Earlier this year, I paused while watching the Simpsons episode Itchy & Scratchy Land and caught, entirely by chance, that amazing frame above.
That it’s a great frame is obvious. Bart’s expression and body language, his revelry is such a great reason for Lisa to look so ashamed, while poor old Itchy just screams with his eyes.
I love this frame so much I wanted to capture it again, only this time directly from the episode and not with my camera from the television. In doing so, I discovered something pretty interesting.
The frame, isolated thus, lies.
Firstly, I’ll show you the clip. I’m uploading this without sound and with full deference to the might of Fox but if it gets taken down I’m sure you can still find it by watching the episode yourself.
Lisa’s shame is a sham and with the shame sham exposed, we can begin to better appreciate the magic of animation. Things are hidden amidst this presentation of a moment. I’ve presented the unique frames for this sequence in the gallery below. You can see that Lisa’s completely unmoved by the whole event. You can also more easily absorb the confidence with which Bart approaches the Itchy avatar, the glee in his violence, and the way he calmly appreciates his work, backing away.
You can see there are six different frames for Bart lifting his leg, but none for him dropping it. You can begin to figure out how this all works, to see how these animators have created the sense of impact in the particular way it appears. And in the blink of an eye, you can see and believe the shame in his sister that should be there, and essentially is, if only by accident.