‘Simpsons’ Halloween ‘Treehouse’ challenged animators

‘Simpsons’ Halloween ‘Treehouse’ challenged animators

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Marge becomes possessed by The Pooka Dook. Photo courtesy of 20th Television

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 28 (UPI) — The Simpsons writer-producer Carolyn Omine said “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII,” premiering Sunday on Fox, challenged animators with styles new to the series. This includes a satire of Death Note, called “Death Tome,” rendering The Simpsons characters in Japanese anime style.

Omine, 60, said she wanted to include Japanese animation because she is half Japanese and grew up watching anime. The Simpsons animators made some changes from the show’s normal animation to Japanese anime style.

For example, “Our characters blink much more often,” Omine told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

The Simpsons ultimately hired the Korean studio DR Movie to animate the “Death Tome” segment. Omine combined the looks of existing anime characters to approximate what Homer, Lisa and others would look like in anime.

For Homer, The Simpsons added a five o’clock shadow and removed hair from the head of Akira Takaoka from Assassination Classroom. Newscaster Kent Brockman took the chiseled features of Death Note’s Chief of Police Soichiro Yagami and grayed his hair.

The anime Mr. Burns combined Death Note’s Watari and Roger Ruvie. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice other Springfield residents passing by the background and Springfield shops in the anime style city.

“It’s supposed to look like Tokyo, but it’s Springfield,” Omine said.

A Westworld spoof turns The Simpsons into robot hosts in a theme park based on the series. The segment opens with a scene from the classic episode “Marge Vs. the Monorail,” which was animated in standard definition in 1993.

Now, high definition characters interact with the monorail episode, but Omine changed the original scene from night to daytime to fit the “Simpsons World” story.

“The establishing shot of the monorail is a shot from the [original] show,” Omine said.

Like in Westworld, the Homer host realizes he is a robot. Homer wakes robot versions of Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie to escape Simpsons World.

Their escape takes the Simpsons through robotic recreations of past episodes. Like Westworld, this also presents the Simpsons with an existential crisis.

“How would the characters feel if they woke up and realized they were part of this giant franchise?” Omine said.

“Treehouse of Horror XXXIII” was one of four episodes for which Omine was put in charge for Season 34. Omine said showrunner Matt Selman encouraged her to keep adding more homages to classic episodes.

“Once we started storyboarding it, then Matt would go, ‘More,'” Omine said. “We’d come up with lists and lists and lists. Then he’d still say, ‘More.'”

Scenes expanded to include more and more references to past episodes. For example, Homer picks one of many Lisa robots, each dressed in a different outfit, from one of Lisa’s past episodes.

“When they actually lay it out, [animators] go, ‘Oh, actually, we need more Lisas,'” Omine said. “So then you just start racking your brain. How many other Lisas are there? Are they recognizable?”

One difference between “Simpsons World” and Westworld is that the Simpsons robots are not anatomically correct. Omine said The Simpsons wanted to avoid any allusion to the rape of robots as depicted on the HBO drama.

“People are not going into the park and abusing these robots in that way,” Omine said.

The wraparound segment that introduces the three “Treehouse” segments also was a new animation challenge.

In that, aliens Kang and Kodos are reading from a live-action book. Omine said stop-animation was used to move the book, and the aliens’ tentacles, frame by frame.

The Chiodo Brothers joined The Simpsons’ Mike B. Anderson and Tom Klein for the book sequence.

“That tentacle is a little foam thing that they just bent,” Omine said. “I wrote all the text, so there’s actually a little extra story there for people if you go back and freeze frame and read what’s in the book.”

The most traditional segment of “Trehouse” for Omine was a satire of The Babadook called “The Pooka Dook.” Marge reads to Maggie from a spooky pop-up book modeled after The Babadook.

“I wanted to be even more elaborate,” Omine said. “It’s less scary the first time you see the Pooka Dook and then when the book comes back it’s much scarier.”

Omine joined The Simpsons in 1998. Her first episode as co-producer was 1998’s “Treehouse of Horror IX,” and her first produced script was 2000’s “Little Big Mom.”

Omine said of her four Season 34 episodes, “Treehouse” demanded the majority of her attention.

“It’s much harder to do that many different things, especially when there’s so many different things going on in this one episode,” Omine said.

The Simpsons airs Sundays at 8 p.m. EDT on Fox.

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