A show like The Simpsons—a show that’s aired more than 700 episodes over 32 years—is bound to change in all sorts of ways over the years. Some of these changes have resulted in distinct eras that people love and hate with equal enthusiasm. Others, as a video about the evolution of its animation style from Insider details, are just reflections of changes not just in The Simpsons’ creative process but also to animation techniques and technological standards.
The video follows The Simpsons’ art style as it moved from the loose interpretations of Matt Groening sketches used for The Tracey Ullman Show’s shorts to the more familiar look that continued to develop over the show’s early years. For a while, the basic look of the characters was in flux as its animators experimented with different concepts and trained new colleagues.
During its first season, though, model sheets were created that solidified what kind of attributes each member of the cast needed to have in order to be portrayed with consistency. By the second season, an “almost 500 page style bible” had been created with very specific instructions for how the characters should look and move.
Aside from small changes, it wasn’t until The Simpsons’ began transitioning into digital animation in the second half of the 1990s and early ‘00s that its style noticeably altered again. Over time, digital techniques allowed for a crisper look that culminated in the release of the 2007 movie, which featured a blend of 2D animation and CGI along with an expanded color palette meant to make it look better on theater screens. The approach taken for the movie ended up helping with the move to high-definition resolutions, which led to animation and direction choices still in use today. (Though the video notes that its showrunners are still playing around with various aspects of its look.)
For more on the history of The Simpsons look, watch the full Insider video.
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