America’s greatest living independent animator Don Hertzfeldt (Rejected, Billy’s Balloon, It’s Such a Beautiful Day) is doing the couch gag for tonight’s The Simpsons episode (the one where Krusty’s dad dies).
And here it is:
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Well, the Maggie Simpson short lost in its bid for an Academy Award, and the world was robbed of the opportunity to see director David Silverman’s majestic beard. Here’s a photopic of Silverman, Matt Groening, and writer Michael Price looking dapper on the red carpet (apparently Silverman and Groening didn’t get the memo to wear this Maggie button):
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Fox hired a guy from Adult Swim to find out how to better compete with Adult Swim and his solution was for Fox to make their own Adult Swim. Brilliant! The two hour programming block will air on Saturdays at 11pm starting next year.
Basically, they’re grabbing up all the “edgy” cartoons they don’t have room for on Sunday nights (which I will henceforth refer to as “Animation Domination Prime”) and dumping them on Saturday nights, formerly the home of MADtv, Wanda Sykes’s late-night talk show, and the remaining episodes of Sit Down, Shut Up they were contractually obligated to air. Nobody knows what’s on there now. The audience for this thing will primarily consist of Adult Swim viewers who forgot Saturdays are when Adult Swim airs The Animes.
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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.
If you were one of the people watching The Simpsons last night (sucker), you may have noticed something a little different about the opening sequence!
The “couch gag,” if one could call it that, was storyboarded and directed by the pseudonymous Britain street artist known as Banksy, whose distinctive graffiti has shown up across the UK and the US, and whose work has been auctioned off for millions of dollars to limousine liberal luminaries like Brangelina.
Showrunner-for-life Al Jean told the New York Times he seeked out the ostensibly underground (despite having a publicist) “art terrorist” and asked him, via a series of messengers, if he’d do the opening, later receiving the storyboards without ever meeting the mystery man. Although 5% was cut out by request of Fox Broadcast & Standards, Jean insists the final product was as close as possible to Banksy’s original intention.
The response has been enormous – Banksy became a “Trending Topic” on Twitter last night (which is, like, super-important and stuff) and there are currently hundreds of news stories about it – which I’m sure makes up for the 29% decline in ratings from last week. It’s to quantify these things, but I think it’s safe to presume this will get more attention than other recent Simpsons “viral” stunts, from the godawful Ke$ha thing to the Itchy & Scratchy parody of Koyaanisqatsi (in the old days, The Simpsons usually generated buzz with actual episodes instead of context-free YouTube clips, but I guess that’s the way things are now in the New Media Landscape).
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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):
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):
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]
Here’s an interesting interview with former-ish animator Jay Robinson, about the highs and lows of working in television animation.
- 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.
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]
According to an artist at Film Roman, about 30 Simpsons artists were fired, with more lay-offs on the way, because the voice actors still haven’t signed their contracts for the next season (see earlier post). At least the economy’s not in a recession or anything. [TAG Blog]
Simpsons prop designer Jefferson Weekley has set up a blog where he showcases his artwork, some of it Simpsons-related. Check it out doggs [nawalliwai.blogspot.com]
Disney animators are inflexible jerks who can’t adapt to different drawing styles. Get out of the way of the progress train, you dinosaurs! CGI is here to stay! [No Homers Club]