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The Stiffsons

Wow, twenty years sure makes a difference:


If a Hell exists for animation artists, I imagine it would involve having to work on later seasons of The Simpsons. There’s an interesting thing going on here though. Anybody familiar with animation history knows that virtually every classic cartoon character from Mickey to Bugs to Woody to Yogi became stiffer and less appealing as the years passed. It’s a good argument for why repetition is unhealthy for artists, and how it leads to artistic stagnation and an overreliance on formulas.

(Thanks, Chris Allison)

  • That fist-shaking at the end is possibly the most emotionless I’ve ever seen that gesture performed.

    • I’ve never seen two babies look so bored while playing rock-paper-scissors.

  • doop

    F**k, even with no budget, no idea what they were doing, unfamiliar overseas animators, and no time or technology to aid them, that 22 year old intro has so much more life. What the hell happened to good animation in television? I honestly want to know. There was a time when even the Simpsons would have an occasional moment of brilliant animation, timing, poses, and movement. Now everything is on-model, snap from pose to pose hell. Sigh.

    • Christina S.

      Actually, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the original opening done by in-house Klasky-Csupo animators?

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Yes it was. In the case of the first season, Kevin Petrilak was credited as the single animator of the entire series (itself designed by David Silverman), from season two on, more animators were credited for the main title animation though I suppose that was for additional re-workings over Petrilak’s animation as well as the couch gags that followed.

      • Yes. Kevin did the majority of the main animation out of house for the titles. The in house Klasky crew did the assisting, revisions and bridging animation.
        I was responsible for seeing a lot of it through. Occasionally I would slip away two blocks down the street to do extra work in the Rob Lowe movie “Bad Influence” at the behest of the studio and the band The Nymphs. Then I would go back and work on the Simpson titles… It was a crazy two weeks or so.

      • retrobat

        Hey Craig,

        “Imitating Angels” was a great song. I’m surprised that someone else has even heard of the Nymphs.

  • I love how Marge has no concern over her infant daughter being thrown into a grocery bag now. And they saved pencil mileage by keeping Marge as stiff as a statue.

    Funny how the new Simpsons intro tries to throw in Simpsons references for reference’s sake. It’s a real celebrated sequence, but think of how much cooler it would look all Klasky Csupo-fied. Everything is too exact now. And I still don’t think shading is allowed in the Simpsons universe.

    Yet most ‘fans’ will cite first and second season Simpsons as sloppy, less appealing, and difficult to watch. How I wish those days could return.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Me too, I never complained then!

    • yeah! what happened to that mischief that made The Simpsons such a naughty pleasure to watch as a kid.

    • Stephan

      Thank you for putting fans in quotes. As you know, all people who disagree with you are complete phonies, Holden.

  • Kate

    I was reading the blog of an animator who worked on the new opening and he was frustrated with how much they had him pull it back, saying any kind of follow through was too fancy.

    • doop

      Could you point me to this blog post? I really am interested to see as to why something as cherished and historic as the Simpsons couldn’t even get an HD intro worth a damn for their milestone 20 years. I want to know why with how easy and cheap it is to do things today this still looks like it was animated through HTML 5.

  • I love how Marge went from acting with her whole body and showing surprise and relief before going on her way to simply turning her head and changing her expression (by which I mean her mouth shape) during the turn so you can’t actually see it. Now that’s efficiency!

  • Dutchie

    Here is the blog entry of the animator who did that scene. He talks about this particular scene at point #4:

    Ok so now that the opening has officially aired I can talk about it. I knew about the first leaks on the net but I couldn’t discuss it until it actually aired. Contract stuff. I watched it myself in HD and I thought it looked great, the colors and stuff were very crisp. Here is a list of the things I worked on..

    1. Crow flying across clouds-I didn’t understand it’s purpose either but they wanted a throw back to blinky. The version they used was my 4th pass. My first pass was awesome because they first told me to animate it “like a real crow but with more personality because it has 3 eyes.” So I did but Groening said it was “too cartoony,” so I did another one more realistic. He said it was “too realistic,” so we settled on what’s there now. It’s a little strobey because I had origianlly did it on 1’s because they wanted fast wing flaps but it looks like they put it on 2’s. Once it’s out of my hands I don’t know what will happen to it. I’ll try and post the first one I did. Oh, I also did the other crow landing on lard lad.

    2. Bullies sawing statue head- This one I had fun with, all on 1’s. Just to repeat I didn’t come up with the ideas, I just draw what they tell me. It was one of the last things they added and I said originally, “wasn’t Bart the one that sawed off the head?”

    3. Bart landing on leaves/Barney- Just added the bounce to the original animation. Barney was fun to animate, it was done in-house meaning all the drawings are mine. No inbetweens from Korea, Kearny/Jimbo the same thing.

    4. The super market-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*

    5. Sideshow Bob, Helen Lovejoy, Comic book guy, Disco Stu, and the rich texan on the sidewalk- Bob was fully animated on 1’s as well and I did a sweet fluid version of him swinging the machete but the response I got was “it’s too fancy.” I think it turned ok in the end but I still like my first pass better. The others weren’t doing much, not much to say about them.

    That’s basically it for the stuff I did. The reason why the show has stiffend up is because there was an era when fox would tell directors that we had to draw every pose we drew perfectly on model. No distorting of the forms of any kind. It has slowly been dieing down the past couple seasons but they still insist on making the show more about the writing and less about the looks. Every once in a while we’ll get let loose and we can do some fun stuff but on the whole don’t blame the artists please. Believe me all of us working there would love to express the characters in more ways but there’s just so much we can do. I’m just happy to be working, I can’t complain anyway I’m on the longest running show ever. Hope you all liked the opening, I’d love to hear all feedback. Please don’t hold back

    • amid

      Thanks for sharing, Dutchie.

      The animator who wrote that is Dane Romley, and here is the original blog entry.

      • Dutchie

        Yeah, didn’t want to credit him. He’s gotten a warning from FOX before, for ranting on changes to a Halloween episode, but I guess the rant is still out there (I thought he had to delete everything Simpsons from his deviantart)

    • This helps point out the weird, popping fist shake is on purpose rather than an artifact of the GIF like I thought. They seriously couldn’t inbetween a two pose cycle?

    • If Fox is sacrificing the animation for the writing, you’d think the writing would be better.

    • Wiley207

      Yow, so THAT’S how it was done. I thought that supermarket scene WAS done on Flash or After Effects or something. The Simpsons would suck if done on Flash all the time

  • As an animator that’s one thing I struggle with in my work… in a world where computers take over the production process, tweening and IK rigs make animation so motionless it’s scary. I need to watch some Tom & Jerry now, just to see real animation in action again!

    • Paul N

      …and IK rigs have what to do with the Simpsons, exactly?

    • tweening and IK rigs are motionless? I take it you haven’t seen any pixar movies?

  • Rezz

    I can’t tell you how many times I worked on something to make it look cool , only to have it water down by people who are not artist at all.

    The best part is- they have no idea what they are doing..Or they “have a suggestion” on how it should look, just so they can either impress their peers or to give a crit for a sake of a crit.

    an art education is double useless in this world since they don’t care what you have to say despite 4 years of studying.

    I’m a commercial whore, so I just give them what the want and pray that the next gig will be visually more exciting.

  • Well, the only thing the new one has gained is diversity (and burliness) in the grocer…

  • Mike Russo

    Watching that intro for the first time is when I finally realized that this show was dead to me.

    • Tony C

      Yeah I think I had that realisation when I saw it for the first time. The only good animation was the stuff they recycled.

      They dunno what they’re doing any more as a show. They’ve sunk down to Family Guy’s level but don’t do it as well.

  • Was my face red

    There’s so much more charm and appeal in the Marge who catches her breath and flips her wobbly hair than in the Stepford Marge ‘improvement’.

  • Hey, our background perspective is improving!

  • The stiffness is also in the layout. There’s less of a point-of-view in the remake.

    I would’ve preferred if they made a completely different introduction if they wanted a new one, but this perfectly shows how mechanical the art has become in 20 years.

    The added gags in this new intro, including the scene in question is current showrunner Al Jean’s penchant to ruin every single moment with an unnecessary gag. Shouldn’t Maggie getting scanned have been the true gag of this particular scene?

  • Steamboat Bill

    Probably one of the stupidess things, is that Matt the very creator of the show wanted to make the characters more appealing and lifelike by getting rid of the edginess of the program and putting them out of their element.

    If you have a good idea don’t tamper with it! Now the newer episodes are so predictable and moronic. You can’t relate to the characters on so many levels. I guess when you change the writing staff and crew the material takes a significant change.

    • Ryoku

      He wants to make yellow bulgy eyed characters more lifelike?

  • Sat

    (that .gif sure made a quick spread over the web!)

    I never watched the show for it’s animation (though I remember two things: Itchy & Scratchy beating up Hitler, and Homer’s chili hallucination), and we all know that’s not the main problem with the show nowadays.

    Despite that: look at that follow-through on Marge’s hair. It’s natural, and good looking. The little bit of anticipation before is somewhat broken, but at least it’s there! Even the hands throwing the bag are funny. Now the Simpsons are robots with huge eyes looking at nothing, with a kind of neutral smile that means nothing. That’s miles aways from Homer’s or Bart’s yellings with that funny slim tongue ondulation. Wasn’t that funny to look at?

  • Vaughn

    It’s like Lucille Ball never stopped making “Life With Lucy” even though she died.

  • Jeff

    “Anybody who knows their animation history knows that virtually every classic cartoon character from Mickey to Bugs to Woody to Yogi became stiffer and less appealing as the years passed.”

    I remember a Simpsons DVD commentary track where Groening stated that he disliked the later “Caucasian Mickey” design.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Hmmm, would that be post-1940 Mickey in that sense?

  • Rob Shaw

    Don’t know if it’s been pointed out but there’s more than just 20 years in this comparison. There was a big switch when they changed animation studios from Klasky Csupo to Film Roman. A more accurate comparison might be to look at season 4 animation (not the intro) with whatever season they are at now. I confess i haven’t been watching for 8 years now.

  • Eric

    The first thing i noticed was that the hands dropping maggie are now brown.

  • Cyle

    This is depressing. That fist shake at the end is especially painful to look at.

  • Charlie Judkins

    There’s even a huge difference between the original, cartoony version of the intended pilot (above) and the revised version that aired in 1990. The whole series should’ve looked like this!!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I couldn’t agree more (and this is Kent Butterworth we’re talking about, course they had to go fire his hinder after this fiasco).

    • Yes, definitely! That early version, and to a lesser extent the entire first season, was so much more interesting, animation-wise. To paraphrase Mr. Butterworth, “if you can tell who the character is, then it’s on-model.” A brilliant philosophy which can easily be misconstrued– he’s not encouraging sloppiness, he’s encouraging creativity! The only problem with the first season is that occasionally things did get sloppy and badly-drawn, but I’d still take that any day over all these boring straight in-betweens that are completely on-model but lack any sense of spontaneity or fun.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I guess in some way, my love for the first season of The Simpsons is much in the same way guys like John K. would gush over the first season of The Flintstones. There’s always pros and cons over it’s shaky start, but it was one they took a gamble on and it worked.

  • The Gee

    For what it is worth it is a drag to see that it was toned down. But, the point of not having the follow through for Marge is certainly because of the pan to the two kids.

    The timing needs to be a bit different for that reason alone.

    The point is a good one though. The character’s are always on-model and stiff as boards more often than not. And, that ends up with a lot of missed opportunities for the animation, for the show.

    But, it has been more than 20 years. Given how much else, how much good stuff, doesn’t get past a brief existence, it should be worth noting that it is still being produced. Sure, it is cringworthy sometimes but it has its moments.

    I mean everyone seems to complain about this or that not being produced. Or about this or that that is produced. Then there is one show that has been produced for over 20 years straight.

    I’m not saying cut it slack but it is worth acknowledging it works when other stuff, live action, game shows, TV news, etc. doesn’t work.

  • Mike Russo

    The Simpsons as a series hasn’t really “worked” in about a decade, if not more. I won’t cut it any slack just because it’s been on for so long. I’m embarrassed when I watch new episodes. How did something that was once practically a masterpiece sink so low?

    • The Gee

      Well, then don’t cut it slack. You wouldn’t be alone in holding its feet to the fire. Obviously, the earliest seasons were much better than the more recent ones.

      There’s a lot of cartoon properties which have had longer “lives.” Those properties have had far longer weak spots than this show has but they also are not television shows. Most TV shows don’t get a chance to suck for any long duration. So, if the show is THAT BAD then somehow it beats the odds of a lot of other shows. To me, that’s remarkable. If it isn’t to you, that’s fine.

      “How did something that was once practically a masterpiece sink so low?”

      It is episodic television which has passed through many hands. It’s creative core may be similar to when it started but it has changed because of too many reasons.

      Probably the one of the most important reasons is because of the types of shows they cranked out early on and the themes they decide to revisit (like the marriage problems of the main characters). Choices like that limit them from exploring the other things which for some reason they won’t.

      Obviously, the show’s creative core producers bear a lot of blame for that. I always encounter how this limitation or that limitation is laid out. That certainly isn’t going to help increase the types of shows even if it allows it to meet the type of quality Groening, etc. are pleased with.

      But, whatever, right? As a (potential) audience member if I were to hate it I could just not watch it. As it goes, I don’t watch it very often.

      Again, whatever. It just doesn’t matter that the shows aren’t all classics. If it had been a limited run or one movie or a short-lived series of some sort, yeah, I would have hoped all of it was great. But, it isn’t realistic to expect that all of it could be great.

  • Iain

    I thought of this too, but never fully analyzed it.

    I missed when the Simpsons used to try.

  • Toonio

    Mickey, Bugs and The Simpsons are corporate figures, they are supposed to be stiff. They are suits not goofballs.

    Welcome to the society where perceptions are everything. Why should I make an effort to get to know who you are if the first 5 minutes should say everything about you. And don’t act surprised, we all have been conditioned to that.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Just reminded myself of Kevin Petrilak’s excellent animation in the opening I knew and loved. He was the one who single-handedly did the main title animation for the first season, while some of his work was re-used from season 2 onward to when they changed it to this lifeless slop.

    • Thanks for sharing that info, I’d been wondering who did that iconic animation for a while.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        You’re welcome. I was remembering at least who they credit in Season One, since after that, they pretty much listed a bunch of names for animators of the main title from then on.

    • Zartok-35

      Indeed, Kevin Petrilack animates; very smooth and realistic. Anything Kevin did is as far as away as you can get in contrast to the sterile replacment we have today. Even the Simpson fans are complaining about this very scene at No!

      I absolutley hate it when they use held cells this way in animation.

  • The original looks like one of my scenes. We were allowed to experiment with the timing, poses, all done in full animation in house that first season. We had just finished a fully animated Simpson’s Butterfingers commercial before I started on the titles and episode #1. Having finished animating on four Peanuts specials earlier that year, it was great working on something completely new, and all in Hollywood. I can’t believe it’s still going….

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Do you remember which Butterfinger commercial it was? The first one I remember seeing just prior to the show’s premiere (or afterwards) was this…

      It’s interesting to see this commercial again and noticing that it gives a copyright to “The Simpson Family”, and perhaps the first appearance anyone seen of Bart’s pal Milhouse.

      • The first Simpsons Butterfinger spot one was this one.

        After that we started the titles and episode #1- “The Baby Sitter Bandit”, which was re-worked and aired later that first season. If you want to see the studio back then, check it out here in the old Bob Clampett building in Hollywood.

        Later I also got to animate other Butterfinger spots with Tuck Tucker like this one.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Thank you for the info (The title of the pilot became “Some Enchanting Evening” ). Someone I once wrote to from Usenet once told me how he got to watch the entire workprint of the pilot from a tape he had borrowed from someone who worked at K-C years ago, though it’s rather a shame the viewing public only got 5 minutes worth of it from the Season One box set anyway.

        I kinda figured it might’ve been that ad with Bart teasing his sisters. That other Butterfinger ad certainly got a lot of mileage as I can recall seeing it used for many years.

  • MAN I love the animation and writing on the early simpsons episodes! look at the follow through on marge’s hair! and the appeal of the drawings! Im Inspired!!

  • Arthur F.

    Interesting to see the comparison. But this isnt South Park stiff, nor is it even Family Guy stiff, where they try to hide it by introducing scenes with 3d computer-animated cars, spaceships and such. It’s not like the Simpsons were the rubbery-Fleischer era, come on. There were jokes made about the factory-animation in the Simpsons early on. Styles change and each cartoon that’s interesting finds a way to balance out the weaker parts that occur, whether it’s bad Korean-outsourcing or clueless characters and scripts or corporate headquarters. But this being FOX I don’t think it was ever different, like it got “worse”. So anyway I went over to look at the wiki episode guide, just to understand the comments how the Simpsons was no good after a, or b or whatever season. It’s pretty hard to justify outside of personal feeling only, as there are far too many memorable if not just really good episodes per first 3/4 of their lifetime thus far. The whole cast of Springfield is a world that any sitcom would be lucky to have managed, and that’s the point, the Simpsons became known chiefly for its characters, it is character-driven, and the language, the richness of good scripts even when they are middle-level, the non-sequitors of Homer or the jokes are miles above the average sitcom — like, the competition for a while as “Married with Children”… Just that vast number of characters that are recollected is amazing. Sometimes reading this animation-first perspective of drawing-first, misses the point about the total package. The early Simpsons, those small inserts in the Tracy Ullman tv show, were lousy too. If there is a corporate side, it could be the way that cartoon characters have to be ready to be manufactured for 3d products, if not themepark figures, thus the model sheet has to be realizable and consistent for that. It IS more product oriented in that respect. But that doesn’t justify saying it isn’t keeping to an art of a certain level because there aren’t four rebounding moves every time Marge shakes her head. It could also be the philosophy moved to the crowding of scenes with more characters each episode, the camera more often drawn a bit further back to include larger scenes, things change and there isn’t call for the same style that would just be busy. Whatever, I appreciate to learn here but sometimes I think it gets reduced to the days of Fleischer or even John K., and there are other ways to understand the economy at work in television animation. I would suggest the Venture Brothers or some of the adultswim fare of the 2000s era. The Simpsons is something else now.

  • McDoogle

    I completely understand the FOX animator’s problems. I remember one gig, where I worked on a shot with a detailed CG character. I was very happy with it, only for the director to say to “Tone it down” to pretty much Uber subtle. My argument was that with all the detail, textures and lighting you’d need the character to have larger expressions. Of course, I had to do what I was told. Follow the Golden rule.

    Once rendering was done, they realised I was right, but had no time to re-render. Would be nice for Directors to listen to their experienced artists for a change. :-/

  • The whole fiasco of execs pointing at drawings and call them “off model” started when someone showed them the pause button on a VCR long time ago. I’ve experienced the situation firsthand when some supervisor complained about “but that’s not our [property name]!” while watching some extreme.

    I think any decent animation director should put a passage into their contracts which prohibits any pause or frame-by-frame during approval screenings, thus giving execs no chance to watch single drawings. Maybe this helps. After all, those contracts are mile-long anyway, so another passage doesn’t hurt.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      A “no pause” clause would be nice.

  • Forget THE SIMPSONS, the version of the theme song used on ANIMANIACS during the first episode is probably the best animation because it was outsourced to one of the few overseas studios that wasn’t cheap. It is so fast-paced, and I know that version of the theme song by heart thanks to the finalsing-along on the “Yakko’s World” VHS tape.

  • Well, we can’t have the characters looking different than they do on t-shirts for 1/24th of a second.

    What do you think this is, a cartoon? At this point it’s a 30 minute long “brand awareness piece.”

  • Oh for Christ’s sake, get over yourselves. The art direction and animation on The Simpsons has always been junk. Who doesn’t know that? All of that ‘early’ work you guys are praising is piss-poor drawing and animation plain and simple. Ask for horror stories from people who were drawing hands when the show was at its peak if you don’t believe me. But for awhile the writing was absolutely great and the voice acting was the best in the business, more than justifying its existence. Get mad at the fact that the voices are phoned in and the wit is nonexistent now and don’t romanticize what was always shitty animation.

    • The Gee

      For some people, it was the first prime-time cartoon of their lifetimes. Given that it did have great writing and good voice acting and the stories really did seem to fit the times, people have fond memories of the show.

      I can only speak for myself on the animation and character design though. I didn’t mind it. No one I knew who watched it from the time it first aired minded it. In fact, what looks sloppy really did make it funnier. But, of course, our pallettes weren’t that sophisticated. We only grew up with the usual stuff that made us laugh, like Looney Tunes and decades worth of cartoons that were compressed into our childhoods via saturday mornings and early mornings and afternoons.

      Looking back on the older ones now, like the comparison bits above….enh. it points out the pluses and minuses of Film Roman’s polishing of the designs and how mechanical the animation can be. But, for goodness sake, one of the greatest things about cartoons happens in the show: it evolved.

      Sure, some will say it did just the opposite. But, one of the things about cartoons and their long lives is that given many hands and a lot of time they don’t look the same from one period to another. Sure, it is neater seeing evolution when it is just one cartoonist finding the right approach for his/her signature work, but, at least the Simpsons started out with strong aspects which allowed for some interesting directions the show has taken over the years. Given the fact that the designs aren’t animation friendly ones it is amazing that they can be made to work at all, polished or rough-edged.

      Sure, it sucks that nowadays the animation for the show often comes across as a means to an end but I just watched the latest one last night to see what I’ve been missing. It is still an entertaining show…if you are into the kind of ways it can entertain you. I’m sure I’ll see more than one in the furture which doesn’t entertain me. So it goes…

      Though I will say, I will never ever understand that episode with the racehorse and the jockey colony that lived underground. It was the Neil Hamburger of episodes.

      • Comic Book Guy

        Worst…. episode… ever

    • Crappy yes, but like Beavis and Butthead it has it’s charm in it’s crudeness. It looked like the animators were having fun (wherever they were or not is another matter) and was fun to watch. Now it just looks like it has no soul.

      • not to mention the unnecessary cel-shading, that trick is used to try to hide crappy linework.

    • Hah!

      One day, the HD opening will be considered “good” animation by TV standards.

    • Zartok-35

      The animation on mid 1990s episodes of The Simpsons isn’t very shitty at all. It’s certainly not as shitty as this.

    • tonma

      Good animation is the arc Marge does with her hair as it shows input from the animator.
      Shitty animation is just flipping a head drawing in a split frame.
      If you can’t tell the difference then you haven’t been watching cartoons the right way, shitty or any other kind.

      • Oh jeeze, there’s a ‘right way’ to watch cartoons? After all these years, I’m probably doing it all wrong! I’d better skedaddle over to the library and see if they’ve got a copy of the guide book that tells me how I’m allowed to enjoy television.

  • Dzonis

    shitty? well, yes, but i still loved the way characters moved in THOSE times. Like homer screams, bart wacky face when mouth goes one way and rest of the face other, and more such “small” parts. Looked so over the top, but such things gave THOSE simpsones their unique style. At least i still like now and then to pop in some dvd for some random ep just to see them in action

  • Wow this is still being talked about? Seems like so long ago hehe. Anyway I’m the animator that was referenced above when I talked about working on the HD opening. Looking at it now I still agree with some of what I said but in the end I realized that although I did feel like I was being held back, ultimately it’s not my show so it’s not really my place to say. I have since left the show to pursue my personal goals and I think it’s ok to talk about my time there, don’t worry I’ll try and make it short.

    After 5 years working on the show I definitely feel I gained a very positive experience. I learned so much from the other artists there; layout peeps like me, the BG guys who do some beautiful line work, the character designers who are constantly being bombarded with designs, and especially the timers. It’s easy to feel like a scene is yours when you’re working on it but a big lesson for me was that it’s not about your work it’s about the work as a whole that everyone contributes to. It’s a team and everyone has an important part. I’ll be honest and say that yes there were many times when directors told me “it’s too fancy, tone it back” and of course that’s frustrating because as artists we want to do the very best we can. But there were also other times when I was encouraged to go above and beyond. The Itchy & Scratchy segment “Sperical on 34th St.” was entirely animated by me, all on 1’s and the director basically let me loose from the beginning. The DVD menu’s too were a great chance for me to try out some fun animation.

    I’m still a big fan of show, my fiance being probably one of the biggest, and we were both disappointed with how the HD opening came out. But I’m still proud to say that I was a part of it, I mean I contributed to Pop Culture not many people can say that. Film Roman is the only TV animation studio that does its show like this, where artists in America draw the layouts and characters full size and not just storyboards. It’s provided not only me but lots of very talented artists a job which is something many people don’t have right now. Anyway, I think that’s about it. Feel free to check out my site for pencil tests, that’s right shameless plug. Keep your heads up, we can bring animation back!

    • Ixintro

      Of course the show isn’t nearly as good as it used to be but can anyone else agree the show’s writing has improved noticeably from seasons 12 through 18 or so?

      • For me, it’s been a steady decline since Season 15. The writing has become relentlessly hokier with each passing year.

        Not that they’re incapable of making good episodes sometimes, but nowadays it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

    • You should be proud the opener in general was terrific. I know people are complaining about the animation but for me the bigger issue was the lack of synergy in the style in the old opener and the show. Since that has now been addressed it makes the over all show tighter. I have been in those situations as well where they want you to tone it back and also those situations when you are let loose, such is the business. You are right its not your show but thats being an animator, its not a world of one it is a team effort. Its the longest running show on TV and people get down on it because of its success, its still one of the best animated shows of all time.

  • Sean Petrilak

    I’m going to have to step up to the plate for this one, because my father(who animated the original title sequence) wouldn’t bother to. The greatest mistake a company usually makes is change its product. This stiff, CHEAP, animation brings attention to itself. One of the first things my father taught me in film was, “If it brings attention to itself, it’s not working”. This applies to everything: editing, score, acting, design, etc…

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Your father should be proud of his achievement that is otherwise now being overshadowed by this need for getting attention in today’s saturated world where shows like this are not the same as they were several decades before.

  • skid

    I was watching one of the Treehouse of Horrors the other day, it was the one where Bart is narrating the intro to the stories and walking through a bunch of paintings. But I began to notice how loose the animation was and remember thinking to my self about how it wasn’t like that in the later seasons. After seeing this post it made me realize what I had noticed the other day.

    Mostly all of the ‘adult’ cartoons (fox lineup) are so stiff nowadays. Booooring!

  • purin

    It may have been lower budget, kind of messy animation back then, but it was certainly more fun to watch. It’s not fine art or anything, but the wonkiness makes it more interesting. I’d like to see a little more wonkiness in cheap animation.

  • Very interesting. I certainly found the new intro to be pretty disappointing, and the sequence in the gif above stood out to me as the worst part. This is the show’s intro, replayed on every single episode, showcasing what the series is about: why would you skimp on the animation here? It’s in HD now, and you resort to a 2-frame cycle for the shaking fist? It looks like bad Flash animation, which I guess passes for acceptable these days.

    It’s not even like the gag was that good; there’s no point to it except to make the viewer say “oh yeah, I remember that baby.”

    The earliest episodes definitely had shaky animation, I thought that then and I still feel that way now when I watch the repeats. There were a lot of creative expressions and poses though, which made it look unique and kept us interested. A couple of years in they really hit the perfect balance, until the late 90’s when everything became very stiff and on-model. The transition to HD was not exactly smooth either; I really believe the style is better suited to the thicker lines of the standard definition version.

  • The original version is sooo good, but I’ve only just realised it after all these years when compared to the new version. Marge’s hair follow through is fantastic to see in this slowed down format.

  • qwerty

    Wait–why isn’t 21st century Maggie in a reusable bag?

    • Kristjan

      Because this is an American TV shows and America openly don’t care about the climate changes I would assume.

    • Erin Siegel

      What are you talking about, I reuse paper bags all the time!

  • AJ

    Is it just me or does it seem like the writers origionally planed to time Marges head with the pan to Maggie but forgot. If they did the security camera way Marge turned would be less noticable.

    This scene is a good example on how much the shows comedy writing has changed. The older episodes had much more charecter personality specific jokes playing with their odd quirks and such, now the jokes are more like stand up runtines and the charecters are genre’s.

  • SJ

    Does Fox have a rule against airing ANY of the classic episodes in syndication? On the few occasions I’ve been up at 3am to catch it on my local station, they’ve always been no older than one or two years. Perhaps they want us to forget the show that literally built their network.

  • Michael F.

    Well, the animation in the opening is usually better than what is featured in the rest of the show. However, the animation within the show should at least show off some of the vibrancy and enthusiasm that the theme should have. This is not the 1980s where you can throw in an amazing opening and have very little interesting things happen in the actual episode. He-Trans-Turtles-Pony-Ra, anyone?

  • Anon

    I may be alone on this (and it appears I am based on the comments) but I think the second animation looks better.

    The pilot and early episodes of the simpsons had a lot of “movement” that was pretty distracting and crappy looking. “more movement” does not equal “better animation” imho.

  • The fact that people are reminiscing about the original Simpsons intro only highlights how low the bar is for TV animation.

    • Martin Juneau

      Don’t forget how The Simpsons is builded since too longtime now: Celebrities!!! That’s what killing the TV show in the late-90’s and the animation don’t help neither become too stiff and without true cartooning style. I was lucky to watching it at their heydays the early Simpsons episodes and was impressed how off-model the characters was. It was a true phenommenon. Now it’s just for celebrities and dated pop-culture references instead to concentrate to the animation overall.

      Judging by those sequences, i really dislike the current version. Too stiff, boring, no fun, no cartooning stuff, nothing!

      I stopped to watch it in 1998 when the series become robotic and cluttered. Each times i watched a newest episode, things come worse than it excepted.

      • Thomas Hatch

        This is the greatest comment I’ve ever read.

        • HomerBadman

          Agreed. 100%, although making Homer into a horrible human being 90% of the time is something I’d add.

  • peat_bogg

    It never mattered how it looked, the point was the solid story department. Once story started to get weak then, see ya.

  • Why do people confuse stiff vectorized and/or boring linework as quality? let alone interesting cartoon art.

  • I wish they had been able to combine the positive aspects of both styles at some point. But they didn’t do it, not even during seasons 4 to 8, which were the ones where the models were already defined while they were allowed to include some good animation and poses. Even though there were some funny drawings and visually appealing scenes in that era the tendency to limit the poses was pretty apparent since second season.

    I like some aspects of the recent look, like the coloring, and sometimes it has some decent animation, not in the intro, though.

    But they never kept the movements of the original ones and the cuter aspect of the recent models and colors. I don’t think they are incompatible. At all. Off model poses are perfectly possible with the more refined designs. Everybody remembers Homer going crazy in The Shinning segment or the hallucination sequence in El misterioso viaje de nuestro Homer. The Raven was also very nicely animated. I wish the show would have done those things in a regular basis.

    I wouldn’t say the intended pilot looked ‘good’. In fact there are some pretty lousy construction, confusing shots and poorly drawn perpectives (especially in the kitchen scenes) but the actual animation is fluid, funny and sometimes good. Angry Marge imagining things in front of the door is far superior posing and animation than the final scene and Homer moving his eyebrows at 4:14 is hilarious. Why couldn’t they combine those things with the ‘on model’ designs and better colors of the subsequent seasons? It’s one thing to keep the characters reasonably ‘on model’ so they don’t look ugly or weird, and it’s other thing to limit their facial expression and movements and make them completely rigid.

    I mean, for all the wackiness everybody associates with the Looney Tunes, I would consider Chuck Jones as a director who used to keep the characters on model. They had new expressions and poses in each cartoon and they would be drawn differently for in-betweenings or extreme poses, but they keep their usual look. It wasn’t Rod Scribner/Bob Clampett animation where Daffy’s eyes or beak could change their size or shape in subsequent frames.

    I understand The Simpsons staff not wanting to go Scribner, it’s too difficult to get it right and it could be too much for a series so heavily scripted, also The Simpsons drawing style can get pretty ugly if you exaggerate too much, but they could have perfectly adopted Jones’ approach.

    The Simpsons show the potential sometimes -not very ofen now, but they still do in certain scenes- which kinda makes it more frustrating. Family Guy or South Park never show any potential in that department.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I know how you feel Roberto over this matter. Also of note Season 4 was when the show moved from Klasky-Csupo to Film Roman, and I remember back then watching the beginning of FR’s output thinking the show suddenly felt a little different, if only for the change in studio itself, but one I eventually got settled in anyway. Those episodes still held up quite well too, but I think Season 8 was probably the last I managed to stay interested in The Simpsons at all.

      Certainly the Chuck Jones approach would’ve worked well for this show indeed.

  • That clip is cute, but it’s a clearly just a quickie gag. The old clip is a “reusable” part of the opening. You want it to look good. The newer clip is just another one of those one-off gags that keep getting inserted into the opening sequences. Obviously the animation supervisors aren’t gonna waste too much time on a sequence that’s gonna get changed 22 times a year :-)

    • No, that’s a regular part of the intro now.

  • Rooniman

    The original opening is so nice and wonderful to look at.

    The new one is PAINFUL to look at.

  • John

    I prefer the older pre-4th season animation simply because animators and colourists were allowed to experiment (to a point, anyway).

    If you listen to the DVD commentaries you can hear the producers talk about Bart’s “twister mouth” and the many interesting and experimental design, colour and layout decisions they used to make.

    These days, however, that’s all gone. As for the new intro, for me jokes just aren’t timed well. At least in the original they’d fit the gags in without losing the pace of the animation, but now it feels like it pauses too long to fit the unfunny gags in.

    Anybody else miss Lisa on her bike going over the bump from season one?

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I do, let alone also seeing Bart mess around with those people by stealing the Bus Stop sign!

      I’m in the same boat as you are John on the matter, the pre-4th season, while most would write it off as OK to even fair, I still think the experimentation and approaches to color and design made for an interesting view if one has the time to watch those episodes (namely the Klasky-Csupo output).

  • Oh GOD! Every time I see a new episode of the Simpsons, this gets to me. This part.. and the part where Marge hits Homer with the car.

    Like, yeah.. I know Homer’s dumb, but I think it might still be “okay” to have him react to a car hitting him. X(

    • Ryoku

      If I were hit by a car I wouldn’t just be at the end with me eyes wide open, I doubt an angry idiotic father would do the same.

  • Stephen Levinson

    Can someone please link to clips of the entire intro of both the old and new?

  • Wow! It has been a 20 years difference – although I think the early opening sequence, the animation is more lively and movable – while today IS certainly STIFF!

  • Lamont Wayne

    Wow. The bottom one looks like Flash symbols to me.

  • Thanks for hating and/or ignoring all the hard work we’ve put into making the show guys.

    • Bart

      Polish that turd, son!

    • Ryoku

      Hard work dosen’t mean quality, I’m sorry that your efforts didn’t pay off.

    • BryanM

      Please stop making bad episodes. It taints the pool of Actual Simpsons episodes that are in syndication.

      Kick Al in the knee until he understands.

  • Harrison

    I still try to watch the classical episodes on ABC whenever I’m off work for the weekends. My general rule of thumb for watching re-runs: if the episode came out after 2002, I turn off the TV and back to studying or playing on my Xbox 360 (they’re not worth my time), but if it’s an older episode, I WILL watch all of it.

  • brendan

    Did anyone else notice the bagger is now black?