A Puke-Inducing Animated GIF From The Simpsons

Well, not really puke inducing, but certainly fairly shocking when one considers the quality of the animation. It’s pretty poor. The movement is too rigid, the women is just a short cycle followed by some actual movement and as someone on tumblr pointed out, the effects on the alien look about 10 years out of date. It’s kinda sad to say you’ve seen better quality in a student’s animated film than on a primetime show like The Simpsons.

Is this what The Simpsons has become? Apparently so, even in its early days, at least the animation was honest. Klasky-Csupo was a young studio getting off the ground and the studio in Korea was having teething problems finishing the animation, so the blatant errors can be excused. Today though, with 20+ years of experience, there is no real excuse for poor/lazy animation.

In addition to that, how about the joke? Have a peek at the clip below from Al Jean and Mike Reiss’ short-lived 1990s sitcom, The Critic and see if you can’t spot something familiar.

This Classic Shot From The Simpsons Says It All

In fact, it’s one of my favourites, from Summer of 4 Ft. 2.

What better way to express Lisa’s anger than to have her absolutely stick it to Bart. The almost unnerving reversal of roles is gleeful to watch as Bart is stunned into silence. The grip on his shirt and the way his hair falls back are indicative that he is clearly at her mercy. The fact the she is glowering down at him reinforces the fact that she is in charge.

It’s great to see that Lisa can, on occasion, equal her older brother in terms of menacing behaviour.

Although it’s the subtlety of the scene that makes it so effective. Lisa could have gone off on a rant, shouting and yelling at Bart (and she does in other episodes) however, here, she is much more refined in her approach, which makes it all the more effective as a scene.

The joke of the whole thing is that all of this goes on as Milhouse sits unseen at the other side of the table, completely oblivious to what’s happening right in front of his nose the entire time.

Five Reasons Why The End of The Simpsons Will Be The Deathknell For Animation on FOX

Via: Hulu

Over the last 20-odd years, The Simpsons has come to be the most successful TV show ever created. In an industry where plenty of shows don’t even make it to the end of their first season, and the numbers that make it beyond the single digits is extremely rare, the fact that one can make it into its third decade is exceedingly rare.

As a result, the longer the Simpsons remain on our TV screens, the more likely it’s ultimate demise will contribute to the collapse of the dominance of animation on FOX.

Below are the five reasons why this is so.

1. Brand Recognition:

Over the last 20 years, the Simpsons has become a brand in their own right. There are Simpsons toys, clothes, sweets, figurines, records, you name it, it has been Simpsonised at some point. What is sometimes overlooked is that it is the success of the TV show that has driven the demand for these products. Millions saw the show in TV and then bought the merchandise they saw in the shop.

Without the weekly reminder that market is sure to suffer a bit. Now keep in mind that I am referring to new episodes. Re-runs remind viewers of the show’s existence, but they tend not to remind them of good times, not encourage them to buy new products.

2. Brand loyalty

The Simpsons as a brand has phenomenal loyalty, so much so that it was able to transgress a brief period at the beginning where it reached proportions normally reserved for ‘fads’. Simpsons fans are famous for their devotion to their favourite show. Of course, it helped that the show was very well written, and more often than not outshone everything else being broadcast at the time.

Once the series ends, however, that loyalty will begin to (slowly) disappear. It will start off imperceptibly, but gradually, we’ll start to see less and less merchandise, more websites and fansites that are update less frequently. People will remain loyal and devoted, but the majority of fans will move on to other shows, or their tastes will change as they get older. Before you know it, all that will be left is a smattering of hardcore fans who hold on to the glory days and maintain that nothing will ever top their faith in a show from the 90s.

Convincing those many fans of the Simpsons that another show is of equal or better quality is a goal that is akin to convincing people that a tax raise really is a good thing. It can be done, but it’s an uphill struggle if ever there was one.Which leads us nicely into…..

3. Inability to replace it

FOX has known for quite a while that no show lives forever and eventually a replacement will have to be found. This is a perfectly reasonable assumption except for one thing: they haven’t found one yet.

It’s not for lack of trying though. Plenty of attempts have been made over the years to try and at least find something that can come close to attracting viewers of the Simpsons and slowly weaning them onto a different show. Pilots, season fillers, live-action, they’ve all been tried without success and still the problem remains.

Family Guy is perhaps the closest the network has come but since it returned from hiatus a few years ago, it is nowhere near what it used to be and currently attracts a far more narrow demographic than the Simpsons did at its height. The same goes for the other McFarlane children, they all share similar traits that prohibit them from ever reaching the largest audience possible.

4. It’s Still Good

Although I tend to agree with plenty of what the loyal Stonecutters over at the Dead Homer Society have to say, in the grand scheme of things, The Simpsons remains a very well written show. Especially in light of all the other “sitcoms” and “comedies” that the various networks put out during the week.

5. Changes in management structure

Last but most certainly not least, the Simpsons could never be repeated because FOX as a network has changed. When the Simpsons were first broadcast, the creators were given a wide berth when it came to content and biting the hand that feeds them. The simple reason for this was that the network needed ratings and ad revenue, and allowing the producers a bit of leeway went a long way in letting the show find it’s place in the TV world.

Since then, FOX has become successful, and much more mainstream as a result. I can’t foresee a show being given similar leeway (and a share of the merchandising) ever again. It just won’t happen. As a result, we’re unlikely to ever see a show like the Simpsons grace our screen again.

Conclusion

When the Simpsons eventually does get sent to the great big TV in the sky, it’s highly unlikely that a show such as Family Guy will manage to retain many of the Simpsons loyal fanbase and as a result, is more likely to falter when left to carry the network by itself. Once that happens, it seems probable that animation, as a driving force on the FOX network is doomed.

All I Learned About American Politics I Learned From The Simpsons

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday, you can collectively blame that deadline at work.

Today is Election Day here in the States and as a result, just about everything you see, hear and touch today will be tinged with politics and as you can imagine, trying not to post something political is really hard without showing off your colours.

Being Irish, my colours are green, so that doesn’t really matter and besides, they’re not having an election over there today.

Instead, I am going to encourage you to watch the one episode of the Simpsons that pretty much taught me everything I knew about US elections until I actually arrived here: Sideshow Bob Roberts

Via: Wikipedia

Being of the “classic” era, there are tons of jokes, references, one-liners and a plot that manages to tie them all together. In it, we see Sideshow Bob at perhaps his most menacing. He doesn’t murder anyone, but he does actually succeed in his plan until thwarted by Bart & Lisa.

The episode is as much a satire on the political system itself as it is on the politicians themselves and in a move that garners some praise, it manages to keep the leanings pretty much within the boundaries that the show has traditionally stayed in.

If you must watch anything today, watch this. I’m, not going to link to it because of the [ahem] temporary nature of the links but you should know where to look.

And before you go, here is the defining, hilarious quote from the episode:

Hmm…I don’t agree with his Bart-killing policy, but I do approve of his Selma-killing policy.

Anomaly Appraisal: The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History

Via: Uncrate

This book was launched around this time last year (wow, time flies eh?) and at the time was the result of a considerable amount of press exposure for the simple reason that nobody from FOX or The Simpsons themselves would comment on it. Of course the logical excuse offered up was that an ‘official’ history will come along at some point which will naturally contain all the official stories and anecdotes.

This book however, is the unofficial version, replete with warts-and-all tales from inside and outside the show. For a loyal stonecutter’s take on the book, I suggest hitting up the Dead Homer’s Society for their review, which is refreshingly realistic in its synopsis.

John Ortved should be commended for putting together a tome that combines more first hand accounts of the show than any I care to remember. In contrast to Planet Simpson, which I posted about last week, which was a much more existentialist view of the series and its characters, this book looks past all that for what was going on behind the TV screen.

The book very much follows the shows own timeline, from pre-conception to the present time (well, 2009) so sa you can expect, the climactic, exciting stuff is in the middle, not the end. Ortved lays out in some detail the conflicts and fall-outs that have been the reality behind the greatest TV show ever made. Although he rightfully points out money and egos as being the main ingredients, he does present the facts in a reasonably fair and balance way. In other words, he doesn’t take sides in the war.

I loved reading first-hand accounts from people involved in the show, from writers, to the voice-actors all the way up to Rupert Murdoch himself. Although I found the transcript form of the book weary at first, it became a much easier read in the end (more on that later). The sheer number of stories (both humourous and otherwise) from these folks are gold to a Simpsons fan such as myself.

The book is excellent overall but there are just one or two areas where I was disappointed. Firstly, Ortved’s own writing is quite lacking in the fact-checking department. The biggest one I found was getting Binky and Bongo from Life in Hell mixed up.

Besides the factual errors, the book seems to have this dark overtone. In more than one occasion I found footnotes that were gratuitously politicised. Personally I don’t really care, but please, I’m reading a book about a funny show, there’s no need to bring up your own politcal leanings for the sake of it.

Lastly, there is the discussion about certain folks on the show. While I have mentioned above that Ortved stays pretty impartial to the infighting, there is a substantial imbalance in how he meters out praise and scorn. For example, David Silverman gets one mention whereas Al Jean is single-handedly ridiculed for allowing the show to decline over the last decade. Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t, but I firmly believe that you should meter out praise much more than criticism.

Overall, this is a must-read for any Simpsons fan. It helps set the frame of the Simpsons as an institution of American culture and helped me to see the show in a new, more compassionate light.

Dennis The Menace Versus Bart Simpson

I am referring here, of course, to the British Dennis the Menace of The Beano fame and not the American creation of Hank Ketcham.

On the one side, we have a naughty little boy who stirs up trouble every single week. On the other side we have a naughty little boy who used to stir up trouble every single week. What separates the two, well, age for one. Dennis has been running in The Beano since 1951! Bart Simpson on the other hand has only graced out TV screens for the past 20 years.

Both characters share many similarities, both being boys for a start, both having dogs that engage their shenanigans (Gnasher with Dennis and Santa’s Little Helper with Bart) and both seem to revel in creating mischief for pretty much any figure of authority.

Disregarding the fact that Dennis is older than my father, it is clear that his character is immensely popular and has endured the constantly changing shifts in consumer tastes and contemporary culture. Why has Bart Simpson not followed suit?

The reasons are many. Bart is a cartoon character as opposed to a comic strip one. He therefore has to be so much more whole in the eyes of the audience. Comic strips are dependent on the reader filling in the gaps between panels and using their imagination to bring the characters to life. Animation on the other hand tricks the mind into thinking it is seeing a moving image and requires little imagination.

The other reason is that an animated TV show has a much longer plot than a comic strip, whose stories can be read in about a minute as opposed to a cartoon which lasts upwards of 20 minutes. This however, does not explain how Bart’s character has become as flat as it has.

Dennis interacts with adults only when he is about to get into trouble. His parents are to some extent rarely seen in the comics. Bart’s parents on the other hand are all over the place. In fact, in the early stages of the shows development, it was perceived that Bart would be the main protagonist. Once the show was broadcast, that role was rapidly transferred to Homer where it has remained to this day. This move had the result of pushing Bart into a secondary position within the series. Today, it is rare for a plot to centre around him and him alone without at least some interference from Homer (in fact, nowadays Bart often acts as Homer’s sidekick).

One could argue that the intended audience is another reason. Dennis the Menance’s target audience remains firmly in the children’s age range with a few dedicated adult fans. Bart on the other hand has had to please audiences from those same young kids all the way up to folks in their middle-ages. That’s hardly an easy task for the best of us!

The Beano is still as enjoyable today is as it’s always been. Sure the style has changed and it’s now in full colour, but it has moved with the times, updated the lifestyles of the characters and stayed fresh with the storytelling. Bart on the other hand has been allowed to stagnate while the rest of the planet has surged ahead. As noted by Seth McFarlane, the notes he receives from the network are of a far more serious tone than those that were given to the Simpsons back in the day.

The point of this post is not to beleaguer the point that The Simpsons is past its prime, it’s just to illustrate that it is possible for characters to remain popular over a substantial period of time. South Park is a show that has managed to stay fresh and relevant, whereas Family Guy has started to turn a wee bit stale. Other shows like the original Nicktoons still seem as fresh today as they ever have. The proof is in the pudding, strong characters and a willingness to make them interesting and relevant to contemporary society can give them very long lives indeed.

How The Simpsons Interacts With Other Cartoons

The very first issue of MAD I ever bought (via Fanpop.com)

News comes to us from The Animation Blog about The Simpsons congratulating South Park on their 200th episode. Which brings up an interesting thought, The Simpsons is the longest running animated show on TV (or ever for that matter) right? Well, we all know how other animated shows have honoured, recognized, satirized and downright lampooned The Simpsons, but how have they responded in kind?

First off though, a trivia question: The Simpsons has parodied many shows, but has only ever made a direct homage to one. Which show is it? The answer is at the bottom.

The creators, being who they are, were bound to reference other forms of entertainment linked with animation. Comic books got a look very early on in the life of the series, but so did other cartoons. On numerous occasions, references have been made to various Hanna-Barbera shows. Notably The Flintstones in the opening sequence of “Marge Vs. The monorail” where Homer is shown leaving work in a fashion similar to Fred Flintstone. In one of their trademark couch gags, the family is shown coming home to find Fred, Wilma, Pebbles and Dino in their place (Kamp Krusty).

Satire has often been prevalent. Many will remember when South Park engaged the ire of Marge Simpson (“The Bart of War” which was, in fact, a get-back for an episode of South Park wherein it was inferred that the Simpsons had already done every possible plot in a TV show).

The Simpsons has, over the years, reacted with it’s cousins on the FOX network. King of Hill was done when Bart was watching Hank complain about “propane in my urethra“. Perhaps the most controversial has been the back and forth between The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Both shows are extremely similar and both have an oafish father as the protagonist. Although the relationship between both shows is cordial, and it is fun to see the jokes fly. So far, I count when Homer was run down by Stewie in the driveway, or when Peter Griffin was wanted by the Italian police as a “plagarisimo”.

Over the years the Simpsons has also referenced anime (during the family’s trip to Japan), Czech animation (the Russion Itchy & Scratchy replacement) and even independent films (Spike & Mike’s Sick, Twisted & F**ked Up Film Festival). The comedy in these references and parodies is genius, which has no doubt flown under the radar of the average viewer for years as inside jokes to people in the know (that would be you and I).

So, did you guess it? Here’s the answer:

[livevideo id=http://www.livevideo.com/video/C5FD97BB261A48F1B3C9AB3D075491BA/ren-stimpy-in-the-simpsons.aspx]

If that’s not working, click here!

Yup, that isn’t actual footage, but it is the absolute closest the Simpsons has ever got to featuring another show. Yeah, I know, there was “The Critic” but that’s not the same and requires a post for another day.

What importance  does this clip hold? For one it shows the admiration of the Simpsons creators for the one and only John K. The colours are accurate, the voices are ably espoused by Dan Castellenatta and the animation is spot on. The respect is clear, no other show has been given such accurate reproduction by the Simpsons.

So the conclusion to all this is that The Simspons love John K. and think he’s great!