08
Dec
11

It’s Not a Real Hallway, But an Incredible Simulation!

“Good thing this alley got so narrow in the middle.” – Lou

Since I don’t know much about animation, I submit this with my usual caution.  But can anyone tell me what the fuck is going on with the hallway through which temporarily crazy Joan Rivers drives a golf cart?  First image:

Crooked Hallway1

Right here this already doesn’t scan.  I think they’re trying to go for some kind of fisheye type shot, except that the scale is all out of whack.  The door on the right is bowed like it would be, but the closer door on the left is only a little distorted, and the one in the back appears to be straight.  On top of that, if the perspective is supposed to be warped, then the Squeaky Voiced Teen has got to be roughly double the size of the woman on the right holding the glass.  There’s more:

Crooked Hallway2

This is one second after the first image.  Note that the woman on the right and the water cooler are totally static from the previous image.  Now, if the perspective of the first image is to be believed, the cart has to be well past the water cooler and all but past the woman.  Here’s a couple of frames later:

Crooked Hallway3

Despite the fact that it was well behind the cart and that the two never even overlap in the image, the water cooler is now falling.  You’ll also note that the camera is pulling back to reveal the turn in the hallway to the left side of the image.  The problem is that the warped not-quite-fisheye angle doesn’t track:

Crooked Hallway4

The hallway to the left is curving up at an angle that makes it look like that space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it completely doesn’t match the cart or the original hallway.  Also, please note that the teenager she was chasing is nowhere to be seen.  Until:

Crooked Hallway5

Oh, there he is; but how the hell did he get there?  From the angle he’s running he would’ve had to run deep into the corner below where the camera would be, except he wasn’t running that way when we last saw him.  If he’d kept going the way he was going in the first image, he’d be way up that distorted left hallway by now.  Speaking of the distorted hallway, what the hell?  The not-quite-fisheye effect seems to fade in and out at random, and there’s no way that the teenager is standing on the same floor as that panicked looking guy holding the papers.  The right side and the left side of the image have two wildly different depths, and all the angles and lines in between are fudged to make them kinda, sorta meet in the middle.  Because the two hallways are drawn so incongruously, the effect worsens as the shot moves down the left hall:

Crooked Hallway6

Blah!  Now the right hall appears to be sliding down and shrinking.  You can see the difference in the two perspectives if you look at the top of the line that marks the corner of the wall (running straight up from the filing cabinet).  See how the ceiling-wall line from the first hallway changes its angle radically when it makes the turn?  Look at what happens next:

Crooked Hallway7

Whoops, this is what happens when you animate things that can’t possible exist.  In the above shot you can see all the tricks that had been used to minimize the impossibility of this hallway fail at once.  Look at that wall on the right, it goes up, and up, and up, except it’s not supposed to do that.  That at least is away from the action, but see how the hallway narrows near the top?  The chase continues into an unfortunate clash of optical illusions:

Crooked Hallway8

The cart, which just a second prior looked like it was at most half the width of the hallway, now basically fills it.  And, based on the way it’s drawn, the cart is clearly going to come to a screeching halt in just a few more feet when the hall becomes even narrower.  They’ve kinda restored the ceiling, except that the not-quite-fisheye perspective means that the ceiling is lopsided.  And not only do the walls not match each other, they look like they change height.  Look at the guy on the left, now look at the door on the same side of the wall.  He looks like he’s standing under a ceiling that’s twice as high as the one by the door. 

Even as just a single image instead of one in a sequence these frames look weird.  When you actually watch the thing at full speed all of these clashing elements give the hallways a crooked, billowing impression that’s both distracting and disorienting. 

I suppose we should commend them for trying something interesting here, but wow did it not turn out well.  The shifting angles, the warped perspective, the variable sizes of things, the entire sequence is nothing but elements that don’t match.


16 Responses to “It’s Not a Real Hallway, But an Incredible Simulation!”


  1. 1 Bea Simmons's Rotting Corpse
    8 December 2011 at 4:50 pm

    This is indeed an interesting scene to conceive, but it is very, very hard to pull of believably. It takes a huge understanding of perspective and planning out a scene. The more extreme the angle/perspective, the harder it is to animate a character (and the Simpsons are already pretty hard to construct). Also, if it starts out poorly staged and timed, forget about it! You end up having to stuff Teen in the corner like that (though they could easily just have him running more to the middle of the hallway)

    This scene irked me for the reasons you list and because the cart looks like it just floats over the background and doesn’t belong there (a shadow would have helped).

    Another weird thing is the watercooler that gets hit after the cart has already passed it. Now, these kind of tricks/cheats can actually work wonderfully in animation. It just didn’t gel due to the bad staging and timing.

    I’m happy when they’re playing around with perspective and stuff instead of the sterile, ruler-ed lines they use these days. Unfortunatly they didn’t give it to someone with the right skills to pull it off (not everyone is Bill Plympton), or they just relied too much on moving around layers in Toonboom. Either way, it looks just downright amateurish for a 2 million dollar an episode production, and that is pretty sad.

  2. 2 Anonymous
    8 December 2011 at 6:38 pm

    They’re terribly at scenes like this. Look at Moe Letter Blues when Barney’s acting like a bull (sigh). Who knows what’s going on with that animation.

  3. 3 Mike Russo
    8 December 2011 at 6:53 pm

    But then when you think way back to 1995 you suddenly remember the awesome stuff they used to do with backgrounds and moving perspective in episodes like “Who Shot Mr. Burns part 1”.

  4. 8 December 2011 at 7:20 pm

    the hallway perspective was rendered way better in the hurricane episode..

    • 9 December 2011 at 12:07 pm

      “Come on in! It’s your master bedroom!”

      Only that scene was supposed to have messed-up perspective! Admittedly this sequence is much more dynamic and tricky, but you would think with all the computer animation software available nowadays, the animators of the friggin’ Simpsons would be able to trace a digitally-rendered L-shaped hallway frame-by-frame.

      • 6 Patrick
        9 December 2011 at 3:56 pm

        The thing is they used computer animation for shots like this before and that was during the SD 4:3 days.

  5. 7 Jason
    8 December 2011 at 7:56 pm

    IIRC, there’s a well done fish eye shot in “Bart the Mother” when Bart is fleeing the bird watcher’s club and the perspective is from the PoV of Burns’ backwards binoculars.

    • 8 December 2011 at 10:44 pm

      I still think the best fish-eye effect they ever did was in “Bart Carny” – the shot through the peephole of Homer holding the hula hoop and offering to throw it over the chimney. It’s so well-animated, you’d almost swear you were really looking through a distorted lens, rather than at something drawn to look that way.

  6. 9 adam
    9 December 2011 at 1:39 am

    The perspective is fucked!

  7. 10 Post Comment
    9 December 2011 at 12:15 pm

    It’s Zombie Simpsons. What motiviation do the animators have to give a shit?

    Seriously.

  8. 9 December 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Futurama’s animation is great with sequences like this, I’m reminded of that one scene with Bender’s head driving a little car around the Planet Express building.

    • 12 Cyberen
      9 December 2011 at 12:35 pm

      The difference is Bender’s Head Driving sequence was done on computer, with only the other characters drawn by hand. The Simpsons attempted to do this by hand but ended up with a visually disorienting mess. If you wanted good animation to go with interesting camera angles, try fifteen years ago.
      The Simpsons staff is too used to drawing things at eye-level now to make this work.

  9. 13 Patrick
    9 December 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Family Guy does this so much better and about perspective in the commentary for American Dad’s Threat Levels animatic they were talking about a shot where Stan and Francine cross the street and they said “at one point it looked like they were crossing the street for 6 years” now there’s care and commitment imagine if they ignored that error? oh boy. :/

  10. 11 December 2011 at 4:44 am

    You know it may be a wild long shot here but I think it may have something to do with Family Guy success with 2D/3D moments in the show.

    Both shows are 2D there’s no argument there but in certain quicksilver scenes of FG generally when driving a vehicle very much like the cart we see elements of 3D when it turns corners, it those give a nice feeling to the experience of the shot even though it’s a split second. Maybe this is what they were trying to recreate?


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