David Silverman Talks Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
David: Yeah, I mean, given the opportunity. It worked out very well. I was amazed how quickly Eric and his team would do a turn around on making a 3D image. I mean literally, within the same day, sometimes in a few hours. It was really remarkable. I could see him working on a grand scale. Of course, you would need a larger crew.
David: “I think you’re gonna need a bigger boat!”
Dan: Much bigger. Looking back, what were the biggest challenges on this production?
David: I would say the biggest concern was the 3D aspect. That was probably the biggest challenge on the production because that was the unknown. The other challenge was the whole pantomime performance. We've done pantomime before on The Simpsons but this was a very long four minutes of pantomime and we had to be very clear on the performance. I was very specific. Every bit of the acting, every nuance, every movement, every person that passed by had to have a meaning. That was a very conscious thing throughout [the production].
Dan: Do you normally have to be that deliberate on an episode?
David: No. I’m working on an episode right now. Well, actually, we’re pretty deliberate on all the episodes for that matter. I think training on the episodes carried through on the short. I go through scenes very carefully to make sure that we have the right nuance with the animation and with the acting.
Dan: So it’s really no different.
David: Yeah, in a certain way it’s not really any different. It’s not like a colossal difference doing the show. I do think we took a bit more care in doing the short because it’s going to be on the big screen. We want to make sure that everything looks right, that the line weights are correct and so on. There is a lot of concern about that, how it will look on the big screen.
David: We can have a problem with the pupil size relationships and things like that. So we are very conscious about all those things that you would really notice on a larger screen.
Dan: Let’s switch gears for a minute. Every year, there is an interesting mix of animated shorts nominated for an Oscar. There is also usually a mix with regards to big studio versus crazed independent working in his basement for a decade. Especially outside the United States, you could argue that there is a richer tradition of auteur-based animated shorts. I often hear criticism that big studio films have an unfair advantage over smaller, independent produced films. Bigger budgets, more promotional resources and so on. What would you say to that criticism?
David: Well, the track record is that big studio films don’t always win. That’s number one. Number two, where do you think this [the Oscar for animated short] all started? Big studios. It was Mickey Mouse cartoons versus MGM cartoons versus Warner Bros. cartoons versus UPA cartoons. The first winner that wasn’t a Hollywood cartoon was Ersatz wasn’t it?
Dan: Oh, goodness, now you’re testing me.
[Editor’s Note – From 1932 to 1958, every Oscar for animated short was won by one of the main U.S. animation studios. The 1959 Oscar went to John and Faith Hubley for Moonbird. In 1960, Gene Deitch won for Munro. The first foreign Oscar winner in this category was Ersatz, from Zagreb Film, directed by Dušan Vukotić, which won for 1961.]
David: I guess what I have to say is it started out that way. This is a newer development, with independent foreign films entering into what was once dominated by Walt Disney and Warner Brothers and MGM.
David: Tom and Jerry won Oscars, Bugs Bunny won an Oscar. So I don’t see the problem. You know, to me it’s like, “Why not?”
Dan: I agree. A couple of last questions. First, you’d be hard pressed to find a group of characters and a show that has had as big an impact on contemporary culture as The Simpsons. You’ve been so intimately involved with the show for so many years. To what do you attribute the unbelievably long lasting run, the enjoyment audiences have gotten from The Simpsons all these years and still get today?
David: I would say it’s a mixture of a number of things. Obviously, hilarious writing. But it also goes beyond that. With characters that are so well-defined, people like the fact the characters have such an idiotic view of the universe that they are seriously defending all the time. I look at it sort of intellectually…that’s how we all are. We all have an idiotic view of the universe. But I think people really see themselves like, “Well, I’m not crazy like that, but I do have my beliefs and I do stick to them with great ferocity.” They appreciate that, they like that, they like to see Homer doing that.
There are a lot of different theories, but I think that’s one of them. The other one is that there is an endearing quality to the characters. They really have an endearing quality that’s a combination of the way they’re drawn and the way their voiced. It’s all that alchemy. And we are fortunate that we have a voice, a venue if you will, through which we can keep producing new material. In some way, even the Warner Bros. characters could have kept going if they had had the pulpit, if they had had the venue. But they didn’t. The studio stopped making shorts because the theatres stopped showing them. If it weren’t for that they probably could have kept going for maybe another decade or two.
David: So in some ways we’re like the Warner characters but we still have a place to be seen.