How do you feel the animation changed over the seasons and which is your preferred animated style?

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May 31, 2017
I thought this could be quite interesting, talking about the show from the first season onward (not the Tracy Ullman Shorts) we all know about the animation style from the first season to the second season and then of course in later seasons when they went digital (which the team didn't want to do but didn't have much choice because the animators pretty much refused to do the hand drawn stuff) however which is your favourite and why?

Of course, it was something that only had gradual changes and with that the difference from the first season to now how it evolved is huge, though there may be a point for people where they feel the animation was spot on for them and their preference.

For me, I really do love the first season, flaws and all, I just love the rawness of it, the quirky animation, I also love how they would exaggerate their facial expressions such as the wonky mouth etc.. it was something that I felt had such a huge appeal and probably part of the reason why people hooked onto The Simpsons in the first place, so this is probably my favourite animation style, even though it was far from polished but that for me makes it special and better, it's authentic really and I like that.

Of course, the second season did seem like quite a step up and I love the way those earlier seasons are animated also, around the 4th and 5th season they seemed to really find their feet better a bit more too so I love that whole period. I don't mind the vibrancy of the new seasons, I think this looks nice but it's sometimes a little stiff and when you compare the seasons today to the seasons where they would have the quirky mouth movements there's a huge difference.

So which period for you do you feel was the best animation style you liked the best? Of course like I say, it's been a slow gradual build so there isn't any specific seasons as such that pin point a certain animation style (give and take the first season I guess) but just in general, which animation period did you like the best and why?

I look forward to hearing from you guys.
I never paid much attention to the animation styles, but I do think the HD animtion is very crisp and clean with no imperfections. I can understand people liking the “human” element of the animation, but I like the cleanness of HD animation. I don’t know if it’s my favorite, though; like I said, it’s not something I put a lot of stock into.
Yeah, I can understand that, maybe if you watch through the seasons again at some point see if you can take note a little, although they're not massively different (unless you compare season one to today) they do have a nice feel during the seasons and different animation styles, the whole 90's era for sure I feel was great and has that nice feel with it but like you say too, I do like the HD seasons animation also in regards to the fact it is crisp, clear and more so vibrant for me, it's just the whole stiff thing I'm not quite as keen on (a good example is Marge in the intro), one of the things about The Simpsons and their characteristics was how versatile they were with their movement which I think was lost quite a bit with the digital animation.
The animation had a very natural evolution, I think. It started out fairly cruder and simpler (not without it's charm, as said before) and got better as it went on, with already the second season being an improvement where it came to character models, backgrounds and more and the third was another big step up, evolving and getting more crisp and way more expressive in the following season 4 and 5 before, I think, hitting it's stride around season 6, 7 & 8 by having found it's groove, not getting too exaggerated or going too off model and having a very good use of colors and lighting (I'd go out on a limb and say that those seasons have my preferred animation).

Then it continued from there on with some improvements and slight shifts here and there, reaching more of a consistency around season 10 and 11 before changing to digital colors in season 14, which looked kinda iffy at first but the animation itself was pretty good and improved bit by bit until the switch to HD in season 20 which was a game changer. The colors got very vivid and started off looking a bit too sharp and intense at times but got better as it went on and the animation with the character movement got more stiff and not as dynamic as before (which was the biggest problem) but this was also improved upon as it continued with the latest seasons looking much better, with the latest few having some great bits of fluidity, something that even the early Jean seasons didn't have often.

There is much more crispness and detail and consistency now compared to before and I do like that even though I prefer the older animation styles, even those of the very early seasons; there is still more warmth and humanity to that animation than what they have now, though I won't discredit the modern changes they have made as far as the animation goes altogether as it does it's job quite well and looks very solid overall.
I feel that the best animation style started around season 4 and continued until the switch to digital. After switching to digital things just got way too sterile and you didn't get as much of a range of great facial expressions as in the original style. I think that probably the best animation is in Radioactive Man, those crisp colours matched with the original animation just make it a spectacle really.
I didn't really notice a drastic change in the animation throughout the handdrawn seasons. Maybe I'm just not that observant. Season 1 obviously looks different but a .gif would really help. What I did notice however is that the the artists used to be super lazy. Unstraight lines on windows and doors, the famous "mush" the family ate for dinner. This got better as the seasons progressed (by the later seasons the Simpsons' meals were often easily identifiable as drumsticks, porkchops, etc and the "mystery mush" was apparently off the menu).
It depends on whether pure animation or direction is being judged here. I feel that the chief issue behind the sterile appearance of the Jean era in general (with the MacMullan episodes in seasons 13-15 and a fleeting few sequences in recent years) lies with uninspired direction, which simply doesn't leave the animation with anywhere particularly creative to go. Considering that, I would say that S1-8's direction (prior to Brad Bird's departure, which caused the appearance and colour palette of the show to lose their earlier cinematic flavoring and degrade into the appearance of a typical TV cartoon heading into S9) was by far the most unique and atmospheric (the last episode prior to the MacMullan era that I would cite as genuinely well directed would be "Lisa the Simpson", which is logical considering that it was the last episode in which Brad Bird and Silverman (S1-8's supervising director, I think) collaborated on to a significant extent).

Talking pure animation though, definitely the style of the S4-5 Rough Draft episodes - I genuinely love the looser and more cartoonish, yet surprisingly well-controlled and consistent style. Think the animation in "Homer the Heretic", "Mr. Plow" and "Homer Goes to College" and you'll get what I'm referring to. For a relatively late-season episode, I also admit to being surprised by the looseness/detail of the movement in the animation work on "Take My Wife, Sleaze" - the energy of the motion in Homer and Marge's duet at the diner, Meathook barraging through the house and yes, even the otherwise awful motorcycle swordfight is impressive considering the flat appearance of the majority of S11 episodes.
Yeah, I do feel that with the digital era we lost a lot of the fluency within their movements which was an initial charm of The Simpsons, as I say I know the team didn't want to switch over to digital animation but they had no choice due to the animators refusing to animate in hand drawn anymore so they eventually had to go with it, it's a shame really but I get it in regards to it being a lot of work but it's like the Marge example in the intro how different it is, this showcases it where as now she has just a stiff turn of the head, a lot is lost there with that.

Admittedly though I do love the vibrancy of the digital era but when push comes to shove, the original style is way better and so much is lost with this whole digital animation style.

About the un straight lines on windows and doors, I haven't noticed this in detail so will definitely check it out next time I watch one of the earlier seasons, with that in mind though I think that it's to do with the fact that the budget wasn't as big back then and they didn't have as much time to spend on it alongside the fact I think it's supposed to be styled that way, as again, it's the charm of it and I actually like it that way to be honest, I don't think it's down to laziness at all but the show was supposed to look like that, it was an extension of the Tracy Ullman Shorts which with season one they improved the characters so much for the series (for the better) yet still managed to keep that magical appeal those shorts had as when you think about it, they were making the show as a series off the back of that which people liked at the time, so it made sense to have it with that rough kinda style, it was great and I don't think it's laziness at all, just the style and the way it was :)
Mr. Burns already summed up what I think of the current animation style...
I've never had much of an opinion on the animation one way or the other, but one thing that's always stood out to me is when they switched over from coloring by hand to digital coloring full time. It's hard to explain, but I feel like the hand drawn coloring had a certain "warmth" to it, whereas the digital coloring has always felt sterile to me. If an episode comes on and I see that the coloring's digital, I sort of assume the episode's gonna suck (and I'm probably right, but I know it's not actually because of the coloring).
I like most of the animation pre-digital. Season 1 has its charm, but it's a little too rough. Season 2, while still a bit weird at times, is better. Digital allows things to get a bit too perfect. Give us wonky walls!
I think the HD look could work, though it'd maybe do with thicker/softer lines. Favourite style though? It'd say seasons 3/4. Everyone is more bug-eyed ina cute kinda way, to a lesser extent 5 too.
My fave style in terms of how I'd like to see the show animated has always been what Lauren MacMullan did with her framing, fluid animation and ambitious (for the time) use of shadow and lighting.

But when I think of how the show is "supposed to look" at any point in time, I simply go to Mark Kirkland. His style has evolved over time but it's always what I consider to be the canon look for the series and its characters. He's directed the most episodes from Season 2 through today so it sort of makes sense that I would feel this way. Especially when his on-model consistency has been so on point over that time.
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Hm, I usually measures via seasons rather than by art directors. Any examples of Mark's?
Think director wise, there's some of David Silverman's that are real gems, especially Bart the General and Black Widower come to mind!
Could you say Mark Kirkland is the John Swartzwelder of directors, since he's directed more episodes than anyone else?
I think the animation starting from Season 18, Season 19 and the first half of Season 20 was pretty good. I really like the animation during those seasons.
Here are my favorite images:
I know there's a different version of the animation during those seasons too, and I think it looks quite awful. This sort of animation feels fitting for Modern Simpson episodes, like it has some sort of comic style to it that makes it distinct from any other cartoon. It is why I hate HD animation, it looks like any other cartoon and it feels shallow, there should just be some style in the HD animation to make it appear non-identical to the other HD animations.