ANIMOTION MACHINE Archives
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.
Former 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.
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???
I 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...
Beloved cartoon character Milhouse Van Houten might have began life as part of an unsuccessful pitch for a Saturday morning cartoon.
In a discussion on Twitter last week, Simpsons superdirector David Silverman clarified some things about Milhouse's origins, shooting down rumors he's just a rip-off of Paul Pfeiffer from The Wonder Years (come on dudes, he's pretty much just Akbar/Jeff with hair and glasses). He also shared a little more behind-the-scenes information about his first appearance. It's been known that Milhouse first appeared in a pre-series Simpsons Butterfinger commercial - in 2000, Simpsons creator Matt Groening told TV Guide he "needed to give Bart someone to talk to in the school cafeteria" - but until now it was believed he was created specifically for that commercial.
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.
Kids, 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.
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."
After finding out former Simpsons writer David M. Stern (Bart Gets an F, Kamp Krusty) developed Ugly Americans (watch it!! it's cool), I got curious and decided to find out what some other ex-Simpsons people are up to. DISCLAIMERS/CAVEATS: 1. I basically only looked at wikipedia and imdb, so this could be rife with inaccuracies, etc. 2. With some exceptions, I don't care about anyone who joined the show after it got bad or only wrote like one episode 3. This is essentially limited to movies/tv, since the internet assumes people fell off the face of the earth if they're not doing something for mass audiences
Richard Appel (writer): Showrunner for The Cleveland Show
Wes Archer (director): Was working on The Goode Family until it got cancelled; unclear what he's currently doing
Brad Bird (director): Doing a live-action movie for Pixar (zuh????)
Daniel Chun (writer): Now writing for The Office
David S/X. Cohen (writer): His beloved baby Futurama returns in June on Comedy Central
Jonathan Collier (writer): MIA
Jennifer Crittenden (writer): Producing mysterious project called What's Your Number?
Greg Daniels (writer): Co-creations The Office and Parks and Recreation still going strong
Brent Forrester (writer): Writer for The Office
Ken Keeler (writer): Nerding it up at Futurama
Jay Kogan (writer): Executive producer for some supernatural live-action Nickelodeon show called The Troop; writing an adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lauren MacMullan (director): MIA
Jeff Martin (writer/clown): MIA
George Meyer (writer): Occasionally contributes to The New Yorker
Bill Oakley (showrunner, seasons 7 - 8): Writing stuff from Portland
Conan O'Brien (writer): Legally prohibited from being funny on television
Jim Reardon (director): Presumably still Pixarin' it up
Mike Reiss (showrunner, seasons 3-4): While technically still a producer for The Simpsons (I think??), he's been doing a bunch of other projects like writing children's books, computer-animated movies, and the critically-unacclaimed My Life in Ruins
David M. Stern (writer): Developed Ugly Americans, which recently debuted on Comedy Central
Mike Scully (showrunner, seasons 9-12): Writer on Parks & Recreation
John Swartzwelder (writer): Still cranking out funny books from his secret underground lair
Sam Simon (executive producer/showrunner, seasons 1-2): Doing some poker thing
Jon Vitti (writer): Co-wrote an upcoming movie starring Steve Carell; currently working on something called "Boo U."
Josh Weinstein (showrunner, seasons 7-8): MIA??? Wikipedia says he's a producer on Futurama (again), but I'm not sure if I believe that
Frank Welker (voice actor, Santa's Little Helper): Most recent voice credit is "Additional Nuts Voice"
Lona Williams (beauty pageant winner/writing assistant): MIA
Wallace Wolodarsky (writer): Voiced an opossum in Fantastic Mr. Fox; adapting a Philip K. Dick story into a Disney cartoon
Due to Film Roman's inability to meet their demands for "faster, better, cheaper" animation, Simpsons producers have switched animation studios for the first time since 1992. Starting next season, The Simpsons will be primarily animated by a small animation studio in post-Soviet Georgia. Here's a preview clip:
Up in the Simpsons unit, one of the artists, a person who's been with the show a few years and knows which heads are rolling and who's are likely to be lopped off next, confided:None of us know if Fox is going to order another season of The Simpsons after we're done with this one. The actors are signed, but Fox hasn't said if it wants another twenty episodes. I think Gracie Films [the producing company of The Simpsons] would like another order, and so is offering up sacrifices to Fox to show that they're serious about cutting costs. Some old hands have been let go.
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]
The Simpsons Movie staffers are pretty much in their final days on the Yellow Family picture. I got lots of questions from artists about other work around town ("When is 'Princess and the Frog' going to start hiring? Anymore hand-drawn projects out there?")
Hello? 2-D animator looking for work? I went to CalArts... Is anyone out there? Hello...? [TAG Blog]
Sure, Matt Groening might have his name emblazoned on every piece of Simpsons art and merchandise, but what about the other creators, such as Gabor Csupo, former supervising animation director?
Christy Lemire sets the record straight in her review of Bridge to Terabithia:
Killer birds and giant squirrels and menacing trees come out of nowhere and dart about in this live-action feature debut from Hungarian animation artist Gabor Csupo, who helped create "The Simpsons."
Csupo is a pretty accomplished guy in his own right - he's one of the two founders of successful animation company Klasky-Csupo, which produced the mega-popular Rugrats. So why is his Simpsons connection still being emphasized? [The Brunswick News]