David Silverman Talks Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
As far as animated TV series go, you’d be hard pressed to find a show more recognized, more historically controversial, more impactful and more successful than The Simpsons. 24 seasons and more than 500 episodes after its December, 1989 Fox debut, the series reigns supreme as the longest-running prime-time sitcom in U.S. television history. The show’s warped but insightful parody of the “average American family” continues to capture the hearts and minds of a new generation, appealing to the “chronic underachiever” in all of us.
UCLA graduate David Silverman has been involved since the very beginning, animating on the first Simpsons shorts introduced back in 1987 to TV audiences during a three-year run on The Tracy Ullman Show. Since then, he has produced and directed numerous episodes as well as The Simpsons Movie, released in 2007, which went on to gross over $517 million worldwide. I recently had a chance to speak with the avid tuba playing director about his Oscar nomination, bringing 3D to 2D animation and his take on what makes a good animated film.
Dan Sarto: First of all, congratulations on the nomination.
David Silverman: Nomination? Oh yes, yes, the nomination. Thank you. The nomination is a tremendous honor and a really great surprise for us. We weren’t bucking for it, we weren’t angling for it.
Dan: Right, but it’s certainly a nice surprise and a great honor nonetheless.
David: Oh yeah. It’s a terrific, terrific honor.
Dan: Tell me a little bit about the genesis of the film. How did the idea come about? What made you decide to make a short?
David: The thing that kicked it of was we were experimenting… when I say we I really should give credit to Richard Sakai…he, along with some of the other production people here was experimenting with 3D. What would it look like to do Simpson in 3D? No specific reason. It’s not like they said, “Oh, are we thinking about doing 3D for the next film?” [There was] no specific reason, just sort of experimenting with the idea. We tried it and we liked it and it was kind of cool.
[For the short] I give credit to Jim Brooks. He had this idea we should do a short. He didn’t say anything about doing it in 3D per se but that was sort of the idea…that we would be doing it in 3D. And it just kind of came out of that. We had this meeting, I think it was March 2011. We got together with Jim, myself…Matt [Groening] I think might have been there on the phone…I think he was there… and Joel Cohen, Dave Mirkin and Mike Price. We just started kicking around ideas back and forth. I think the first thing that came to mind was we should do it silent. Doing it silent, obviously, you would select Maggie. It’s the perfect choice for the character. It just grew out of that. I think within that first meeting, we had the daycare center and many of the other ideas sort of in mind. There were things that were much different in the first story reel, but the big strokes of the ideas were figured out at the first meeting.
Dan: That fast?
David: Yeah. It was pretty nice that we got so much accomplished. [At the meeting] They were all kind of looking at me, like, “Are you ready? What? So, you’re going to put all this together right? Uh…Oh…yeah.”
Dan: And you volunteered by everyone else stepping backwards?
David: Well not so much that. I knew they wanted me to direct it, which was awesome. But [at the meeting], it was like “You got all that?” What? Okay, yeah.” Al Jean was also there of course. Al Jean wrote a treatment. It was scripted but it wasn’t heavily scripted. The jokes were written. The first thing I remember Michael Price saying at the first meeting…we decided we’d go back to the Ayn Rand School, which was done for the A Streetcar Named Marge episode…we’d go back to that location. We were pitching I don’t know what, but at one point Michael Price said, “Raggedy Ayn Rand dolls” and I just laughed. I said, “I can’t wait to draw that!” So it was that kind of collaboration.