ASUCI Brings Co-Director of ‘The Simpsons’ to Speak at UCI

Dressed in faded jeans, a wool coat and a black T-shirt with a drawing of ‘Sideshow Bob’ in the center, co-director of ‘The Simpsons’ David Silverman showed video clips from the hit series and talked about his experiences working on the show in front of a large, enthusiastic and constantly laughing audience in the Humanities Instructional Building on March 10.
Brought to UCI by ASUCI’s Office of Academic Affairs, Silverman began the presentation by talking about his experience getting into the animation business.
‘I graduated from UCLA in 1982 … at an age that was one of the worst times for animation, I think,’ Silverman said. ‘I did work for a Saturday morning animation, with such fine programs as ‘Turbo Teen.’ Anybody see ‘Turbo Teen?’ It was about a teenager who turns into a car.’
After reminiscing about his early career, he then moved on to describe his early working experiences on ‘The Simpsons.’
‘Seventeen years ago we started working on [‘The Simpsons’] for The ‘Tracy Ulman Show,” Silverman said. ‘In the early days, we would animate and clean up in a week, about a minute and a half of animation, about 400 to 600 drawings in a week between three, and then later, two people, which is about 80 hours a week, and not that much has changed.’
Silverman then revealed the first of many little facts about ‘The Simpsons’ to the audience.
‘I don’t know for sure, but the characters are yellow because Bart and Lisa and Maggie don’t have hairlines,’ Silverman said. ‘But Matt Groening loved it, and the rest is history.’
Following a presentation of early versions of ‘The Simpsons’ that were seen in the late 1980s
on ‘The Tracy Ulman Show,’ Silverman described how
‘The Simpsons’ animation developed into its modern, consistent form.
‘A lot of it was developed by us, drawing the characters and saying, ‘How are we drawing Bart today?” Silverman said.
In addition, Silverman his thoughts on the reasons for the show’s success.
‘The key to the success of ‘The Simpsons’ early on, and I
think continuing, is that it
has to have some heart to it,’ Silverman said. ‘If it doesn’t have any heart, the scathing satire is not going to be as funny, if you don’t give a thought about your characters.’
He then went on to show more clips from the show, and revealed interesting tidbits about ‘The Simpsons.’ Silverman said that the idea for Bart’s best friend Milhouse came from a character on a Butterfinger commercial. The idea for Itchy and Scratchy actually did not come from Tom and Jerry. And Homer’s famous exclamation ‘Doh!’ was inspired from ‘The Three Stooges.’
A Q-and-A session followed Silverman’s presentation and many people in the audience asked questions, ranging from his experience working with Conan O’Brien, his thoughts on competing cartoons such as ‘The Family Guy,’ to detailed questions about specific characters and specific episodes.
Silverman then demonstrated
his creative talents by drawing
various Simpsons characters on a large drawing pad and to the delight of the audience, finished off the night with an autograph session.
Students who attended the presentation were not disappointed.
‘The presentation was really good,’ said Melvin Chen, a
second-year biomedical engineering major. ‘I have a lot
more respect for ‘The Simpsons.’ I think I’m going to watch them more.’
Jessica Hart, a third-year psychology and social behavior major, agreed with Chen.
‘I thought it was awesome,’ Hart said. ‘I learned that they were just a bunch of big kids. There are jobs out there that you can get where you can enjoy what you’re doing.’