Tooncrap #16 - The Simpsons Pilot: The
Written by: Raymond Gallant
If I really have to talk about the success story that
is the Simpsons, its effect on not just animation, pop culture, and even
culture period, then you really need to leave your rock. From pretty
much day one, it has been my favorite cartoon of all time. I know so
much about the series, top to bottom. While the show may not be in what
people would consider the golden age, it still has its great moments,
and can still be one of the funniest cartoons out there today. It stands
atop the realm of the animated with a staggering 500+ episodes, and has
no signs of stopping any time soon.
And yet, it all could have ended before it even began.
The Simpsons road to the top began in 1987. One of the "gods of
television" James L. Brooks, was looking for animators to create short 1
minute skit/bumpers for the sketch comedy series "the Tracy Ullman
Show". He would enlist cartoonist Matt Groening, who at the time was
starting to earn some notoriety for his "Life in Hell" comic strip.
However, in fears of losing the rights to his beloved Ackbar and Jeff,
as well as Binky the one eared rabbit, he instead made a quick sketch of
crude looking humans, and named them from his own family (With the
exception of Bart). And thus, the ultimate animated success story was
Despite being crudely animated, the shorts were a big hit. So much so,
that Fox was ready to give the Simpsons their own shot at a prime time
animated series in 1989, something that hadn't been done since "Wait
Till Your Father Gets Home" in the mid 70's. This was a massive gamble,
and if it had failed, one would wonder just exactly how the
ramifications would've affected the animation industry. So it had to be
absolutely perfect, with less of a focus on cartoony "Hanna
Barbera-esque" animation, and set to a more realistic setting.
Well, as realistic as a cartoon about yellow skinned humans with bulgy
eyes and massive overbites could be at least.
The show was set to make its debut in the fall of 1989, with the pilot
being "Some Enchanted Evening". They sent the cartoon over to AKOM in
Korea to animate it, with high hopes.
And what they got back, to quote Mr. Brooks, was "shit".
Off Model, rubbery, facepalming shit.
So, with that said, let's dive into the original version of "Some
Enchanted Evening". Let's review this thing.
Since this wasn't given the telecine treatment, so it does come off more
faded than normal, but that doesn't save it. And it's not the whole
episode either, so that's a plus.
We open our atrocity to a decent shot of the Simpsons house, as we head
to the kitchen as Marge is making breakfast, and....
Yikes. We already see Marge quite off Model, but the worst is yet to
come. She finishes the breakfast, and talks to Maggie.
Oh Ye Gods! If the earlier pic was bad, this is even worse. Marge looks
like she gained a good 50 pounds, and is almost frog/Quasimodo-like in
appearance, with a very simian looking face. And judging by Maggie's
face there, even she's a bit frightened. But this is thankfully cut
quick as the rest of the family awakes. You can see as Bart opens
cupboard doors, that they have a more rubbery opening style. Their
facial expressions also move in a very rubbery style as well, but that
was a problem the first season suffered beyond this as well.
Good god almighty that is the smuggest damn Homer I've ever seen. He's
quite off model as well, fatter in the body, and the head especially. He
has a bit more of a Fred Flintstone-esque shape to him, and that's NOT a
The kids and Homer leave the house as Marge gets denied a kiss from
Just... Wow. Those three images alone should say volumes. Especially
long pucker Marge, and wide load Homer. Hell, I don't even think he was
that wide when he was 300 pounds. And the sad thing is, Gabor Csupo, of
Klasky-Csupo, the American animation company at the time for the
Simpsons, saw no problems with this, blaming the problem more on the
Uh, Gabor. Just wanna say thank you for Rugrats. Thank you for Duckman.
Wild Thornberries sucked, but that's not what I'm getting at here. to
put it simply....
HOW IN THE NAME OF KWYJIBO IS THIS NOT A PROBLEM???
Characters should not suffer from cases of weight gain and loss in
almost every frame. They definitely shouldn't be so drastically off
model like this. This is just shameful.
Back to the pilot.
If you've seen the episode, you know what happens next. Feeling dejected
by her family, Marge calls Dr. Marvin Monroe's radio show for advice. We
cut to the Springfield Nuclear Plant.
Or, in this case, Springfield Nuclear Island.
From here, we get more of just the major and minor errors from the
original pilot, and less the actual episode.
Either that phone's too big, or the Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper Babysitting
Service employs old midgets.
Either Homer's turned on, or suffering searing pain.
And we end the episode with somebody clearly activating "big head mode".
And that's pretty much most of the major errors. Good lord this is some
horrendous animation. Just everything about it is ugly, and not fitting
of the quality the show would have. Now you could say that since this
was the first episode that it wouldn't be perfect. But considering what
they wanted the show to be, this goes far beyond just "not perfect". In
fact, at the initial screening of this, James L. Brooks said, and I
quote, "this is shit". That one comment began the belief that if the 2nd
episode "Bart the Genius" suffered from similar problems, that there
simply would be no show. However, the 2nd episode did come out better,
and the show made its official debut in December of 1989 with "the
Simpsons Christmas Special", followed by the season kicking off in
January of 1990. Since then, the show still kicks on, and looks to have
no end in sight. But it is crazy just how it could have all come to a
screeching halt before it really got off the ground.