Animation Alley: Treehouse of Horror II

tohii-01I kind of miss the wrap-arounds, mainly because as a “consequence” of these yearly specials, we never really get to see the Simpsons celebrating Halloween in-universe. But for a few years, we got a brief glimmer of it, as wonderfully shown here. The kids’ costumes are perfect: Marge slapped a scary witch mask on Maggie, Bart the hooded executioner, and Lisa honors Native American heritage with her totem pole. We see them enter the room at their level, and when Lisa comes through and gets stuck, we zoom out to show her costume unable to clear the doorway. Excellent framing. Also, look at that pile of wonderful treats. And what the holy hell is Homer shoving into his mouth? Looks like a mashed up mound of pumpkin goop.

tohii-02All three segments are directed by Jim Reardon. As a whole, this show isn’t quite as atmospherically spooky as the last one, but that has a lot to do with the stories being told. Last time we have overtly creepy locales like a haunted house and a flying saucer, here the stories are a bit more grounded. The Monkey’s Paw segment is more a creepy cautionary tale about tampering with life’s natural order. And about the power of a board with a nail in it. Anyway, I love the Midnight Express bit as the Simpsons attempt to leave Morocco. What a great shot, with a wonderfully dumbstruck drawing of Homer.

tohii-03Kang and Kodos cement their status as annual regulars in this episode, but what I always remembered is how they look slightly off in this show. Their skin is more an olive green here, and they appear a bit lumpier. Also, love Kang’s bright pink king sash. It matches quite well with their bright pink ship interior.

tohii-04Moving to the “It’s a Good Life” segment. What an amazing design for the transformed Snowball II. It’s like an exquisite corpse come to life. Also, fantastic animation of it transforming.

tohii-05Telling three entire stories in a little over twenty minutes ain’t easy. This segment has to establish this entire new universe where everyone cowers in fear of the almighty Bart. We see Bart taking the school bus wheel from Otto, and, of course, driving like a maniac. Cut to this shot as we go into our school section. You don’t need to see the bus crash or any ridiculous sequence like that. This is all you need; you see the fallout of the bus incident as we have our school establishing shot leading to the next scene. How economical.

tohii-06Absolutely phenomenal posing and animation of sleep-deprived Krusty. I believe Brad Bird did the key drawings on these, he sure did love him some Krusty. To me, this is akin to the amazing heart attack from “Krusty Gets Busted.” You just don’t see this level of freedom in the animation on the show anymore.

tohii-07Quick bit, I love Homer having to tuck Bart in with his teeth. It’s hilarious and adorable seeing him struggle with the sheets like that.

tohii-09The final segment is probably the most atmospheric of the three, taking a lot of cues from Frankenstein, with the spookyness of the graveyard and Burns’ lab with all its glowing gizmos and gadgets. It’s also the first Halloween short that genuinely disturbed me. Smithers slicing open Homer’s skull, Burns tugging at his brain until that wince-inducing snap breaks it loose… so unsettling, but still wonderful. Only this show could go from that to Burns putting the brain atop his head with glee and still be funny (“Look at me! I’m Davy Crockett!”)

tohii-10I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s subtle, but we see the robot design at the beginning and you can tell it very much looks like Homer. What a great design, with the wires on the side of his head like Homer’s hair and the metallic muzzle. It foreshadows that even in a robot body, Homer will still be Homer, gobbling down donuts and sleeping away at work.

10 Responses to “Animation Alley: Treehouse of Horror II”

  1. 1 Chris
    9 October 2013 at 12:31 pm

    So many funny lines this episode, not just funny but classic. “This is fun, isn’t it? We’re gonna DIE aren’t we?!” “Look at me, I’m Davy Crockett!” “The man at Radio Shack said I was mad, well who’s mad now?!” “The turkey’s a little dry…the turkey’s a little dry! Oh, foul the cursed thing, what demon from the depths of hell created thee!”

  2. 2 Monty Python Forever
    9 October 2013 at 1:22 pm

    “I wish I had a monkey’s paw!” “Your superior intellects are no match for our puny weapons!” “He was right over there-huh? Oh, wait, he was over there. You’ll be sorry!” “They may seem peaceful now, but they’ll just develop bigger and stronger boards, until one day, they’ll make one that destroys them all!” “Here’s a job for you, dad: Fresh air, exercise, good hours–grave digger, ha ha ha ha ha!” “Ooh, the curtains are on fire!” “You can’t let the boy hear you think–oh no, you’re thinking!” “We’re on 24 hours a day, and it’s all because of one little boy who won’t let me sleep! Help me!

    Aklso, I am curioius to see the Behind Forever for this year’s Treehouse of Horror. I loved the first sketch, and I want to see the dissenting opinion.

    • 3 Stan
      10 October 2013 at 12:37 pm

      I don’t think Charlie’s doing one. At least, that’s how it seems since he didn’t do it during the three previous days.

  3. 4 Jeff
    9 October 2013 at 1:36 pm

    And the end of this special was recycled into a segment for this year’s special (as many others pointed out in other threads).

  4. 9 October 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I wonder if Duck Amuck had any inspiration for Snowball II’s design:

  5. 6 Don
    9 October 2013 at 5:14 pm

    This year’s Hallowen episode was pretty cool as well :)

  6. 7 Stan
    10 October 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Great work once again, Mike.
    Although you analyse animation, I’d just like to put something up regarding the last segment you cited (also since whatever aired last Sunday was clearly related). They did base in Frankestein, but the word exactly is BASED. Not copied. Not repeated or retold. BASED. And besides the idea, there isn’t anything much more than whatever the initial movie had. All fits in because of the absurdity of the characters, not only how they look but how they act too, and because the culmination point works perfectly into an ending. Were the episode airing today it would’ve most likely featured Homer as Dr. Frankenstein, Moe as the monster and would’ve simply retold the original movie, with little to no regard to why things in it work or don’t.

  7. 8 Rob
    10 October 2013 at 1:16 pm

    The kick is up … it’s looking good. The ball is turning into a fat bald guy …

    …and it’s no good. And you know what we say every time something strange happens, it’s goooood that Bart did that, it’s very good.

    • 9 Stan
      10 October 2013 at 3:08 pm

      I love the part when it’s finally revealed to be nothing more than Bart’s nightmare:
      – I love you, son.
      – I love you, dad…. AAAAAAAAAAAHH!

  8. 10 Monty Python Forever
    10 October 2013 at 4:43 pm

    I am watching the episode now, and I notice one little bit of accidental foreshadowing in the credits: Awful Al Jean.

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