According to reports, it takes the creators and animators of The Simpsons around six to nine months to make a single episode of The Simpsons. This is because every single episode of The Simpsons is still hand-drawn instead of being drawn by a computer. With animation time in mind, the animators and creators of the show plan a season six to eight months in advance.
“The Simpsons” is a without doubt a true pop culture icon. This animated television show has garnered around 34 Emmy awards, generated billions of dollars in income for its creators, owners, and cast members. The Simpsons is also notable for having accessed almost every possible part of popular culture. There are Simpsons wears, toys, video games, a feature film, and even theme parks.
According to industry reports, The Simpsons surpassed The Flintstones in 1996 as the longest running prime-time animated show. Over the years, technology and innovation have changed a lot of things about the adult cartoon sector, however, The Simpsons have remained sharp and innovative than most other animation series, but what had hardly changed is the creative process.
Unlike most modern or fast fading animation series, The Simpsons still leverage an extensive writer’s room, an in-crowd of directors, a clique of storyboard and design artists, and dozens of animators. In addition to Groening and Brooks, Sam Simon was an executive producer on the show. Al Jean has been the show runner since the 13th season — Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, and Mike Scully are a few of the previous show runners.
Have it in mind that the biggest change in production within these years was simply geography; by 1996, The Simpsons started outsourcing the final stage of animation to a studio – Akom. The role of Akom, a South Korean animation studio situated west of Seoul, is merely to animate all of the frames between the drawings in the final reel delivered by the layout artists. The process is called overseas export market work; Akom is one of many OEM studios in its nation.
However, in the world of animated TV, The Simpsons might just be an endling; expensive, detailed, slow-paced production created on formulas dating back to Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera. Although it is now in its 32nd season, it is more or less still how every episode of the show is being made.
How an Episode of ‘The Simpsons Is Made
The making of The Simpsons is an intricate work of writing, recording animation, and supervision, which requires the input of numerous experts to complete. However, as technology advances, so does production, with the introduction of “digital ink and paint” and HDTV. Here is a simple and detailed outline to help you understand how an episode of The Simpsons is made.
- First, everything starts in a room with sixteen writers who pitch ideas for episodes. Then the show runners pick a general plot of each of the episodes and a writer is assigned for a specific episode. The main writer of each episode writes the first draft, but since there are always changes to be made when it comes to writing, a writer has four to six weeks to complete rewrites.
- Next, the script is handed over to a team of six to eight completely new writers, all different from the main writer of the episode, who then all sits together and try to address the notes.
- Once they’ve done as far as they can, the script is then handed over to another group of six to eight writers to polish it even more. These group rewriting sessions develop final scripts by adding or removing jokes, inserting scenes, and calling for re-readings of lines by the show’s vocal performers.
- On the Monday following a table read, the cast performs the voice recording, more or less at the studio in LA. The actors and actresses record on separate tracks, rather than together — a common method for capturing voice-over —and may not even interact directly with one another while recording.
- As work transitions from script to animation, the episode is offered to a director, who, if they accept, is given ownership of production and animation responsibilities.
- At this point, animators make a storyboard and story reel, which are rougher versions of the final episode’s animation, under the watch of the episode’s director. The story reel forms the very foundation of each scene, including character position, expressions and backgrounds.
- Storyboard revisionists get roughly two weeks to revise or outright create new scenes, following notes from the previous screening. Since hundreds of hours of animation and design have already gone into the storyboard, revisionists try to salvage parts from scenes that have been cut by repurposing them within the revisions.
- As soon as a character layout artist finishes a scene, they pass it onto the timer. A timer’s duty is to write exposure sheets, the notes for Akom on how to interpret and apply the work of the story layout artist. Note that it is called “timer,” because in the past, the timer broke down all dialogue and animation, assigning tiny pieces to specific frames — or times — of the episode. Have it in mind that every line on the exposure sheet represents a frame or group of frames of film. To the right of each frame number, the timer writes what needs to be animated and how.
- If a scene is extremely complicated, it’s sent to Scene Planning, an internal team established after The Simpsons Movie, which digitally animates elaborate scenes. Note that all those flashy, fast-moving, large-scale scenes that feature a bevy of characters: they usually go through here.
- At this point, two checkers are appointed to review everything — all the character layout artwork, the exposure sheet, and the printed materials — and they make sure that every piece of art and line of direction matches on the exposure sheet.
- The scenes are printed out and shipped to Akom studio in South Korea, where teams of artists complete the animation, drawing all the necessary frames and adding the correct colours, using the exposure sheet as a strict blueprint.
- Then the final animation is sent to the editor and producers, who inculcate music and edit it all together into the episode you see on TV.
It takes around 27 minutes to watch an episode of The Simpsons – but a whole longer to make that episode. However, the teams produce whole seasons at a time. Note that the time frame (six-nine months) is more or less how long it takes to get from the writer’s room to the TV. But they are working on about a couple more episodes at a time. Various teams are at different stages of different episodes, all at the same time.