Compare & Contrast: Nude Burns

“Hey Mom, did he have those spots all over his body?” – Bart Simpson
“I heard that!” – C.M. Burns

One of the few genuinely interesting things I learned while tormenting myself with the Season 12 commentaries was that Zombie Simpsons isn’t allowed to show ass crack.  (Of course, The Simpsons was so fond of cartoon nudity that they had enough for an entire ending credits montage of it by the middle of Season 7.)  Now, all shows labor under some burden of censorship, that’s just the way of the world.  But Zombie Simpsons doesn’t even try to get clever with it.  Burns isn’t wearing some kind of special rich guy underwear, nor a drab prison pair, just sparkling clean tighty-whities.

But even if we set aside childish squeamishness about fleeting nudity, the HD animation still looks dry and dismal when compared with the genuine article:

Nude Burns

Look how much more desiccated Burns appears in Season 2.  He’s got the liver spots all over his body, instead of just on his head, and the bags under his eyes are much more pronounced.  His spine is an unbroken ridge indicative of a man with, in his own words, “a mighty hump”.  The lines in the Season 21 drawing are certainly cleaner, but that only serves to highlight the lack of detail.  Look what happens when we zoom out and take in the full images:

Sterile Background

Look at how sterile and lifeless the background is.  Most of the coloring looks like it was done with the “fill” command (which it probably was).  There’s no cynical work posters, no frightening prison cavity search implements, nothing.  It’s just a nameless, character-less guard and Burns.  Now, look at the scene from “Brush with Greatness”:

Brush with Greatness4

Here a lot of thought and care have been put into both the background and the other characters.  All the accouterments of an upper-lower-middle class bathroom are present: the hamper, the fuzzy toilet seat cover, even the stick-on wall fish.  Marge is holding a laundry basket so we know she has a reason to enter the bathroom, and Smithers is eyeing Burns’ crotch.

In Season 2 we see something that was put together with an eye towards quality, in Season 21 it’s just cookie cutter mass production.  And, by the way, some of the distortion on the Season 2 images comes from the fact that I grabbed them from my ripped .avi files, not from the DVDs themselves.  So even at a compression handicap, The Simpsons still blows Zombie Simpsons away.

Special thanks to commenter Derp for reminding me a while ago that I needed to do an animation post.

8 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Nude Burns”

  1. 1 Cassidy
    15 April 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I think the animation first started a noticeable, consistent decline in season 9. I remember in particular some of the animation in “Homer vs New York City” was just horrible. Like the ground view shots of the Twin Towers. I still like that episode but it was disappointing to see such obvious sloppiness.

    I know part of the reason the Simpsons team moved to computer coloring was that traditional cell coloring was becoming (1) too expensive and (2) too difficult to manage in finding good color shops – that is all the color shops they were working with were switching over to digital (they mention this a few times on some of the commentaries). Maybe computer colorization tends to “encourage” simplification of drawings for technical or scheduling reasons. Still, to take the example at hand, that’s no excuse for not throwing in a a freeze-frame poster joke or two. What a wasted opportunity.

  2. 2 Derp
    15 April 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Sterile is the best word to describe it and is one I often use when discussing the animation and art.
    There’s zero character in that modern screencap.

  3. 5 Jamie
    16 April 2010 at 5:54 am

    The MacFarlane shows are apparently still able to get away with showing cartoon ass:

    If Simpsons producers are still claiming they’re not allowed to show Homer’s ass because of Janet Jackson or whatever, it’s because they aren’t even bothering to test the limits

    • 6 Charlie Sweatpants
      16 April 2010 at 8:25 am

      That’s a very good point. On the Season 12 commentaries for “Children of a Lesser Clod” and “Simpsons Tall Tales” they mentioned how they were no longer allowed to do nudity. And those comments were been made while Season 21 was in production. When I saw Burns with his underwear on, my only thought was, “there’s the stupid nudity restriction”. But you’re right, the MacFarlane shows do it all the time.

      Now, maybe the censors cling to atavistic notions about the 8pm “family hour” being more policed than 9pm or later. But if “The Cleveland Show” (as you linked above) at 8:30 can do nudity, it really demonstrates just how quick Zombie Simpsons is to knuckle under. The show no longer has fire in the belly.

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