Saturday Morning Cartoons

Bart the Murderer22

“For the next week, I stayed alive by eating my mother’s delicious preserves; and maintained my sanity by dribbling a nearby basketball with my one free hand.  I made a game of it, seeing how many times I could bounce the ball in a day, then trying to break that record.” – Principal Skinner

There are usually a lot of easy to spot differences between something that’s done slapdash and something that’s done with creative care.  Among the more subtle, are the little, inconsequential details that let you know that the people behind something genuinely gave a shit about what they were doing.  There are plenty of these in “Bart the Murderer”, but I wanted to quickly point out two of them.

The first is the look on Bart’s face above.  After being force to lick envelopes for the PTA, Bart correctly pointed out that seeing how many he could lick in an hour and then trying to break that record was “a pretty crappy game”.  But there’s Skinner, every inch the earnest dork we know and love, following his own advice in a much worse situation.  Bart, manacled and in no mood for lessons from Skinner, rolls his eyes and gives it a classic “whatever” look.

Bart’s reaction is on screen for about two-tenths of a second, and it isn’t the least bit necessary.  The callback is plenty, but because the writers, animators and director cared about every frame, we get a lighting fast Bart reaction that probably no one noticed until their second or third viewing.

The other comes during the mob summit, as we pan across the over-boss’s league of goons.  First we get the arsonist and the guy stabbing the table:

Bart the Murderer24

They both look like tough and unscrupulous characters, and they perfectly set up Goon #3, who is playing the most intense game of jacks ever:

Bart the Murderer23

This guy is on screen for about two seconds while we hear his boss castigate Fat Tony.  Like Bart’s reaction, it doesn’t in any way need to be there.  But it’s quick, unobtrusive, and gives the scene and the episode just a little more depth.  Finishing touches like that pervade great Simpsons episodes, helping each one to be far more than the sum of its parts.

10 Responses to “Saturday Morning Cartoons”

  1. 10 October 2015 at 12:04 pm

    That goon’s playing the knife game, I think.

  2. 5 The Artist Formerly Known As Rob K.
    10 October 2015 at 4:01 pm

    The older generation of writers, etc put more care and thought into this. Jesus, help the newer generations of writers, etc learn from the older generations.

  3. 7 Frank
    11 October 2015 at 8:21 am

    hey on a different note, but related to this episode – did the Simpsons come up with the whole Flowers By Irene = FBI joke, or had that been around for a while?

  4. 8 Mr Cow
    11 October 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Also great is the way Skinner looks directly at Bart when telling that part of the story, as if to say “See?”

  5. 9 Ana_Filth
    12 October 2015 at 12:17 pm

    I also thought it was a stroke of pure genius that his timeframe on the basketball game was a whole day.

  6. 10 Victor Dang
    21 October 2015 at 11:32 am

    Regarding callbacks, don’t forget the one where both Fat Tony and Bat share the same “hiding their face” expression in both their respective news photos.

    Personally, right now my favorite callback joke in the Simpsons is from “Bart Gets Famous” where both the backstage guy and later Bart say “I wish I was dead.” Coming from a ten-year-old, that is just hilariously grim.

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