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Homer Simpson: Made in Korea
Yahoo ^ | Wed Mar 2 | Jon Herskovitz

Posted on 03/02/2005 3:06:21 PM PST by nickcarraway

SEOUL (Reuters) - Homer Simpson, his dysfunctional family and his friends from the middle-of-the-road American town Springfield were sent to Seoul long before exporting job overseas became a hot-button political issue in the United States.

A stone's throw away from a highway that tears through Seoul and upstairs from a convenience store called "Buy the Way," Homer, Marge, and the rest of "The Simpsons" have been brought to life for about 15 years at South Korea's AKOM Production Co.

The company has been animating "The Simpsons" at its studio in western Seoul since it premiered as a TV series in 1989.

Behind every blunder by police chief Wiggum, beer downed by Barney and wisecrack by Bart is a team of about 120 Korean animators and technicians who create the 22-minute episodes based on an elaborate storyboard and animation instructions from the show's creators, Film Roman, in the United States.

AKOM gets the storyboard, camera and coloring instructions, as well as the voice tracks. It then turns out the episode about three months later. Music and other finishing touches are added back in the United States.

South Korea is one of the leaders in what is known as original equipment manufacturing (OEM) animation where a cartoon is drawn according to a storyboard provided by a client.

Nelson Shin, chief executive officer of AKOM, said "The Simpsons" ended up in Seoul because of the high quality of work.

Analysts say cheap labor also helped and industry estimates show that South Korean animators are paid about one-third of what their U.S. counterparts make.

"HEY MAN!"

When Shin first took a look at the yellow characters with bulging eyes and four fingers he thought it would be easy to animate the Simpsons. But now he thinks otherwise.

"When it comes to Bart's spiky hair, if you make one mistake in drawing or pencil thickness, the animation looks funny," Shin said. The elaborate stories and the range of emotion shown by each character, it turns out, make "The Simpsons" an exceedingly difficult show to draw, he said.

"The characters are really delicate and subtle," Shin said.

For example, a typical cartoon has about six different mouths that can be attached to a stock face figure for talking. On "The Simpsons" the main characters have about 27 different mouths, Shin said.

If AKOM has trouble finding the correct way to show something, such as Krusty's scar from heart surgery, another take of the scene will be produced after a phone call with the United States.

After several hundred episodes, production runs smoothly. On one floor, a staff of mostly young women sit at computers as they scan animation cells, add colors and put the final technical touches on the show.

They work with storyboards that show pictures drawn in the United States.

But dialogue can pose a problem.

At first, the Korean staff had difficulty understanding the show's humor and the cultural references, Shin said.

"There was so much slang in the show. I looked up those phrases in my dictionary and I couldn't find the meaning," Shin said. "Bart speaks to his father and says 'Hey, man.' This is so disrespectful for us with our Confucian culture."

DREAMS OF DUFF BEER

Shin sits in an office, decorated with cartoon figures, where his dogs bark for attention and an Emmy Award for his studio's work on "The Simpsons" sits on a shelf.

Two floors below him is a room with dilapidated furniture and out-of date audio visual equipment. Attached to the desk of animation director Kim Jun-bok is a hand-drawn picture of a six pack of Duff Beer, the preferred brand of Springfield's ludicrous lushes.

Over one of Kim's shoulders is a drawing that includes almost all the show's characters and on a shelf above his desk is a book in which each character is drawn at various angles, as if standing in a police line-up.

"I cannot really say there is one character I like more than others. They are all just one family to me," Kim said.

"The Simpsons" is one of several U.S. animated TV shows made in South Korea, and in recent years other Korean animation studios have also been animating "The Simpsons" along with AKOM.

Shin, who teaches animation at a university, is one of the pioneers of the craft in Korea. He went to the United States in the 1970s and worked on shows such as "Scooby Doo" and was also responsible for animating the light sabers in the first "Star Wars" movie.

He started AKOM in 1985 and one of his biggest projects -- a full-length animated film based on a Korean tale called "Empress Chung" -- will hit cinemas in South Korea later this year.

There are worries in South Korea that OEM work is filtering out to other parts of Asia such as China and the Philippines where labor is cheaper.

But for now, fans of "The Simpsons" should know that each time they see Homer choking Bart and Lisa belting out the blues on her saxophone, there is an animator in Seoul who brought that image to life.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: asia; entertainment; korea; simpsons

1 posted on 03/02/2005 3:06:21 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Doh.


2 posted on 03/02/2005 3:08:40 PM PST by get'emall (The second mouse gets the cheese.)
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To: nickcarraway

Far out.


3 posted on 03/02/2005 3:09:13 PM PST by SkyPilot
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To: nickcarraway
"Soju...the cause of...and the solution to...all of life's problems."
4 posted on 03/02/2005 3:09:13 PM PST by RichInOC ("...mmmmm...boshintang...")
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To: nickcarraway

Well, at least they do good work. Now, if we could get Lisa to be less PC.....


5 posted on 03/02/2005 3:10:00 PM PST by Bombardier (That's the life of an outlaw. Tough, ain't it?)
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To: nickcarraway

"There was so much slang in the show. I looked up those phrases in my dictionary and I couldn't find the meaning," Shin said. "Bart speaks to his father and says 'Hey, man.' This is so disrespectful for us with our Confucian culture."

Aristotle defined comedy as the depiction of characters who are morally worse than the audience. This is a very difficult feat to accomplish in modern America.


6 posted on 03/02/2005 3:11:08 PM PST by proxy_user
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To: Bombardier

Amen! The Lisa episodes always stink.


7 posted on 03/02/2005 3:11:19 PM PST by silent_jonny
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To: nickcarraway
There are worries in South Korea that OEM work is filtering out to other parts of Asia such as China and the Philippines where labor is cheaper.

Outsourcing the outsourcing....

8 posted on 03/02/2005 3:11:40 PM PST by freebilly (I am The Thread Killer! DO NOT REPLY!)
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To: silent_jonny

Her PC-ness is often made fun of though.


9 posted on 03/02/2005 3:13:54 PM PST by Borges
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To: freebilly

I wonder how far things can go with outsourcing. Eventually it seems like you'll end up with a lot of needless middle men. If the philipines people are cheaper, why bother with the koreans at all, just move it there.

And then where? Always going to the cheapest kinda seems terrible to me.


10 posted on 03/02/2005 3:14:06 PM PST by G32
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To: nickcarraway
It's not a surprize to me, South Park, an FR Favorite, is also made in Korea..(I think :)
11 posted on 03/02/2005 3:14:38 PM PST by skinkinthegrass (Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you :^)
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To: G32
And then where? Always going to the cheapest kinda seems terrible to me.

One day they might start insourcing to the US. The advantage is about half the residents in the US speak English. The disadvantage is that the labor force is virtually unskilled....

12 posted on 03/02/2005 3:16:42 PM PST by freebilly (I am The Thread Killer! DO NOT REPLY!)
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To: Borges
Her PC-ness is often made fun of though.

It used to be, but in the last couple of years the show hasn't balanced Lisa liberalism at all. Remember her conversion to Buddhism (guest starring Richard Gere)? Puke. Even Lenny and Carl became Buddhist.

13 posted on 03/02/2005 3:17:31 PM PST by silent_jonny
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To: nickcarraway

The Simpsons regularly poke fun--if gently--at conservative values. How interesting to know they, too, outsource.


14 posted on 03/02/2005 3:18:50 PM PST by Recovering_Democrat (I'm so glad to no longer be associated with the Party of Dependence on Government!)
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To: silent_jonny

The one thing they haven't touched to my knowledge is Islam. Don't what that fatwa I guess. P.S. I heard that Lisa was John Ashcroft's favorite character! He liked her 'moral voice'.


15 posted on 03/02/2005 3:19:00 PM PST by Borges
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To: Recovering_Democrat

They make fun of liberal values just as much. Probably one of the most conservative shows on Network TV.


16 posted on 03/02/2005 3:19:43 PM PST by Borges
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To: freebilly

Maybe by then the Americans can work in sweatshops making shirts and plastic crap for the Chinese and Indians.


17 posted on 03/02/2005 3:20:14 PM PST by G32
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To: G32
Maybe by then the Americans can work in sweatshops making shirts and plastic crap for the Chinese and Indians.

When Lake Erie is as polluted again as it was in the 70's I'll know we've made progress....

18 posted on 03/02/2005 3:23:27 PM PST by freebilly (I am The Thread Killer! DO NOT REPLY!)
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To: nickcarraway

Animated TV shows have been outsourced to S. Korea for YEARS and not just by Fox, which I notice is the ONLY company this article mentions. Just watch the credits of any series done by Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, etc. All the main animation is done overseas. This is very, VERY old news.

Feature length is a different story. Those have been done on US soil, and most if it still is. Even things that bomb like "Titan A.E." was done domestically where quality control is very tight.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both.


19 posted on 03/02/2005 3:27:00 PM PST by Kieri
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To: Bombardier

So Lisa is PC. Are we to deny that PC people are out there? I think Lisa's political inclinations work wonderfully, because she is so smart but makes such obvious mistakes.

And remember, Marge likes guns...


20 posted on 03/02/2005 3:30:04 PM PST by gridlock (ELIMINATE PERVERSE INCENTIVES)
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To: skinkinthegrass

It's not a surprize to me, South Park, an FR Favorite, is also made in Korea..(I think :)

Nope...made here...that's why there are less new episodes!


21 posted on 03/02/2005 3:30:51 PM PST by kaktuskid
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To: Bombardier
Well, at least they do good work. Now, if we could get Lisa to be less PC.....

No kidding! Lisa Simpson's holier-than-thou, goody-two-shoes attitude makes me want to retch sometimes.

Were she my kid, she'd get paddled and sent to her room with no supper for trying to shame me out of my schemes! LOL

22 posted on 03/02/2005 3:43:08 PM PST by FierceDraka (The Democratic Party - Aiding and Abetting The Enemies of America Since 1968)
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To: gridlock
Its not that Lisa is PC, its that she isn't a funny character. She is okay as a supporting character but when she takes center stage the episode is usually boring.

Their really is no reason why they couldn't have a funny Lisa based episode, but they generally aren't very good.
23 posted on 03/02/2005 3:50:30 PM PST by escapefromboston (manny ortez: mvp)
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To: nickcarraway

And this is "New" news in some shape or form...I've known this since it was first put on the air...Slow day I guess...


24 posted on 03/02/2005 3:52:31 PM PST by MD_Willington_1976
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To: kaktuskid; skinkinthegrass
It's not a surprize to me, South Park, an FR Favorite, is also made in Korea..(I think :)

Nope...made here...that's why there are less new episodes!

Actually, Trey and Matt are able to crank out a complete episode of South Park in a matter of days. It's all done on computers.

Remember the episode where Cartman played Bugs Bunny to Osama bin Laden's Elmer Fudd? That was just a couple weeks after 9-11.

They can go into a recording booth, and have the whole thing recorded in very short order, such is their talent.

25 posted on 03/02/2005 3:55:12 PM PST by FierceDraka (The Democratic Party - Aiding and Abetting The Enemies of America Since 1968)
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To: silent_jonny
It used to be, but in the last couple of years the show hasn't balanced Lisa liberalism at all.

Last years "She used to be my girl"

"Lisa, what are you doing in there?"

Lisa (panicked) "Praying to Buddha, Jesus, Spongedbob! This is no time to be picky"

26 posted on 03/02/2005 3:55:57 PM PST by Oztrich Boy (The true danger is when Liberty is nibbled away, for expedients. - Edmund Burke (1799))
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To: FierceDraka
Well? OK. ..then there was the South Park "Elian/Burn 'em Reno" episode around Easter in 2000.
27 posted on 03/02/2005 4:04:47 PM PST by skinkinthegrass (Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you :^)
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If you watch certain cartoons who scanned properly you can see the screw-ups.

for example; backwards books (korean lang is read in the opposite direction)


28 posted on 03/02/2005 4:21:09 PM PST by atari
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To: Borges

Not this season. for some reason this years episodes are 100% anti-Bush, anticonservative, and even anti-Christian.


29 posted on 03/02/2005 4:30:57 PM PST by boop (Testing the tagline feature!)
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To: silent_jonny
"Amen! The Lisa episodes always stink."

Yeah....but the one where she morphed into Hillary was a keeper.........

Bet the ashtrays were flying fast and furious that night.

30 posted on 03/02/2005 5:29:35 PM PST by spokeshave (Strategery + Schardenfreude = Stratenschardenfreudery)
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To: kaktuskid

Yes, there are fewer South Park episodes, but their work is also a lot more timely. How else can you have a cartoon of Janet Reno dressed as the Easter Bunny, stealing 5 Romanian orphans just days after Elian got snatched?


31 posted on 03/03/2005 9:35:13 AM PST by tarawa
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