Why 'Sophisticated' Simpsons Are Flying High
  The birth of The Simpsons, as a minute-long segment on The Tracey Ullman Show was fraught with the pressures of a slim budget and few staff. 
  Later, legal complications dogged its first attempts to spread its wings and fly out of Ullman's nest. The eventual departure of The Simpsons took a large part of her shows loyal audience. 
  "We had a limited time to do these things," said David Silverman, animation director at Film Roman, the studio that produces the show. 
  "The project was underbid and there weren't a lot of use working on it ... we didn't even have enough time to do a model sheet. 
  "Now we have very clear model sheets on what the characters look like." 
  Model sheets comprise a complex book of diagrams which detail every minute characteristic of The Simpsons, from body construction to hair and eyes from Homer's stretched scalp to Lisa's jagged hairstyle. 
  Today, an episode of The Simpsons runs for about 23 minutes but takes (from creation to writing, scripting, rehearsing, recording, storyboarding, drawing, painting, editing and producing) between 10 months and a year to complete. 
  One major change to the characters, in the animation sense, was toning down their mouths, from jagged and crude talking pieces to a smoother, more realistic movement. 
  The change came, Silverman said, because the stories from creator Matt Groening and his writing team demanded more sophisticated characters. 
  Instead of basic humour, consisting of set-up and punchline, The Simpsons was suddenly playing drama and sometimes taking quite a black view of life. 
  "The humour relied on you accepting them as characters," Silverman said. 
  But finding animators capable of meeting the needs of The Simpsons proved as difficult a process as the animation itself. 
  "At the time most of the animation around was superhero stuff or The Smurfs, or from the Warner Bros school or many other established styles," Silverman said. 
  "This was a different style. It was not Disney, it was not Hanna Barbera." 
  Contrast, he said, is the key. 
  "Being different. That's why Hitchcock always said you precede an exciting sequence with a slow sequence. It provides contrast. If you want a loud noise, have something soft before it."