Archive for February, 2012

29
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Animation Plagiarism

(Image sources: Honeymooners, Flintstones, Phil Silvers (Bilko), Top Cat, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney)

“Okay, maybe my dad did steal Itchy, but so what?  Animation is built on plagiarism!  If it weren’t for someone plagiarizing ‘The Honeymooners’, we wouldn’t have ‘The Flintstones’.  If someone hadn’t ripped of ‘Sgt. Bilko’, there’d be no ‘Top Cat’!  Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear?  Ha!  Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney.  Your honor, you take away our right to steal ideas, where are they gonna come from?” – Roger Meyers Jr.

Happy (real) Birthday Alex Rocco!

28
Feb
12

“Separate Vocations” Spews Truth

Separate Vocations10

“Looks like you just bought yourself a lottery ticket, to jail!” – Chief Wiggum
“He’s unconscious, sir.” – Lou
“Ah, they can still hear things.” – Chief Wiggum

This post was originally going to go up yesterday for the 20th anniversary of this episode’s first broadcast, but about halfway through I noticed that there was a “hidden” audio track that turned out to be a one man commentary from Al Jean.  (Side note: Dear DVD people, drop the “easter egg” crap, will ya?  Just like hidden tracks on CDs, the game is up.  You can’t hide anything from modern media software.)  Apparently Jean’s basement flooded and he missed the original recording, so he came back in for a solo make up session.  I didn’t have time to do the second commentary track yesterday, so I figured, it’s already been 7,305 days, what’s a 7,306th? 

Jean says some interesting things, but through a lot of it he just sounds crushingly lonely.  The whole time he was talking all I could picture was this:

Homer Defined5

Not pictured: Mike Reiss

Just four guys here, Groening, Vitti, Reiss and Silverman.  Jean’s comments from the other track are interspersed in bold

1:30 – Lots of praise for George Meyer, who didn’t want to do commentary here.  Mostly it’s the usual stuff about how he doesn’t write many episodes because they needed him in the rewrite room.  This episode was all but final when he turned in his script.  The whole testing sequence is apparently there pretty much as is. 

1:50 – Jean points out that most of the writers were pretty good test takers, and this kind of thing was something they were used to doing.

2:30 – Jean mentions how Iowa was where these standardized tests came from, and I can vouch for that.  I was taking tests like this at the time this episode was made, and all of them were from “Iowa Testing” or whatever.  We all thought it was weird, but I loved that it was made fun of in this episode.

3:20 – The sight of Dr. J Loren Pryor prompts them to credit Vitti with the name.

3:50 – Someone took a vocational test that said he was going to be a librarian.  Couldn’t tell who, but I think it was Reiss.

4:40 – The little piece of music Lisa plays for the devastating music teacher was apparently an Alf Clausen original.

5:15 – Everyone laughs at “you know, devastating”.

5:15 – Jean mentions that they’ve had to resort to using tapes of actual crappy school bands to get the effect right sometimes because the pros just can’t play that poorly.

5:45 – Joking that they never know which one is Lou or Eddie leads to someone mentioning that Lou’s voice was sort of a Sylvester Stallone impression.

6:15 – Everyone’s pleased they got away with “polling the electorate” as a “nice dirty joke”. 

7:00 – As Snake goes speeding by, Silverman mentions how they aren’t just parodying one movie here, they’re going for every action movie cliche they can.

7:40 – Apparently Clausen actually worked on some cop shows in the 1970s and 80s, so the chase music was something he knew.

7:45 – People have always loved the milk truck exploding.

7:55 – And “Damn boxes!”.  As someone says, it’s “always empty boxes”.

8:00 – Jean mentions that if they’d done this episode today (circa Season 15), they’d have Wiggum in the car and give him a lot of lines.  But at this point, “We were still trying to maintain the fiction that the chief of police didn’t go out on every call, and you didn’t see him in every shot where you’d have the cops.”

8:20 – Generic compliments for the angles and lighting as the cops search for Snake.

8:40 – When we come back for “Death drives a stick”, someone compliments Shearer on his “Quinn Martin voice”.  This sends me to Wikipedia where I found out that Quinn Martin:

was one of the most successful American television producers. He had at least one television series running in prime time for 21 straight years (from 1959 to 1980), an industry record.

I learned something today.

8:45 – Jean’s making fun of all the old Quinn Martin shows, and how “pompous” and repetitive they were.

9:05 – Saying that Wiggum’s voice isn’t quite the one we know.  I’d disagree with that.  It’s pretty well Edward G. Robinson by now. 

9:40 – Mentioning how the layout artists had some fun with Bart and Lisa switching roles and doing things they normally don’t do.

10:20 – Everyone chuckles at the pictures of Homer stuffing himself into the cake.

10:45 – Talking about how cute flashback astronaut Marge is, how she really does look and pose like a little girl.

11:20 – The flashback leads Groening to mention how he pitched a show to FOX about doing Homer at various ages.  They didn’t bite, which leads to some quick jokes about how all they do are crappy reality shows which someone mocks as “how many midgets they can fit inside an elephant”. 

11:30 – Jean mentions how the Skinner-Vietnam thing got started here as a throwaway.  They didn’t sit down and plan things out for characters, things just sort of evolved based on what worked.  Again, I would like to point out that this isn’t something Zombie Simpsons does.  When was the last time they added to what we know about a character without it being some horrible retcon? 

12:10 – Compliments for the shot of Skinner with the desecrated puma.  Someone wonders if this was the line that set him up as a traumatized Vietnam vet.

13:20 – Groening recalls that a lot of the older writers were really geeked to have Steve Allen on as a guest voice, Swartzwelder in particular.  Apparently it took nine takes to get “Ay Carumba” out of him.  He kept making it sound Spanish.

13:20 – Apparently before he died Steve Allen went on a bit of a crusade against television crudity, and cited The Simpsons specifically.  I couldn’t find any details with a quick search though. 

14:15 – Apparently the blue dot over his face was taken from a rape trial one of the Kennedys was involved with. 

15:00 – Someone’s trying to remember if the bad girls in the bathroom reoccurred.  They don’t think so (I can’t think of anything either). 

15:20 – They’re chuckling at “Laramie Jr.” cigarettes, and how they always get letters when they show smoking.

16:00 – Laughing at all the crap in the seized property room.

16:50 – Laughing at Mr. Glasscock when Reiss fails to explain the joke.

16:50 – Jean thinks Mr. Glasscock was a teacher Reiss had, and that’s how they got it by the censor, by telling them that it was a real name.

17:30 – Neat story here about Ralph and how he wasn’t quite the world beating moron that he’d later become.  Reiss then mentions that it wasn’t until the next season in “I Love Lisa” that they made Ralph Chief Wiggum’s kid, and they only did it to flesh out the story a little because it was running short.  That leads to a longer discussion of Ralph and how he’s dumb, but he’s also got that blissful enthusiasm about things.  They don’t say this, but little evolutions in the characters like that are one of the things that helped the show.  These days everyone’s a caricature of a caricature of something they used to be.

18:00 – Jean’s very complimentary about chalk dust and cigarette smoke as transparency effects that look really good and were much better than they could do in Season 1.

19:20 – They’re enjoying the battering ram here. 

19:40 – Groening says the headshot of Bart (where it looks like a logo and zooms in and out) looks very “video-y”.  Apparently they pulled a frame of Bart’s head on and spun a picture of a police car to get the effect. 

20:00 – Noting all the dramatic angles (and ripped off Beverly Hills Cop theme) as they search the lockers.

20:20 – Interesting animation note here.  You know how in cartoons if you’ve got a lot of one object (say, lockers) and one of them is going to move, it’s always a different color?  Apparently that’s an artifact of cell depth.  The one that’s going to move is on a different layer when they film it, and even though the cell is transparent, there’s a very slight color to it, so things that are on different layers, even if they’re painted with the exact same color, appear differently.  You can compensate by mixing the paint differently, but it still happens, apparently more with darker colors than lighter ones.

21:50 – Happy to have the nice ending that’s both sweet (Bart sticking up for Lisa) and a joke (mooching money). 

22:30 – Groening rhetorically asks what Meyer would’ve thought.  Someone replies that he would’ve said, “If this made one child hate the police, it was worth doing”.  Ha.

28
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 1e

“Why is it when I heard the word ‘school’ and the word ‘exploded’ I immediately thought of the word ‘Skinner’!?” – Superintendent Chalmers

27
Feb
12

Bonus Quote of the Day

Marge Gets a Job7

“Now, Marge, just remember, if something goes wrong at the plant, blame the guy who can’t speak English.  Ah, Tibor, how many times have you saved my butt?” – Homer Simpson

Happy birthday Bill Oakley!

27
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Separate Vocations9

“Bart, the school is a police state.  Students are afraid to sneeze, and I have you to thank.” – Principal Skinner

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Separate Vocations”!  Original airdate 27 February 1992.

26
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Bart After Dark8

“Let us give no more scrutiny to this bawdy house and its small clientele of loyal perverts.” – Mayor Quimby
“Oh, I’m afraid this problem goes far beyond Eugene and Rusty.” – Reverend Lovejoy

25
Feb
12

More of a Good Thing

Flaming Moe's8

All these years later, people still love watching The Simpsons.  I’m not internet-omniscient or anything, so I don’t actually know if this is more or less prevalent than for any other old television program, but earlier this week I came across another blog dedicated to rewatching the show.  (500) Days of Homer popped up one week ago, and is currently through the first five episodes.  The about page explains:

The idea was born while I was reading countless articles about the huge 500-episode milestone that The Simpsons is hitting. As I read, I realized that I’d only seen maybe a handful of those episodes. Being a person that lives for pop culture, this was a criminal oversight that I needed to fix.

So, in a typical over-reaction, I declared that I’d watch the entire series, from the beginning, one episode a day. I’d then write about each episode, every single day, until I was caught up with the show. Conveniently, the quest will take about 500 days, give or take however many new episodes air between now and July 2013. This is by far the stupidest thing I’ve gotten myself into, but I plan on going through with it. I may soon hate myself for giving myself at least 500 writing assignments, but hopefully I’ll truly understand one of the most important pieces of American culture by the end.

I’d strongly recommend tapering off around Season 10 or so, you can skip around from there and not miss much of anything, but this is the internet and everyone gets to do what they want.  So far though, this one is going very well.  From the post on “There’s No Disgrace Like Home”:

Perhaps that’s why, even more than its live-action counterparts, The Simpsons hit a nerve that revealed deep insecurities in the population. Despite the creative team not quite knowing its characters completely (this episode is full of strange character work—Marge being drunk, Mr. Burns welcoming his workers, Homer being embarrassed by everyone else), they put honesty over consistency. Without that prioritization, the show would have never become what we know it as.

It would have just been another cartoon.

Indeed.  The honesty of Season 1 is one of its most durable features.  Good luck, Hunter Phillips, I hope you keep it up.

On another “watch them all” blog, our old friend Mike Amato has gotten to “The Principal and the Pauper”.  I would like to heartily agree with all of this:

I can sort of understand what they’re going for in the third act. We see the real Skinner in action, and he’s just out of touch enough with the rest of the characters that they’d feel uneasy about him and want the old Skinner back. But what did he do so wrong? As a man who was a POW for decades, he took mild offense to Bart’s warped version of the pledge. And he borrows his mother’s car. We gotta get this guy the fuck out of here; I guess that’s the point, that the characters are quick to act to get rid of this mild shake-up in their daily lives. The whole story is just so bloated and large that the final act feels so rushed and rash.

Exactly.  They had to cut so many corners to cram that story in to twenty-two minutes that not only was there hardly any room for humor, there wasn’t even enough time to make it work.  Continuing:

Now I can’t besmirch Keeler; the man’s written some of the best episodes of Futurama, so he’s pretty skilled with a pen. But I will say if the aim here was to make a meta episode, they certainly kept it to themselves. Everything in the episode is handled so seriously, with dramatic music cues and scenes of serious dialogue. There’s no real wink to the audience; call back to “Poochie” where Roy shows up to spice up the show, but there’s nothing like that here.

Again, those are exactly my sentiments.  I can see how that originated as a way to mock the audience for taking a cartoon character too seriously, but they just didn’t have time to get that idea into the episode. 

Read Mike’s whole post, and check out (500) Days of Homer.  While we’re at it, maybe we can even get Drunk Rambles going again.  Mark left off with “Life On the Fast Lane” and hasn’t updated in a while, but he did a great job of illustrating his points with screen grabs, and it’d be cool if he kept going. 




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