The Simpsons Folder
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Hitting a Homer
May 8, 1998, By Ben Rayner, Ottawa Sun
As far as members of the Simpsons cult are concerned, David Silverman used to have the best job in the world. The Los Angeles-based animator is one of the original artists who brought Matt Groening’s semi-functional cartoon family to the small screen 11 years ago, first as an anarchic segment of the Tracey Ullman Show and then in its present incarnation as a hit weekly series.
And although Silverman stepped down as the show’s supervising director last year, he was still quite happy to chat about his work — and air a little “rare and unseen” Simpsons’ footage — yesterday with a conference of information-technology professionals at the Congress Centre.
“I couldn’t really tell you (why) they invited me,” he says, kicking back with a beer after doodling and autographing several dozen pictures of crowd favorites Homer, Bart, Lisa and Krusty the Clown for a long lineup of fans. “They thought it would be interesting, and I guess The Simpsons is a form of communication.”
Silverman, a Maryland native, is the first to admit it’s “kind of startling” to see just how popular a form of communication the oft-emulated Simpsons has become. In fact, he says, it wasn’t until he hit the lecture circuit that he got an idea of the “impact” the show has had on people.
“When we were doing the television show, (animator) Wes Archer and I were just trying to amuse ourselves and Matt,” recalls Silverman, who figured he’d have a job for “at least two years” when it started.
“I knew the critics would love it, and I knew it would have a cult following like The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
“But when it became a phenomenal hit, all of us were astonished.”
The fact the show is simply very funny doesn’t completely explain its enduring popularity, says Silverman. In the end, he speculates, the secret might lie in its familiarity: The likeable Simpsons and their assorted hangers-on — all “complete idiots convinced of their own superiority” — come off a lot more realistic than other, non-animated TV characters.
“And in the end,” he adds, “the family always holds together as a family. They really love each other. I think that touches a lot of people.”
Silverman is now off to work as a director at Pixar, the company responsible for Toy Story. But with The Simpsons widely recognized as one of the key elements in animation’s recent renaissance, he’s achieved a dream shared with many young animators.
“We all wanted to do something that would somehow affect the course of animation and I guess without realizing it I have, without really trying.
“Certainly, working on The Simpsons, if that’s all I ever do, that’s pretty good.”