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David Silverman on The Simpsons Movie

Published July 28, 2007 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox.
The Simpsons Movie The Simpsons Movie

David Silverman was a director on the early years of The Simpsons. He went on to codirect movies like Monsters, Inc. so he was a natural choice to finally bring the Simpsons to the big screen. It is animated in widescreen Cinemascope, taking the visuals to the cinematic level..

David Silverman on The Simpsons Movie


“It was always a balance of what you wanted to elaborate on for the big screen but you don’t want to cut your ties from what the show is,” said Silverman. “The specific acting style of the Simpsons which may be born out of a limitation of animation but it was also a conscious choice in terms of performance, in holding back and being more realistic really, in how people perform, wanting crazy, goofy looking animation characters who act more and more like human characters act. And that actually calls for more restraint than people realize. We try to think of the people who are animating and we realised we wanted something that has a control to it.”

Simpsons jokes can be wild and physical, but the stories are also emotionally resonant. Making the film emotional was key. “At a certain point, earlier and the much later in the production we had actually our animation and clean up staff do specific shots. So we were able to do, as you say, not only have them turn around overseas but also here in town, just to make sure we had this key emotional or key acting things finished. And so that was very liberating. Additionally, wide screen format almost impossible 2.35:1 ratio as opposed to a 1.85:1 standard widescreen ratio to give a greater distinction between the show and the movie and then added more colour details to the background.”

For the jokes, the comedy could not go overboard. When Homer glues his hands to his crotch, they could have gone further but chose not to. “I was going to say, the cojones joke, they actually added in more and we thought it was funny but then we realized less is more in this case. As funny as the additional stuff is, cut it back and leave people wanting more.”



The Simpsons is well known for all of its background jokes. There are still plenty in the movie, but they did not take advantage of the larger frame to just dump jokes into every corner. “We thought, ‘Oh, the big screen, we can put more physical details, movement in the background.’ You really can't because what it does is distracts. It upstages, especially more so with animation because animation being a caricature of life, any additional movements you had where it may be a background element in live action, feels like, ‘Oh, that's important for me to look what happened.’ So we tried that and it didn't really work.”

To artfully make use of the full cinema frame, Silverman looked at classic films like Bad Day at Black Rock and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. “It was actually a suggestion of a friend of mine who has done art direction for widescreen before. He said look at those, particularly Bad Day at Black Rock, just look for the almost architectural approach to the staging, just to get your mind about staging things for widescreen, the composition and staging. Mad, Mad World is great because you have a lot of characters, a lot of funny characters in one shot, in one take sometimes. Really well staged in where they're placed. And you focus your attention. You've got eight or ten funny people in one shot and really well done. You're looking at this, you're looking at this, you're looking at that. That's key in directing, where you want to eye to go. So both of those films are very good examples of a big wide canvas, a lot of people but directing the eye specifically where you want it to go.”

The Simpsons Movie is out in theaters now.

For the trailers, review, posters, synopsis and more movie info, go to The Simpsons Movie Movie Page.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of 20th Century Fox.
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