The Simpsons TV Show and Feature



TV Show:
Promotional Piece (click to enlarge)

Storyboard Cleanup (click to enlarge – the far left image starts a sequential gallery)
Animation (click to play)

 
  • Client: Fox Television Animation / Klasky Csupo
  • Work Performed: Production Assistant / Coordinator
  • Project Dates: 1989 – 1990

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Feature:
Models/Props (click to enlarge)
Animation (click to play)

Promotional Pieces (click to play)

(Storyboard cleanup only)
 
  • Client: Twentieth Century Fox / Film Roman
  • Work Performed: Cleanup Animation, Additional Animation, Additional Model / Prop Design
  • Project Dates: 2006 – 2007

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This is where it all started.

And I never thought in a million years I’d ever wind up back on “The Simpsons,” but I did. (Sort of.)

When I first interviewed with Klasky Csupo in late May 1989 — fresh out of art school, complete with a now-embarrassing portfolio — I was hoping I’d get hired into their commercials and titles division. They were producing some really interesting work, and I wanted to do stuff like that.

But as fate would have it, KC had just started production on a half-hour TV series based on some bumpers they did for “The Tracey Ullman Show” and they needed someone to run the copy machine, keep track of scenes, pack boxes, get doughnuts, make coffee…stuff like that.

So I said “OK,” and I started my first animation industry job on Monday, June 12, 1989.

Home movie by Ken Bruce, August 1989

 

None of us working on the show for the rest of 1989 had the slightest idea of what was about to hit us. But by the end of January 1990, we were in the eye of a worldwide pop culture hurricane.

And boy, was it ever exciting.

I ended up doing a lot of different administrative-y things over the course of those first 29 episodes; it was on this show I was fortunate to learn the animation industry from the production (or organizational) side. I asked a lot of questions and began applying my “past life” skills as an accountant to my assigned duties, which had eventually morphed into developing strategies to help streamline the artists’ workflow. And, after a couple of months on the job, I got a few chances to start cutting my teeth as a production artist.

Toward the end of production on the first season, a three-month-old magazine called Entertainment Weekly wanted to run a cover story on the show. I was put in charge of gathering some early production artwork for the article — rough sketches, storyboards, model sheets, layouts, etc.

After the first week, I’d become the de facto liaison between Klasky Csupo and EW’s art director, and there was a rough layout I’d xeroxed for her (it was actually a copy of a copy) that she really wanted for the article’s splash page. She asked if I could get someone to generate an “original” of the layout in blue colored pencil to give the composition a red, white and blue Americana-type feel. And then she asked: to really emphasize the scene’s rough beginnings, could she get it drawn just a little looser and sloppier than the copy I’d previously sent?

Since most of the artists were sprinting toward the finish line on the first season, and this was a request I knew I’d have no problem executing (I can do “loose and sloppy” — ask anyone) I offered to produce the drawing for her myself.

Splash page for Entertainment Weekly, May 1990

 

There was another occasion where David Silverman asked if I could quickly crank out a few pages of finished storyboard panels out for him. Dave was helping Rich Moore complete the boards for Season 2’s “Dead Putting Society,” and he asked if I’d be interested in helping him. I’d never done any storyboarding before; regardless, I wanted to help. So Dave gave me the pages of script with some of his scribbled rough ideas on post-it notes. “You can do this,” he said.

Storyboard for The Simpsons “Dead Putting Society” (see top of post for sequence slideshow)

 
He was always good like that, and the trust and confidence he placed in me during my time on the show has never been forgotten.  (Thanks again, Dave.)

The very last thing I did before I quit the series was an “URGENT HEADLINE!”-style newspaper spin for Wes Archer’s “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish.” This was the first time I’d animated anything professionally, and I received my very first artistic credit as a layout artist on that particular show.

Newspaper Roll for The Simpsons “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” (click to play)

 

I left “The Simpsons” and Klasky Csupo near the height of the show’s initial success, about three months before the second season’s première episode. It was a bit painful to walk away from something that huge, but leaving ultimately led to some pretty fantastic opportunities.

(I had one of the infamous “Bart Simpson: Underachiever” t-shirts in a paper bag that was gathering dust on my shelf. As I was packing my things, I left it on color stylist Carol Wyatt’s desk with a note for her to please pass it around for the crew to sign. It’s one of my most prized possessions.)

Fast forward a few years later (almost sixteen, to be exact) and there I was, in a completely different animation studio (Film Roman, to be exact), working on “The Simpsons Movie.” It was beyond surreal to receive a pack of model sheets my first day on the job and see my old handwriting on some of the pages.

And just as before, I got asked to do a lot of different things. I spent a large part of that year working with Joe Wack and Kevin Newman in the model department, helping them create some disheveled looks for the show’s now-established cast of thousands for the feature’s “Dome” sequences. I also did some model and prop designs for items created specifically by a storyboard or layout artist for use in a scene, things that needed some finessing and “Official Simpson-ness” for the Korean studio.

Samples of Models and Props for “The Simpsons Movie” (See top of post for hi-res examples)

 
Every now and then, I got asked to reanimate scenes. This one in particular…

Animation Revision for “The Simpsons Movie” (click to play)

…came about because the powers that be felt the already-completed scene would be funnier with a different character delivering a different line. And they were right. (Even better? Deciding to continuously move Mrs. Skinner’s arm for the final animation…I just did what I was told for the rough revision.)

There were a few promotional pieces I helped out on. One of them, a still composition, seemed to be everywhere about a week before the film’s première:

Promotional Still for “The Simpsons Movie” (Storyboard cleanup only; click to play transition)

 
I also animated a .gif-type cycle for a cell phone app that came out shortly after the film’s release:

Promotional Phone App for “The Simpsons Movie” (click to play)

 

Hopefully without sounding too nostalgic, I’ll always have a soft spot reserved for these characters…the people I’ve met and the situations I’ve experienced as a result of my association with this show have made me an incredibly fortunate man.

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