Simpsons director Silverman speaks with UCLA


By David Landau

Published Aug 3, 2007 3:04 PM

David Silverman, '79, MFA '83

DL: I had been told that the animation for the Simpsons and Futurama is done in Korea. Is that true?

DS: For the record, the majority of the animation is done state-side: We do all the key animation poses, the same way that Disney Film would say that the animator does all the key poses and indicates how the in-betweens are done. The Korean animators, who are very talented, do the cleanup, coloring and in-betweening. Also, let's say a character is wearing an elaborate costume: We would just rough it in and leave the rest to the in-between artists, since what we're trying to get is the acting. The nuance, the movement, goes to the Korean animators. So all the inventive animation work is done here, because we need to see it and show it to the writer-producers so they say, "OK, that's great, that's telling the joke right."

This is a system of outsourcing that we inherited from the late 60's, when Hanna-Barbara started shipping stuff to Japan. But when Japan became too expensive, they started shipping to Korea and Taipei and the Philippines. We [U.S. animators] were some of the first victims of outsourcing, and we screamed and bitched and tried to get the other Hollywood unions to support us, but they just said, "Yeah, yeah, that's too bad, animation blah blah blah." Now they're being outsourced too, and we say, '"a-ha, told you so!"

DL: What is it about UCLA's animation department that produces so many great animators?

DS: I think in many ways the freedom that Dan McLaughlin instilled on us back when I was there was key. We were grounded in certain fundamentals about animation and animated filmmaking, but then we were granted a great deal of latitude to produce things and direct animation. There are several talents from UCLA's Animation Workshop who work on "The Simpsons," like Mike Anderson, Nancy Kruse and Chuck Sheetz, and they've all directed the show. I think that's what it is: a base of fundamentals and then artistic freedom to make your own decisions and your own failures and successes. It's a cliche, but you learn a great deal by what you fail at, as well as what you succeed at.

Also, what I got from UCLA was that the [five-minute] film I made there, '"The Strange Case of Mr. Donnie Brooks' Boredom," was my calling card, my portfolio.

DL: Is it going to be a special feature on "The Simpsons" DVD?

DS: It's not going to fit on this DVD. Maybe we'll put it on the next big-package DVD.



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