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The Simpsonzzzzzz…


This Sunday, The Simpsons will be making its jump from standard definition to high definition, and in doing so will be losing its only element that remains remotely cartoony. I’m talking, of course, about the opening title sequence, directed by David Silverman back in 1989 and virtually unchanged in two decades (barring some alterations made at the start of the second season). A copy of the new, re-animated title sequence can be seen on YouTube, and it’s every bit as sterile and lifeless as the animation you now find in the show itself. The Simpsons was always an extremely conservative-looking show, but in earlier years it at least had a bit of life to it, and the intro was always the liveliest part of it, combining fast and at times expressive animation with some humorous sight gags and a memorable theme tune. Yes, it looked crude, but at least it was fun. Watching the new version, it feels almost like listening to a favourite song in slow-play mode. All the energy has gone, and the poses have been evened out (polished, some would say) to the point of indistinction. There’s hardly any snap to the animation now, and the new sight gags are so obvious and poorly timed that it feels like the writers (and I guarantee someone actually sat down and scripted every single one of these gags) are pointing to them and saying “Lookie lookie! See how clever we are, slipping in this subtle joke that you wouldn’t have noticed if we hadn’t pointed it out?” And, if you think it seems bad after a first viewing, just imagine how you’ll be feeling after seeing the same thing every episode for another twenty seasons.

I understand why they redid the intro. The Simpsons is long overdue in making the leap to HD, and there’s no way the grotty old video-based intro would have held up in 720 or 1080p. However, it just illustrates the extent to which, over the years, the show’s look has stagnated as much as its written humour. I’m not sure why I’m so bothered about this as I don’t actually watch The Simpsons any more, unless it’s a rerun of an earlier episode, but I suppose I just see this as indicative of the state of animation these days.

Out of curiosity, does anyone know if they still use people to draw this show, or do they just have a machine to do it now?

The Simpsons (1989-2009) The Simpsons (2009-)
The Simpsons (1989-2009) The Simpsons (2009-)
The Simpsons (1989-2009) The Simpsons (2009-)
The Simpsons (1989-2009) The Simpsons (2009-)

Source: Yahoo News

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 5:11 PM | Comments: 12
Categories: Animation | TV | Web



Actually, I'm just wondering why they felt the need to include almost every recurring character in the title sequence. I suspect they had a checklist.

Posted by: Baron Scarpia, February 17, 2009 6:52 PM


Very true. All I can think about it what a nightmare all those crowd shots must have been to draw.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, February 17, 2009 7:07 PM


For me "The Simpsons" never was that much about animation anyway. I liked it because it once was a great combination of interesting characters, good storytelling, biting satire, social commentary, clever humor and cultural references. I can find that in the first 9 seasons of the show. After that it declined and never returned to its former greatness. Well, I personally stopped watching the show after season 13 or so, but from what I've read the quality never really went up again, apart from a small peak in season 15 perhaps - I have to check that for myself at some time.

I don't think that I'd have a problem with the new HDTV title sequence, if the overall quality of the show were better. But I'm pretty sure that won't happen. Maybe I'll have a look at some of the recent episodes, just out of curiosity...

Posted by: BobaFett, February 17, 2009 8:05 PM


It will be 1080i ;)

So this is progress, much higher resolution will allow us to see how boring-looking the show has become.

The Simpsons was never about great animation for me either, but when it at least looked interesting, it sure didn't hurt.

Posted by: David Mackenzie, February 17, 2009 8:07 PM


I never really got why people liked the Simpsons so much. The only episodes I remember enjoying were the holiday specials, like Halloween etc.

Posted by: Dom, February 17, 2009 9:13 PM


The new intro is like a video game cutscene. Lifeless indeed.

Posted by: Kram Sacul, February 18, 2009 1:56 AM


AFAIK Simpsons is for some time now Cel-Shading (like Futurama) but it's still done in Korea like always ;-)

Posted by: Peter von Frosta, February 18, 2009 9:27 AM


I believe they switched over to digital ink and paint during the 13th season, by which point they had basically been the last animated show on television still working with hand-painted cels. Since then, the look has certainly become cleaner and more clinical, but the animation itself is a far bigger issue. Digitally inked and painted cartoons don’t have to be limp and lifeless, as the Ren & Stimpy episodes done that way (they started doing digital ink and paint in 1992) can attest.

Oh, and if by cel-shaded you mean 3D models rendered to look 2D, then that’s definitely not the case. The animation itself is still hand-drawn (as it was with Futurama for all but a handful of effects shots and backgrounds), with the key poses laid out at Film Roman in the US and then sent to Korea to be inbetweened and coloured.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, February 18, 2009 10:10 AM


Hey, I like the new opening. I know, someone has to. ;)

Posted by: avanze, February 18, 2009 11:57 AM


But look at all the detail you can see! ;-)

Posted by: colinr, February 18, 2009 5:40 PM


Actually, the most recent stuff has been way better than, say, the 2003 stuff.

Posted by: Tyler, February 18, 2009 9:18 PM


Saying the show isn't in it's prime anymore and not watching it anymore because of that is a tad harsh. At it's prime The Simpsons was perhaps the greatest TV show ever produced. Should we expect the show to be able to contine that level of quality now that it has entered it's 20th year? It might not be at it's prime but it is still a damn good show.

BobaFett said he stopped watching after season 13. That's surprising considering he braved seasons ten and eleven - by far the nadir of the series. The show is much better now that it was then.

Regarding changing the intro - well that's pretty much modern age blasphemy in action.

Posted by: Me, February 22, 2009 12:39 AM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:


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