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The Making of the Simpsons

As a diehard fan of "The Simpsons," I'm always on the lookout for hard-to-find collectibles and interesting articles. Around Christmas a few years ago, I was standing in line at the grocery store when the latest Canadian TV Guide featuring Homer and Marge on the cover caught my eye. I grabbed a few copies of the magazine and perused to the feature entitled "The Art of Making Bart" - an in-depth look into the creation of the series. And let me to tell you, that, after reading the article, did I have a better appreciation for the creators, writers and actors on the show.

Did you know that it takes up to nine months to complete just one episode of the Simpsons? Throughout this lengthy process over 300 people consisting of writers, producers, directors, animators, actors, technicians and scores of other talent add their expertise to the making of each episode.

The creation of a single script takes on average three months to complete by a 15-member writing crew, who often work 52 weeks a year to hammer out 24 new episodes of the show.

Throughout the months of July to November, the voice cast of the Simpsons gathers for a script 'read-through' each week around a long table in a recording studio at Twentieth Century Fox. On Mondays, the actors assemble for the recording session where they are seated on swivel seats or they are standing at microphones with their scripts on music stands. Quite often, scenes from each episode are recorded more than once to ensure continuity in line readings. Much of the show is also ad-libbed as the actors are given the freedom to add their own humor and witticisms.

Once an episode's script and audiotape are complete, they are sent to Film Roman, an animation house in North Hollywood. At Film Roman, several storyboard artists create rough sketches of the entire episode and then return them to the writers and producers at FOX for approval. The process can take up to four weeks but once approvals and revisions are completed, the storyboards are returned to Film Roman where a Design Department incorporate the characters, props and backgrounds onto the storyboards.

Over eleven weeks, the Camera Department takes all of the storyboards and photographs each drawing on animation stands. The drawings are then assembled into a rough copy of computerized video and mixed with the voice-over recordings. Once this step has been completed, the rough copy is sent to a Color Design Department that performs a color mark-up.

According to the article, the show uses a limited palette of only 200 colors to achieve that 'original' look and feel of the Simpsons. After the color mark-up is completed, the layout is shipped to Korea for animation. Two months later, the inking and painting of a single episode are completed in Korea and returned to Los Angeles where the finishing touches are made.

Each episode of the Simpsons has an original score composed by Emmy award winning composer, Alf Clausen. An orchestra, consisting of 35 musicians, performs at Twentieth Century FOX studios under the direction of Clausen. Once an episode's score is completed, the sound effects are added and the episode is edited and mixed at Sony Studios.

The process of creating one single episode of the Simpsons is quite remarkable. After reading the article, I must admit I was completely oblivious to how much time and effort so many people brought to the show. Knowing all of that now, this is one fan who will certainly appreciate Sunday nights at 8 o'clock a lot more.

** Facts and photographs for this article were obtained from Canadian TV Guide.