IAmA Simpsons / Family Guy Animator AMA
Here's my imdb page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2483667/ My personal website: http://lucasgray.com and here's my latest work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9G8XREyG0Q
You folks ever hide things in your drawings that would get you in trouble if you were ever caught? Any examples or stories you'd care to share?
That's exactly the kind of thing that could lose us our dream job, so not really. I've heard of it happening, and I've heard of it costing at least one guy his dream job.
Is it true that sometimes, to save money, animators reuse the same background over and over and over again?
There is very little reuse. It's seems like it's easier to just hammer it out than go find a BG or animation pose that's just right for the situation. If it's a stock BG like the living room from straight on, you can get away with it, but otherwise, we redraw!
How do you like the Family Guy team compared to the Simpsons team? Where do you get along better / feel more appreciated?
Both teams are fantastic. I've been at the Simpsons since 1991, so that's my family, but Family Guy has got a lot of energy. I've had the exact same debates about whether the Star Wars prequels exist, at both studios, multiple times.
Thanks for the reply.
So there is no enmity or rivalry between the shows that makes you somewhat caught between the stools?
There maybe used to be, but I think it's settled down.
So do you believe the Star Wars prequels exist or not?
I don't know what you're talking about. I remember when I was a kid George Lucas SAID he WANTED to make prequels, but to my knowledge that never. happened.
Please answer me this... How long does it take (from start to finish) to produce one episode of The Simpsons? I heard a quote a long time ago that said it was 8 months but that sounded like such a long time.
It takes 8 months for an episode of the Simpsons, from the time we get the script at the animation studio, to the time it airs. I don't know how long they take to write the script over at Fox. Family Guy is a little faster.
Whats the strangest thing you have ever been asked to draw?
Once in a Simpsons design meeting we saw that a sandwich stapled to a wall was something we could pull from the files. That was a strange moment when we realized how long the show had been going on.
Have you ever drawn any of the guest celebrities on either show? If so, who? Thanks!
Man, that's a big question that goes back YEARS, but I'll try to think of a few: Tom Hanks Mark McGuire? Pele Anne Hathaway James Woods Adam West Some football guy that steps out of a poster on the wall when Bart is living in a mansion when his twin swapped lives with him?
Do you ever want to add stupid, funny, sexy things to normal animations?
My first year at The Simpsons, (3rd season) a guy got fired for adding stuff in the BG. And the shows are funny enough.
Just uploaded some proof of i.d. on my website. Go to the polaroid and the last picture is me in front of this ImA AMA.
How did you start out learning how to animate? Did you take any classes on art, anatomy, etc.?
I was always encouraged to draw. My dad used to give me exercises like drawing him in 1 minute or drawing him without looking at the page. Later found out that these are basic drawing lessons but I thought they were just games. Then I did graffiti in high school and that developed it a bit. Then a lot of life drawing.
Who is your favorite and least favorite character to draw?
I am going to say: Favorite: Mr. Burns. No wait! Moe! Least fave: Brian. He's really really, hard to get his eyes and ears and forehead right. For me.
I thought these shows were illustrated overseas - maybe in Korea? I'm not sure why I think this. I dimly recall reading an article about South Park and how they can cover current events in their shows because animation is done, like, 24/7 on site, but they said shows like Simpsons and Family were done in advance and outsourced. Is this wrong?
We set down the skeleton of the shows here, taking them to a point called an animatic. This is so the writers and producers can control the content to the point they're confident that the show's jokes are all playing. Then it gets sent to Korea to be in-betweened and colored. They send back a finished show that we then have one more round of retakes on to get it juuuuust riiiiiiiight.
The way I understood it, employed animators draw the keyframes and they outsource all the in-between stuff to foreign countries (usually multiple studios) to fill up the 24 frames per second or whatever they need.
What software do you guys use to animate in the studios?
Both studios use Toonboom. I use Storyboard Pro and the animators use Pencil Check(I think).
Hi, yes I'm the animator and I thought the instructions indicated that I should list 5 potential questions.
What sort of proof, other than the links I provided, should I submit?
Hi, yes I'm the animator and I thought the instructions indicated that I should list 5 potential questions. What sort of proof, other than the links I provided, should I submit?
How has the animating business changed the most in the last 10 years?
Believe it or not, computers have only come into the picture in the last few years. Because both shows began in the days of pencil and paper, they were slow to migrate over to digital production. Now they both use computers heavily, though they're still hand drawn.
I have to take off for a while, thanks everyone for this fun chat! Please go over to youtube and check out my new political cartoon! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9G8XREyG0Q
I'll check back in a little while, Lucas
Were there any particular episodes of either show that were more challenging to animate? Or is it all pretty standard.
It's an interesting question. Sometimes scenes that seem like they'll be a piece of cake, like two people sitting and talking, are tricky to make work cause there's so little going on. OThers that I expect to be hell, with armies of UPS drivers attacking a castle made of cardboard boxes, are clear cut. That's from a storyboard POV, which is what I do now. From an actual Korean animator's POV, I'm sure they'll take the living room scene.
I feel a bit naive for asking, but since you worked on Simpsons, do you now if the rumor about that lost episode "dead bart" that's floating around on internet is true or if it's just another silly creepypasta story?
never heard that one.
What's the most difficult part of your job? The most rewarding?
The most difficult is combining all of the requirements that every drawing must have: Model(looks like the character), Action(clear what they are doing), Acting(why they are doing it?), Volume(feels dimensional), Movement(works not just on it's own but with the drawings before and after) and right when you have all that done, you realize it's too small for the character next to it! Computers have made that part a lot easier. Lasso and resize. In the xerox days it was a hassle! Most rewarding thing: making a scene FUNNIER.
Which show do you have more fun working on?
I guess I care more about the Simpson family, and these days I laugh a bit more at the Griffins. That translates to the work too. Not just watching.
My son is obsessed with animation and works on Adobe Flash several hours a day. Will you give him some encouragement? He wants to be an animator one day.
What is your favorite part of the process of animating?
I can give the encouraging words that working several hours a day on ANYTHING will give great results. Especially if there's a passion for something early? Nurture it and it will bloom!
In the recent seasons of The Simpsons, there are a lot of shadows. Is this a result of computers during the production?
Also secondly, do you guys subcontract to Korea?
Ever since the movie and even more HDTV, the producers have wanted a higher level of detail.
And yes, the show is finished in Korea.
Have you done any 3D animation, or just 2D? What were you doing before Simpsons?
Never done any 3D. Before Simpsons I was a student at Hampshire College.
Would you rather be Bart Simpson or Stewie Griffin?
Would you rather only ever have to draw Bart forever, or only ever draw Stewie forever, for the rest of time? Every time you place your hand to paper, it will draw either Bart or Stewie. I imagine this is an artist's hell.
It also happens to be my life.
do you get a lot of shit for doing both series?
There was a time when that movement between wasn't so easy. I think it's relaxed a bit. The hardest thing now is adjusting back and forth between styles.
Is it true that the great thing about animation is that you don't have to pay the actors squat and that they can change them and nobody would know the diddly difference?
If that were true the 6 main Simpsons voices would be long gone. They can't replace them and so they must pay them BIG. BUCKS.
Hello Lucas! Thanks for doing an AMA! My question is, are the animations split into different sections, like one animator draws a certain person, and you draw another? If so who do you draw for each shows?
In TV animation all character animators draw all characters. Disney feature creates divisions that specialize in specific characters to really get the nuanced performances. We have departments for Design, Storyboard, Character Layout, BG, Color, Timing, Animatics...I think those are the biggies.
Thanks for doing the ama! My question is.Why do you think Lisa is presented like an very intelligent child in some episodes,in others - just as dumb as bart? Keep up the good work!
Those character/story decisions are done by Gracie at the Fox lot , and I work from Film Roman, the animation studio in Burbank. I've wondered similar things but have no answer for you.
Do you have any orginal content?
Yes! I JUST uploaded a campaign cartoon that I made with some seriously talented animators! Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9G8XREyG0Q
Do you have any say in the content?
I would say almost no say in WHAT happens, but some say in HOW things happen. If you're really good, and you make funny drawings, you get more say. I'm in the middle somewhere!
What is the office atmosphere like? Do people prank on others? Do you interact with the writers and voices often? Would it be strange to see someone shooting nurf guns across the room?
HAHA! That IS the fantasy of what an animation studio is like! It's more like The Office than people would probably guess, with cubicles and stacks of paper. There are the occasional shenanigans involving nurf-based products.
Would you have sex with Louis IRL?
Is Peter in on it or are we cheating?
I thought that all of the animation for the simpsons was done somewhere in South Korea?
The show is started in Los Angeles, and finished in Korea.
Are you still able to watch the shows on TV?
For much of my time in animation I haven't had cable. Just DVDs. I've missed a LOT of episodes. But I have cable now and when I see them, I generally watch them.
Thanks for the AMA!
Without telling us what it is, do you know if the final episode of The Simpsons has already been written, if there's a general idea so far, or if that's too far down the road at this point?
It won't be hard for me not to give away spoilers, because I HAVE NO IDEA!!
So, I just uploaded a personal project to Youtube. It's an animated campaign cartoon, made with the help of some seriously talented animators! Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9G8XREyG0Q
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