It's official: The Simpsons are rolling in the d'oh!
Last year, in August 2014, FXX — sister station to FX Network — paid $750 million dollars to syndicate all 552 episodes (25 seasons) of Fox's cartoon flagship, The Simpsons. The deal made headlines as the biggest of it's kind and gives FXX exclusive rights to The Simpsons catalog with full cable, digital and video-on-demand interests spanning an estimated 10 years.
Prior to the buyout, when industry word leaked that The Simpsons were hitting the market, networks didn't only see yellow; they saw green.
News of the sale sparked a bidding war between networks like Adult Swim and TBS, joined by VOD providers like Netflix and Amazon, each vying for the rights to air (or stream) America's longest running animated series.
Ultimately, Fox kept it in the family, opting to pass the baton to FXX (owned by parent company, Fox), and channeling The Simpsons — a staple of the Fox brand — to another of their subsidiary properties, in basic cable newcomer, FXX. The move is an effort to add value to the young network and capitalize on the "binge watching" trend in television viewing.
I'm sure the $750 million didn't hurt either.
After the buyout, FXX didn't miss a beat. Before the ink on the deal could dry, the network embarked on an ambitious, multifaceted campaign to showcase their new investment. In a historic 552 episode, 12 day marathon, the network broadcasted every episode of The Simpsons in a back-to-back, no-repeat block promoted as...
"Every. Simpsons. Ever."
FXX got their money's worth. The campaign raked in weeks of social buzz and record ratings across the network. As a vehicle to promote the marathon, the broadcast was tethered to an animated on-air campaign that embodies the essence of The Simpson's brand: the dysfunctional family.
When FXX contacted LA based studio, Roger, to help develop the graphic tactics driving their Simpson's Marathon, the network presented the broadcast as a bonafide "television event" and the longest ever for TV marathons (200 + hours). A tall order for a small company, the Roger team assessed the obstacles. In evaluating both the creative and production demands of the project, the team made a decision.
Challenge accepted.
The next day, Roger went into full production on The Simpson's Marathon. With a small but dedicated team, the company dove head first into the project, creating a range of animated network IDs and promos that — with brute force and smart thinking — shoehorn the FXX logo into a variety of Simpson characters.
But from a conceptual standpoint, where do you start?
As a designer, I was curious how a campaign for a series steeped in 25 years of pop culture lore took shape and more to the point, what creative and technical challenges did it present?
Fortunately, Roger had some answers.
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Interview with Roger's Creative Director, Terry Lee
The IDs are so well­ done that it’s easy to take what went into their design for granted. Can you explain how your team approached this as a design problem, in transforming the FXX logo into each of the Simpsons’ characters?
The challenge was making sure that the essence of each character was captured within the FXX logo. Inversely, we didn’t want to 'over­-engineer' the look, which would result in losing the FXX branding. We took the minimal approach and looked at each character to identify their defining elements. In some cases, like with Homer, it was as easy as adding the few strands of his hair.
The other aspect was giving them the right prop and action. Those were chosen based on what’s most associated with them, like Lisa’s saxophone, and also what would produce the funniest ID.
Our culture is extremely familiar with The Simpsons. We didn’t have to scour too many episodes to find the right moment. We had pretty much been researching this project for 20+ years.
Which of the characters provided the biggest challenge in retrofitting to the FXX logo?
None of the character design was that tricky after we figured out a recipe. If you look at the FXX logo, the top of the “F” made a great spot for the “head,” the lower half of the “X” made good “legs,” and after that, we could adjust the rest according to the most standout characteristics.
The challenge was bringing each logo to life in a way that felt authentic to their counterpart on the show. This came down to attaching the perfect catchphrase, iconic moment or whatever else we felt was an integral part of that character.
The musical remix of Danny Elfman’s Simpsons theme, as well as famous character phrases and sound FX (EX: Homer’s “D’oh!”, Bart’s “Ay, caramba!,” etc.), is present throughout the campaign. Can you explain how the audible elements influenced, if at all, the animation direction?
The track we used is remix of The Simpsons opening credits song done by DJ Shadow. It has an attitude and definitely inspired us in our executions across the board. We loved how it expressed a unique vibe, but maintained the essence of the original Simpsons song. We also felt that we could lend our own unique voice to the execution while still maintaining the “essence” of The Simpsons. The search for the perfect audible elements or catchphrase required a little more work since we needed ones that could work in a five­ second timeframe. That required combing through episodes and remembering our favorite moments. Again, some were unanimous between us and the client while others had to be decided on.
What role did the creative team at FXX play in the production of the project? As well, was there any agency involvement outside of FXX?
The team at FXX played a huge role in sending us down many roads to explore. They had a pretty good idea of laying down what was in their heads and we were happy to take those ideas and run with it. Of course, we threw in a bunch of our own thoughts and the final result is an example of great collaboration between our creative teams. Ultimately, a ton of stuff was presented to Matt Groening for his final blessing before going to air.
Was there anything FXX (or Fox) said you couldn’t do?
There was some back and forth about how much violence we could get away with especially when it came to the IDs that featured an Itchy and Scratchy logo. Luckily, we were able to kill Scratchy the way we intended. The only thing we couldn’t show was Patty and Selma smoking.
The campaign looks like it incorporates bits of 3­D, 2­D and even cel­ animation. Technically speaking, how did you guys pull this off?
We used a little bit of everything in various concepts. Whatever the case, we started with the design and narrative first and let that dictate the technique. Once we got into execution we found that we either could repurpose existing footage from the Simpsons library or create new assets. Depending on the action, we either accomplished it within After Effects, Flash or used cel­ shaded 3D. The important thing was to make sure that the final product felt authentic to The Simpsons universe.
A campaign of this magnitude often has many players. Was Roger the only studio involved in the on­-air campaign?
Not at all. From our understanding, there were several studios for FXX working on the massive launch. We were happy to be one of the chosen few that would help accomplish that task.
FXX spent $750 million for rights to The Simpsons with the marathon itself being highly marketed on both TV and web. Seeing as this was a campaign thought out far in advance, at what point was Roger brought into the process and how long was the duration of the project as a whole?
FXX had its ducks all lined up when it came to the marketing of the show. They knew that they wanted a massive multifaceted launch campaign. In that respect, they went out to several companies to put their twist on taking the Simpsons world and combining it with the FXX brand. When they came to us, their messaging was pretty clear so we didn’t have to figure it out with them. They just set us loose to come up with cool, quirky content.
Were any creators or talent involved with The Simpsons in touch with Roger throughout the project? In other words, please tell me you worked with Matt Groening?!
I wish! There were several major presentations where they showed Matt Groening and his team the stuff we were making. He had the final say before the indents went on-­air, so we were really stoked when FXX called us up and said “Matt likes it.”
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This article was originally published on Motionographer.com
Written by
Brandon Lori​​​​​​​
Credits
Network: FXX
VP of On Air Promotions: Ethan Adelman
Creative Director: Amie Nguyen
Director of Production Broadcast Design: Dara Barton
Production Company: Roger
Creative Director: Terry Lee
Associate Creative Director: Ariel Costa
Executive Producer: Josh Libitsky
Sr. Producer: Brandon Stevenson
Associate Producer: Alex Dos Santos
Brianna Conrad: Coordinator
Director of Business Development: Drew Neujahr
Designers: Vini Naldi, Ariel Costa, Pedro Fleming, Clarissa Tossin, Ling Feng, Grace Kim
Animators: Vini Naldi, Ben Rohel, Brock Boyts, Greg Mitchell, Adam Lawrence, Yu Kito Lee, Sam Kim, T.J. Sochor
3D Lead: Justin Wilcott

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