How culture has shaped The Simpsons (Pt. 1) - TOuk Blog

How culture has shaped The Simpsons (Pt. 1)

Hey guys. Saturday is upon us and I wanted to pop in with a post that has been in the “ideas book” for a while but I kind of just forgot it. So whilst most people have finished this event we might as well start the lull posts. Enjoy….

In this short Part 1 we look at Why culture has shaped The Simpsons?… An introduction …

A long time ago in a studio far far away (well it is for me) there was a team who created an idea that has formed society and culture as we know it. Starting from The Tracy Ullman Show and progressing to the mighty 28 seasons. Like all animated programmes of its time, when The Simpsons started, the creators used frames and hand drawn animation to create their episodes which produced that warm handcrafted and loved effect – seeming to flow more. The Simpsons used a base of directors, storyboards and a heck load of animators to produce and develop the show … until … IT happened. THE situation.


South Park originally premiered on August 13, 1997 on Comedy Central and although the animation was literal crap it gradually gained global success due to the many references it made to current day issues and jokes. Becuase the animation was so bad an episode of South Park would only take less than a week (!!!) to make due to its paper cutout and computer animated style. Now, before I continue let’s just confirm the difference between animation for The Simpsons and South Park at THAT time.

South Park used paper cutouts and computer animation whilst The Simpsons used pure frame (hand-drawn) animation

South Park episodes would take roughly 5 days to make whilst The Simpsons episode would take several months (and I mean, like, 6-8 months several).

South Park episodes were made back to back, meaning they made an episode, finished it, then made another episode etc, whilst The Simpsons episodes, I believe, were made at the same time, which is how they managed to get a season out in a year despite an episode taking 6-8 months to make.

So it was clear why South Park could make jokes that were relevant to that week’s news and affairs: they’d make an episode about the week’s current news, it would air, they’d make the next episode about the new week’s news, it would … And it would go on. But with the Simpsons they couldn’t do that because all the many episodes would be made at the same time. So they would have to make jokes that would still be relevent and funny 6-8 months later – The Simpsons is full of risks. (In Part 2 we look at Pokémon Go and that decision – based around what I just said).

The Simpsons has stayed true to ideas dating back to Walt Disney but we have seen, many times, The Simpsons updating their animation and it seems like they have taken many shortcuts in animation including:

  • Lower frame rate
  • Switching to Computer Animation
  • Adding less details

I have studied animation, in hope of becoming an animator, and this breaks my heart. For example, study this gif through the eyes of someone who has studied animation:


Looks snazzy but focus on Marge:

– Hair flick – Face changes: worried to relieved – Big arm movement – Body movement reacts to breathing

– Head turns (no face change and no hair, arm of body movement)

Now let’s break this up into frames:

Credit –

You can see a DRAMATIC change in animation. They have made it less “cartoony” with the way Marge turns round – which provided the heart and warmth to the show – and replaced it with a robotic turn of the head. In the modern couch gag – just an example I took for the animation comparison – you see less frames, fewer details and less exaggeration (look at the 12 principles of cartoon animation) compared to the beautiful, from an animating perspective, old couch gag.

Why do this? Because it means less frames and less detail.

Why do that? Save time and effort. An episode could come out slightly quicker.

Why do that? To keep up with modern news and references. See where I went with that?

So this change has its cons with time management and efficiency but it risks the decline in the homemade warmth. I know I am going to leave you on a bit of a cliffhanger … but …

In next week’s Part 2 we look at the effects of culture’s impacts on The Simpsons (including examples). I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say on this topic. Did you know about the switch over of animation style and the impact it made? See you next time and Happy Tapping …

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  1. Awesome Sam also pls tell brooder I’m very sorry but I fort my password for my new account

  2. Great piece! I had never noticed that detail with Marge before. You’re right, there’s so much less character in the new one.

  3. Thanks Sam. Made me look at the animation in a totally new way. Looking forward to seeing part 2. 🙂

  4. Great article Sam 🙂 Interesting stuff 🙂

  5. Interesting article! I wouldn’t have noticed had you not pointed it out.

    I look forward to part 2 🙂

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