That’s my swingset, and that’s my sandbox. I’m not allowed to go in the deep end. And that’s where I saw the leprechaun.— Ralph
The process of making a Simpsons episode is quite daunting. This is an insight into the work that goes into making each episode.
Lisa: The writers should be ashamed of themselves.
Bart: Cartoons have writers?
Yep, that's right. A team of about 15 writers decide on plots and throw around ideas for jokes and gags, then one or two writers are sent away to write a full script for the episode. This script is then given a read through by the voice artists, before making any final alterations. The main voice artists are Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer plus any special guests (See the cast list and guest stars list for more info). The episode is recorded onto a voice track and sent to the animating team.
The animators draw out story boards and rough sketches for how the episode will look, followed by a set of black and white drawings for the whole episode, called frames. These are then shot under a camera, pieced together and combined with he voice track to give the writers and director a rough overview of the episode. They can also make any last minute changes needed.
The drawings are sent to Korea to be drawn neatly and inked (colored in), where labor is cheaper. These are again shot under a camera and linked to the voice track.
Finally comes the music. Alf Clausen and his orchestra add music to give emotion and feeling to the episode. Everything is combined together and the writers & producers can get a look (and a laugh at the final product before airing.
This whole process take about nine months. "It's like having a baby," says executive producer Mike Scully. "Only it's a cartoon baby." The producers sometimes find it aggravating that it takes so long. A episode for a sitcom is usually written over two or three days, recorded the next day, and then aired a week later. However, on the set of The Simpsons, an episode is written in two days, recorded on the third day, then the final product is viewed six months later.
Nevertheless, everyone who works on The Simpsons agrees that "it's the best job in show business."