawyers could have just had us do parodies of other characters, but they went and got the rights to use actual personalities from other video games.” Bowser! Robotnik! All the Street Fighter guys! Clyde the ghost from Pac-Man! Q*bert! Some other guys I don’t recognize! You can see ’em in this trailer Disney released today…

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ANIMOTION MACHINE, KANCELLATION KOUNTDOWN

john k.Outspoken super-animator John Kricfalusi was fired from his own show, The Ren & Stimpy Show, back in 1992. Since then, his television projects have been short-lived: The Ripping Friends lasted 13 episodes on the air, while Ren & Stimpy “Adult Party Cartoon” lasted a mere 3.

Last Sunday, The Simpsons aired a couch gag “guest-animated” by the K-man himself. And about two days later, rumors of the show’s cancellation began swarming after The Daily Beast reported on tense cast negotiations. We are still waiting to hear if this season will be the last.

Now, I’m not saying that John K. is cursed, and his mere presence will doom every TV show he comes in contact with. But it IS a weird coincidence. I’m just saying.

ANIMOTION MACHINE

david silvermanKids, I have something to tell you. I know you love your Emmy-winning director of The Simpsons and Monsters Inc. David Silverman very much. Well, he’s been getting very sick lately and sick directors need lots of fresh air so they can get healthy again. Some nice men from MGM came by and they graciously volunteered to put him on a Punk Farm upstate. They’ll going to take good care for him and give him lots of love. He’ll have lots of room to run free, and play the flaming tuba, and direct a CG kids movie about “five barnyard animals who form an underground rock band.” Please don’t be sad. I’m sure David Silverman loves you very much and he wouldn’t want you to worry about him. He’s going to be so happy up there, and make lots of new animator friends. So don’t you worry your precious little head about ol’ David Silverman. He’s in a better place now.

[Variety]

ANIMOTION MACHINE

Of the many little things I detest about the new HD opening sequence – the egregious fanservice, the flow-killing Ralph moment, the inexplicable downgrading of Mr. Burns to “background character seen during whip-pan” – my biggest gripe is with the scene where Maggie is scanned. In the original, Marge becomes extremely concerned when she realizes Maggie is gone, she swivels around with her hair accentuating her movement, then she lets out a big sigh of relief when Maggie pops out of the bag. It’s a nice little moment of character animation, which you can see here in this crude gif I put together (framegrabs shamelessly taken from No Homers Club poster Wooster):

old intro

In the new one, Marge doesn’t really react at all – her head jerks around, her slight frown changes to a slight smile, and then she blinks while Maggie exchanges a shaking of fists with The One-Eyebrowed Baby (ughhh):

new intro

Aye carumba, Marge really did become a robot!

Anyway, the reason I’m posting about this now is because I only recently discovered this rather candid journal entry by Dane Romley, one of the animators who worked on it. Turns out he hates the Marge thing too!

This whole scene was mine. I didn’t like what they did where they cut pieces of body parts and moved them in the computer ie. Maggie’s head etc. It looks like it was done in flash. About the Marge turn, I had originally done a version where she did a nice head turn but, again, they didn’t want it. “Just have a simple head turn because we want the joke to be Maggie and the unibrow baby,” they told me. I didn’t know they were going to stiffen it up that much, I’m just defending myself because that seems to be the first thing people mention is Marge. They kept my Maggie scan and popping out of the bag though and in my defense they added the fist shaking later, I didn’t do those 2 drawing cycle *eck*

At the end, he advises everybody not to blame the arists for the bad animation, they were only following orders, etc. It is a good read, you should read it! [deviantART]

ANIMOTION MACHINE

Here’s an interesting interview with former-ish animator Jay Robinson, about the highs and lows of working in television animation.

THE LOWS

  • There’s no job security; people in TV animation get laid off when their work is done and may or may not get rehired for the next go-around. Robinson says he was laid off 3-4 times. He, along with 39 other people, get laid off for good last November.

THE HIGHS

  • Robinson’s work still hangs in poster form at Von D’s Hollywood shop; Metallica lead singer James Hetfield told him his work inspires the band; and [Bam] Margera sent him a letter, thanking him for the sketch of a nude skateboarding Bart Simpson clad in Margera’s tattoos.

  • “We spent the next two hours drawing characters on bar napkins for drinks. It’s a great girl-gettin’ job.”

[Duluth News Tribune via Sx2]