Here with my colleague Libby Ward (SneakyVarmint): 'Hi! I'm doing the typing, because I'm quick like a bunny!'

Excited to chat about the art of animation, creative colleagues (like Weird Al, Haskel Wexler & Ollie Johnston), and fascinating filmmaking. I'm the Consulting Director on the new animated comedy short: Techtopia. "The Finkelsteins, a family of out-dated gadgets, cast out of Techtopia by Gooog Inc, must find purpose again in the suburbs of Passé."

Make a pledge of $10 or more to the Techtopia Kickstarter, mention Reddit AMA in your backer note, and (as an add on) I'll mail you a signed postcard from my film The Moving Picture Co. 1914.

Watch my films: (The Moving Picture Co. 1914 on-demand on Vimeo) Back Techtopia: Proof:

Time to call it a night. Thank you all for your smart questions and kind compliments! This has been a lot of fun for both of us. Hope you get a kick out of Techtopia, and my personal website. Looking forward to doing this again. Cheers! Mark & Libby :D

Comments: 872 • Responses: 70  • Date: 

pipsdontsqueak3236 karma

In episode 2F09 when Itchy plays Scratchy's skeleton like a xylophone, he strikes the same rib twice in succession, yet he produces two clearly different tones. I mean, what are we to believe, that this is some sort of a magic xylophone or something?

Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.

MarkKirkland786 karma

Itchy and Scratchy are crudely produced cartoons by a fictitious cartoon company within the Simpsons world. Glad you caught the error, you are very observant! Lisa and Bart didn't seem to notice.

UGotSchlonged761 karma

Have you watched the Simpsons at all? I'm finding it pretty hilarious that every single Simpsons reference is going over your head.

DrShaufhausen38 karma

I think it's a matter of perspective. The specific jokes and dialogue are memorable to us as fans yes, but to him it's the creation of a show in its entirety that is memorable. He sounds like he creates a lot of media both Simpsons and his outside projects. I think it's pretty understandable that he may not remember minute details from all the scripts he's worked with.

Someone further down compared it to reading citations from all the papers and reports you wrote in school. I don't think I'd remember them.

MarkKirkland33 karma

You are spot on. Each episode is a lot of work. We put everything we have into it. When our next episode is assigned we are diligently focused on that episode. I'm on my 81st episode now. Thank you for joining in the discussion. We don't get to thank our fans enough.

wellwellwellreally397 karma

Are you related to the photographer Douglas Kirkland who took those pictures of Marylin Monroe in bed with the white sheets?

MarkKirkland479 karma

Yes, he is my father.

wellwellwellreally183 karma

whoa! how much did your father teach you, if any, about photography that your still use today in your work?

MarkKirkland274 karma

He taught me most of what I know, and continues to.

thenaughtyknitter283 karma

What do you think about a lot of people saying that the Simpsons episodes have been decreasing in comedic value? Also, what's your favorite character?

MarkKirkland211 karma

My favorite character is Homer- he makes me laugh the most!

For long-term Simpsons crew members, it's really tough to be objective. It's like asking a parent, "Who is your favorite child?" We may not be the best people to ask. Over time, opinions may evolve and favorites may emerge. But, looking at the series as a whole it's a high achievement in entertainment history.

It's amazing that we are still in the initial run of the series!

sahkuh171 karma

"Last Exit to Springfield" is usually regarded as the best Simpsons episode ever (followed by "You Only Move Twice"). Did you notice anything different about this episode than the others you had directed earlier?

MarkKirkland217 karma

Boy, that's a really REALLY good question! "Last Exit to Springfield" was a great script...very surreal. And it was unusual when we got it, for that reason. It slips and slides around from past to present tense. The team that worked on it was experienced, yet youthful.

I remember adding one gag...when Lenny threatened Homer that he would punch him in the back of the head the next day, I said, "Let's see it!" I staged it with Homer drinking a hot cup of coffee, because I thought the worst time to get punched is when you're drinking something hot! Later, we found out the episode was too long. I called Al Jean and confessed I had added this visual joke and he said, "Keep it." They trimmed some other spots. :) Today, when you watch the episode, you'll see Lenny punch Homer.

My brilliant Assistant Director, Susie Dietter, did the layout drawings with Mister Burns parodying The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Amazing layout artist, Paul Wee, drew the Batman inspired dental office scene AND did the scene of Lisa playing the guitar. He is an actual guitar player and the chords she's playing are accurate- considering Lisa only has 3 fingers and a thumb! (Matt Groening appreciated that).

I storyboarded the Yellow Submarine dream sequence. There was a lot of story jammed into that episode! Simpsons writers (Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky) and the artists were all at the top of their game.

neo-ninja113 karma

Are you a scientologist?

MarkKirkland209 karma


Superflypirate48 karma

When will the Simpsons come to an end?

MarkKirkland74 karma

Great question. I don't know. I hope they go on forever.

DarthStormwizard43 karma

What's weird Al like?

MarkKirkland62 karma

Super nice guy! I've worked with him twice on the Simpsons and he made a guest appearance in one of my own films.

strawbarry5k41 karma

How does it feel to be part of a show that was once the go to show for adult entertainment?

MarkKirkland61 karma

Sincerely, it's been an honor to work on a show that is so popular.

rockguitarfan36 karma

How did your rejection from Disney originally affect you?

MarkKirkland63 karma

Good question rockguitarfan. It opened my eyes to other opportunities and I think that was a great lesson for me. I had high hopes for getting a job there and I was initially crushed when I was rejected. Things don't always go the way a person hopes or plans, but I was persistent. Within a week of being turned town by Disney, I had a gig at Hanna Barbera where my television career began. Over the years I was fortunate to work on projects for Disney and today I have many friends who work there.

blobbebeastn36 karma

What should I do with my girlfriend for our 3 year anniversary?

MarkKirkland84 karma

Activities are more memorable than things (depending on her individual tastes of course). Maybe think of something she would be excited for you to do together and surprise her. Depending on her, maybe there's something else you should discuss with her. ;)

graygray9736 karma

what is your favourite episode and also who is your favourite character in the main cast?

MarkKirkland72 karma

"Lisa's Substitute" Homer is my favorite character. I laugh at him the most!

graygray9734 karma

ahh, my favourite episode personally is "the mysterious voyage of our homer" which as i just found out from the wiki is 6 days older than me. Also my favourite character is milhouse

MarkKirkland39 karma

Also excellent choices!

WIPackerGuy33 karma

Who's your next president?

MarkKirkland122 karma

Ralph Wiggum!

GiantAcroyear97 karma

You choo-chooo-choose him?

MarkKirkland84 karma

Yep! My cat's breath smells like cat food.

KetchupGuy132 karma

How's your day?

MarkKirkland64 karma

Great! Thanks for asking KetchupGuy1! Spent the morning editing a new documentary I'm working on called Bud's Odyssey about a WWII bomber pilot in a flying fortress.

lordlollygag27 karma

You directed two episodes featuring Beatles- Lisa The Vegetarian (Paul) and Homer's Barbershop Quartet (George). Did you get to meet either of them? Also, favorite Beatles song?

MarkKirkland42 karma

I wish! Paul and Linda McCartney were recorded in England. And I was so busy with my animation, I did not get to meet George (regrettably).

Wow! My favorite Beatles song? That's a tough one! Here are a few: And I Love Her, Day in the Life, Something, When I Saw Her Standing There, While My Guitar Gently Weeps...I just love so many! I love their whole catalogue. It's like naming your favorite child...impossible!

IRABaboon25 karma

Howdy guys, Mark, what's your favourite Coen brothers film and are there any film directors you admire for any reason you might share?

MarkKirkland47 karma

Raising Arizona, it's an oldie. No Country for Old Men- that was great.

Live action directors: John Ford, George Stevens, Frank Capra, and Leo McCarey...Kurosawa, Jean Renoir, Hitchcock, Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Stanley Kubrick. I love the classics and I know I'm naming a lot but these are all directors who influenced me.

More contemporary: Steven Spielberg, James L. Brooks, J. J. Abrams, Martin Scorsese and all my fellow Simpsons directors.

All of these directors made films that moved me (and millions of other people). Another important influence was my CalArts teacher Alexander "Sandy" Mackendrick.

Finally, a great influence, who I loved, is my dear friend and mentor the late great Haskell Wexler.

Readitigetit23 karma

I really loved The Moving Picture Company 1914...How did you get Weird Al to play Jesus?

MarkKirkland26 karma

We had worked together before and he liked another short film I did called: A Letter From Home (avail for free on Vimeo)! I asked him and he said, "Sure, I'll help you. It was that easy!" Thank you for watching The Moving Picture Co. 1914!

tagalogignition15 karma

tissue orientation: over or under?

MarkKirkland25 karma

Maybe the question should be Sears catalogue or Montgomery Ward's in the outhouse? ;)

lakersarethebest14 karma

How did you come to be a director? What sort of background training did you have? Who are your influences?

MarkKirkland21 karma

Great question! I grew up watching old movies on television. I loved Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin. I studied drawing and made Super 8 films when I was a kid. Then I went to CalArts, studied animation and worked my way up through the industry.

liamquane10 karma

Hi Mr. Kirkland and Miss/Mrs. Ward! Do you have any directorial advice?

thanks Liam

MarkKirkland14 karma

Study filmmaking. There are lots of crafts that go into making a film. You should decide which of those you like the most and work on that, but you should learn something about all the different crafts, including: photography/cinematography, staging, acting, editing, music, etc. It's hard work but each of these crafts is so interesting and rewarding to study. It should be fun! Good luck Liam!

AdilB1019 karma

Did you ever work with Conan O'Brien, and what was he like?

MarkKirkland21 karma

I did work with Conan. He was always so much fun!...personable and funny as hell! Brilliant guy, I can see why he's been so successful.

10mooses9 karma

Was there ever any regret that the simpsons never aged?

MarkKirkland23 karma

I don't think they mind!

ijustakid8 karma

Do you play any instruments? What was your favorite band growing up?

MarkKirkland9 karma

I play the clarinet. I did my own clarinet playing in my films: The Moving Picture Co. 1914 and Libby Ward's The Audition (which I also directed). You can visit my website to check out these films. I also have a passion for vintage clarinets!

My favorite band was the Beatles, beyond a doubt. As a kid, they were the best!

DatPham8 karma

With upcoming VR technology finally hitting peoples' homes soon and presumably becoming mainstream in a few years, how do you see that intersecting with TV and movies? As a filmmaker, do you have any interest in familiarizing yourself with it in the early stages, or are you taking a wait and see approach?

If helpful, here's something worth reading depending on your level of familiarity with the technology and the possibilities in the near-future:

MarkKirkland10 karma

I think it's fascinating. In the hands of a good storyteller it could be an amazing tool. I would love to experiment.

I've always been interested in storytelling and picture making. 30 years ago, I took a course, and in a day, I made a hologram. It blew my mind! I can't wait to see what comes next.

beadlejuice445 karma

What's your favorite Simpson's episodes?

MarkKirkland9 karma

"Lisa's Substitute"

beadlejuice445 karma

Thank you! That's a classic for sure, it is hard to pick a favorite episode

MarkKirkland8 karma

So difficult! :)

lakersarethebest5 karma

In the early episodes was Matt more involved with your directing? How do they assign episodes to a dir?

MarkKirkland10 karma

Matt still is involved with these shows; he cares very much about the series. I'm not privy to how they assign episodes. Sometimes I think it's rotation: which script is ready and which director is ready in a line up. I think there are particular times when specific episodes are assigned for example: Al Jean told Matt that he wanted me to direct the episode where the Simpsons went to England because he knew I had gone to England with the Simpsons writers, and cast members, and had taken a lot of photographs.

ScoopJaxson4 karma

who was your favorite guest appearance on The Simpsons?

MarkKirkland3 karma

Weird Al Jankovic

Belrox2 karma

Are you excited?

MarkKirkland6 karma


Supernova61 karma

Who will you vote for?

MarkKirkland6 karma

I would vote for Marge. ;)

jswan441 karma

Do you smoke?

MarkKirkland5 karma


tossitawayandbefree1 karma

I just check out your project you are consulting on Techtopia. It's very clever. Do you think jobs like yours, directors, will become obsolete and have to move to Passe? Meaning, do you think an A.I. could ever do your job?

MarkKirkland2 karma

How do you know I'm not an A.I.?! It's a Brave New World! (kidding)

Thanks for checking out Techtopia, and for your positive feedback. The ever-present concern that we could be replaced, I think, makes Techtopia very timely. From what I can see Techtopia will also have a lot of heart in it.

There's something about the human touch that audiences love. I don't think that will go away.

Skullify1 karma

How did the idea of Tapped Out come to be? Its absolutely brilliant!

MarkKirkland3 karma

I was so focused on my animation episodes. (Homer needs a lot of attention)! It was all conceived without me by other Simpsons masterminds.

007A991 karma


In the forseeable future, could you see the simpsons coming to an end? Or will you keep making new epidsodes as long as you can keep creating good content?

MarkKirkland2 karma

I have a funny feeling there will be Simpsons long after I'm gone. Similar to the likes of Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, I think The Simpsons will continue to entertain future generations.

alrebmik1 karma

What's your favorite color?

MarkKirkland2 karma

I have two different colored eyes: one brown, one blue. I think those are both my favorite colors. :)

sedated_faith1 karma

hi /u/markkirkland - love your commentary on the simpsons dvds, as a fan of the show thank you for participating on those!

two of my favorite episodes you directed were in season 8 - "the homer they fall" and "mountain of madness", totally different episodes but equally crazy. is it more difficult to direct the really crazy stuff or the simple down to earth stuff? thanks!

MarkKirkland2 karma

Great question, thank you for your compliment. I love both those episodes and put a lot of myself into them.

High concept or small intimate episodes are equally difficult because getting the details right is so important. We do a lot of research for the high concept shows and a lot of personal digging for observational details in the more intimate episodes.

Jobokeh0 karma

Why hasn't there been more Simpsons movies?

MarkKirkland1 karma

We're too busy making TV episodes!

supermanlovesbatman0 karma

Batman or superman?

MarkKirkland3 karma

When I was a kid, I preferred Superman.

supermanlovesbatman1 karma

He loves batman though

MarkKirkland2 karma

Both are good.

PhilMcCoq0 karma

Favourite Simpsons Opening?

MarkKirkland5 karma

The evolution couch gag. It was conceived by Matt Selman and I was lucky to storyboard -pitch in some gags- and direct it.