'The Simpsons' airs controversial opening sequence by Banksy

banksy-simpsonsThe Simpsons has always been subversive, but last night, the animated show took that to a new level by airing a dark, extended opening title sequence — created by UK graffiti artist Banksy — that depicted Asian workers laboring over Simpsons animation and merchandise. The effect was rather stark and piercing: The first few 35 seconds of the sequence feature the near-usual credits, except for a few “Banksy” tags on prominent Springfield buildings, before rather unexpectedly veering into a depressing tour of overseas sweatshop facilities, where legions of workers slave over Simpsons animation stills (see: photo here!), kill kittens to stuff Bart Simpson dolls, and even use a chained unicorn to punch out the center of Simpsons DVDs.

Apparently, the title sequence was a reaction to reports that the show outsources much of its animation to a company in South Korea. The BBC is reporting that the controversial credits caused delays behind the scenes because of disputes over broadcast standards and a threatened walk-out by the show’s animation department. The news organization even quoted Simpsons executive producer Al Jean as saying: “This is what you get when you outsource.” Watch the clip here:

The questions here are many: How did the show get away with airing this? It puts both Fox and The Simpsons in a bad light, whether or not the reports about South Korea are true. Is this simply the rebuttal? Is this supposed to be funny? Are we supposed to laugh at this? Should The Simpsons be co-opting criticism of their show and making light of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

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Comments (401 total) Add your comment
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  • John

    Maybe they’re trying to comment and say that people are letting their stereotypes about outsourcing dictate their reactions to the story that the production is outsourced? Maybe the animators in Korea work in a nice environment, not unlike the one they would work in here? Weird.

    • Rick Hunter

      You people should be ashamed of yourselves! Showing your ankles in public! And for the love of god, I can see the top of your neck! Cover up! Now where’s my edited National Geographic with all the naked girls have WalMart smiley faces over their bosom?

    • Jane Baker

      I think that’s it. They typically run with an idea like that portray it in the extreme simply to make a point. They do the same thing on “Family Guy”.

      • Jonathan

        I have first hand accounts from my coworkers involved in overseas production that South Korea has more stringent labor and environmental laws than the U.S. Or, at least some of their laws are. I know you have to take this as anecdotal, as I can’t give you more than that. But it is a little bit more support for this theory.

    • Martin Gorski

      Tanner,

      That intro was HIGH-larious. Best intro ever! Sack up! It’s a cartoon! this controversy is so unworthy.

      • K

        I agree Tanner, I thought it was funny and entertaining. It is simply a cartoon, take it for what it is and move on!

    • mike

      Actually, the Koreans are responsible for many wonderful animated shows. In fact, most cartoons today are outsourced to Korea because they have really great animation schools, not unlike the Japanese and a favorable work ethic. Additionally, the animators work in a great environment that doesn’t look like a sweat-shop at all.

      That said, they are forced to work ridiculous, 90+ hour weeks during peak production just like Pixar, Dreamworks and ILM animators.

      It’s always interesting to see peoples reaction to Asia as “oh no, look at all those poor people!” when in reality their economy is insanely strong right now and unlike the US, I couldn’t find a single empty department store in Seoul.

      Also, hilarious intro.

    • Quark

      You have obviously deduced the obvious. They know full well that their production isn’t being done in a “sweat shop.” They are, as usual, commenting on the ignorance of the American people and our tendency to see everything in stereotype extremes. They are saying, “Hey stupid, not every business in Asia is a sweat shop. Educate yourself.”

    • StevePi

      It is a comment on the typical conditions faced by sweatshop laborers. If Jonathan was right, and south Korea had tougher regulations, then how would sending animation there cut costs? Outsourcing typically means, employing near slave labor in horrid conditions. Otherwise the jobs would stay right here.

      • Dan

        False. Outsourcing is generally fueled by variances in cost of living. Go research how much you need to earn in Manila to live well.

      • marik7

        Of course, cost of living is directly related to lower costs for labor. The two cannot be separated. You can be sure that outsourcing corporations are aware of that.

  • Nick

    Woooow. I don’t watch The Simpsons anymore, but this is a pretty ballsy move! Looks like something McFarlane would try to pull.

    • jb

      No, McFarlane would try to do it now that he’s seen it from the Simpsons. He can’t come up with anything original.

      • jt

        Your comment about McFarlane not coming up with anything original is SOOOOOO original!

      • CM

        the use of so many o’s in soooooo is verrrrrrryyyyy original

      • harem

        You guys are all douchebags.

      • Will

        You are so right, my friend… I watch Family Guy, but some of the jokes are so obviously old jokes from The Simpsons. They should try in a original and a diferent way, just like in South Park.

      • Devin Faraci

        Seth McFarlane is a no talent hack ripoff artist.

      • Vince from NYC

        COMON! The Simpsons has well over 300 episodes so intentionally or not somebody is going to steal a Simpsons joke. SOuthpark even made an episode where they were trying to come up with a storyline teh Simpsons hadn’t covered and this was well befoe their 300th episode. Any excuse to take a stab at Seth eh..

      • moviemenace

        This might be the first instance of The Simpsons writers ripping off another cartoon. The Clerks cartoon from 2000 had a very similar gag in one of its episodes depicting Korean animators in a sweatshop, slaving over animation cels.

      • Jen

        My thoughts exactly.

      • Travis

        Agree about McFarlane. He’s boring most of the time. Granted, Family Guy is still better than most TV shows.

        Matt Stone and Trey Parker are where it’s at!

      • Just

        I don’t see any of you with four tv shows.

      • Casey

        He has four TV shows because people watch crap and like it unfortunately. It’s the reason for Leno being on TV for example. Just because you have a show doesn’t mean you’re not a hack, which McFarlane is.

      • Banksy fan

        Agreed. McFarland pushes the envelope only AFTER The Simpsons and South Park clear the way for him… Meh.

      • j

        I wouldn’t equate this to the “clerks” gag- that clip did poke fun at sweatshop labor, but it was also poking fun at anime in general and wasn’t quite as dreary as the simpsons opening. and while I like family guy and the other macfarlane shows (i don’t have cable) they totally stole a simpsons gag in last night’s episode (how wind can be pronounced different ways) and it was certainly not the first time.

      • Bunny

        And Bugs Bunny was a rip-off of um…um….um………..

      • Jane Baker

        Name me ONE sitcom on TV that is not a regurgitation of the the comedy found in any other sitcom over the last 40 years. Name me one law enforcement show that is not a regurgitation of the story lines found in any other law enforcement show over the last 40 years. Name me one lawyer show…blah blah you get the idea. There are no original ideas anymore, kids. What really makes them different now is how extreme they have become in pushing the censorship envelope. South Park and Family Guy take the cake…South Park takes the whole freaking buffet in fact, although it originally airs on cable so the standards are somewhat less restricted. Can anyone imagine Ritchie Cunningham telling Ralph and Potsie to “suck his balls” (ala Cartman on SP)? But I’ll bet you if you watch “Happy Days” long enough you’ll see plots that have turned up many times since it aired. Some shows are on so long they re-use plot lines from themselves. If one were to call Seth McFarlane a hack, you would have to cast stones at every other producer and writer in Hollywood.

      • Tom

        the Simpsons have ripped off Citizen Kane/twilight zone/numerous movies about a million times. Everyone copies everyone, it’s a matter of how cleverly you do it. Family Guy is not exactly original, but it never claimed to be, they just want to have shocking/outragous comedy. I think the Simpsons do it alot better, but Family Guy is good for a cheap laugh too

    • nykolus

      zing!!!

      • Oliver

        Um. I hate to correct ya, but South Park isn’t original, either. At least they had the balls to admit it when they did “The Simpsons Already Did It”. Their both pale copies of The Simspons. I love The Simpsons, and I loved this opening sequence. The humor over the years has grown with its audience. I’m sure we’ll see something like this VERY soon on South Park of Family Guy.

      • mike

        The Simpsons have done this before, but in a more comidic way in the mid 90s. They said they got in a little trouble for it.

    • Joe

      Right on! McFarland doesn’t have an original bone in his body. Everything he does is just a rip-off of what’s come before. American Dad is Family Guy with an alien. Family Guy is just a series of random flashbacks and non-funny bits.

      Sad that people still watch FG.

  • Erik

    I watched Simpsons on the DVR after the bleak ending of Mad Men and was not expecting to see something even MORE bleak!

  • Deano

    Yes, it is supposed to be funny. Next inane question, please.

    • Du

      The couch gags are frequently dark and always satirical. The storyboard was done completely by Banksy, making the most interesting thing about it.

  • vanityferal

    Oh, how uptight of you! It is supposed to be funny because it is irreverent and over-the-top. These used to be very viable hallmarks of humor before everyone became so obsessed with being PC. Just loosen up and laugh, for the love of god.

    • anne

      No one is politically correct or any other kind of correct anymore. I used to love the Simpson’s satire. Now the subtlety is gone and they’re just dirty and uncomfortable like “Family Guy”. Irreverence is one thing–vulgarity is another.

      • nodnarb

        Oh, go watch the 700 Club and leave the grown-up discussions to the rest of us.

      • harem

        Ha… Anne got b!tch slapped by Pat Robertson.

      • carter

        I don’t see how it is vulgar. It seems to be just like all other Simpson’s humor, it’s just that this time it depicts a morbid sweatshop. And then the media runs an article on it and everyone makes a big deal out of it. What is really the issue? Sweatshops or a show taking a jab at them?

      • Joe

        The Simpsons are vulgar? Homer and Marge call “sex”, “snuggling” for god sake. How much more PG can you get? They have always been witty and funny, and the only adult humor comes in a very implied way.

    • ken

      hit the nail on the head…

    • Ann

      Finally-someone with some sense!Your absolutely right! Laugh a little!!

  • jj

    well, it looks like north korea to me…

    • Shadow

      I’s neither North Korea or South Korea.

      1. If it was NK… Well, that’d never happen, NK’s a closed off country, full stop.

      2. Sweatshops in SK? No way. Just because a lot of animation companies are there doesn’t SK they’re cheap; SK’s one of the world’s most advanced countries, minimum wage is equivalent of the UK’s.

  • Julian Milam

    It’s nothing new nor is it worth not airing the show, whoever is getting worked up over this just wants attention.

    • carter

      I agree 100%. The news keeps pushing things like this in front of us and playing it up to be controversy. And then we’re all stupid enough to play along and allow it to BECOME controversy.

  • eatme

    The British are inbred hicks. When will they learn that effed up teeth do not necessarily make you a comedian.

    • Porroman

      Hicks dont exist in the UK you uneducated imbecil.
      It is an American ‘concept’.
      Inbred? Coming from an American (my appologies if you’re not) is amusing to me.
      Now get back to your trailer and go watch Spin City or something. Now theres high quality comedy.

      • Kat

        Hick, meaning country bumpkin, is most definitely not exclusive to the US or anywhere in the world, nor is inbreeding. The only group of people I can think of that were really actually inbred were the old European royalty. Given your presentation of stereotypes as fact, I have to wonder a bit about your own education.

      • Kat

        Oops, I forgot to mention that all that said, I don’t agree with what eatme said either.

      • lol

        maybe you should look up the meaning of the word

      • Bunny

        Hicks don’t exist there…TWITS exist there, in abundance.

      • buck

        haha, this is much more interesting reading than the original article!
        for some reason when i think of inbreeding, jerry lee lewis is the poster boy, but that’s just me. them & the russian royals, but that’s off topic.
        british comedy has just about been the best in the world & it’s american shows which revert to the crooked teeth stereotype for a laugh, it’s boring. from monty python & faulty towers, to black books & the mighty boosh UK comedy is superior. but the US sure have quantity!
        & before pommy abuse comes this way, i’m actually australian! a whole new set of stereotypes!

      • Paleanotologistssss

        Pretty much all royalty has been inbred, Kat, from the Egyptians to the Incas to the trailer queens of Kentucky whose family has been on that land since 1776.

        But at least there’s usually a couple of generations gap between modern inbreds and those who died out like the Romans and those civilizations cited above.

      • C McCoy

        Spin City hasn’t been on in years. The fact that you are that far behind the times certainly reinforces the concept that you are either the British equivalent of a “hick” or inbred.

        The chances of one being inbred on a small island with a moderate population is much higher than in a nation 2500 miles wide.

    • Ron Darvie

      damn straight

  • Nathan Smith

    Wake the #### up! Most people seem to be walking around blind to the fact that one key reason the economy in the US is so bad is that corporations continue to outsource jobs to low cost manufacturing centers where workers have few rights. Until someone in the media starts covering this serious topic and “enlightens” the general population, the economy will continue this current downward spiral. The only thing sad here is that it is being done through a cartoon.

    Kudos Fox!

    • Deano

      Wow. Had not heard about that before. Thank you Captain Obvious.

    • eatme

      @Nathan Smith
      You watch one cartoon and now you think you are a crusader. Kudos to your arrogance.

      • Paleanotologistssss

        We should all be crusaders against outsourcing. We should be demanding higher import taxes, demanding Congress abolish tax shields, and demanding that companies that do outsource pay the taxes of the countries where most of their workforce lives.

    • harem

      Nathan, you’re an idiot. Fox LOVES outsourced labor. The animators threatened to walk out, otherwise it wouldn’t have been aired. Time for YOU to WTFU!

    • Vince from NYC

      So Nathan, how will you feel when you have to pay 6 grand for a Computer or 50 bucks for an action figure? Companies can’t afford to compete with internation competitors, that’s why they outsource. It’s do to our mininum wages and unions who fight to keep American wages higher. WHich is fine by me. Americans must better educate themselves and new jobs must be created. Unfortunatley manufacturing is not a market we can compete in anymore. Before things were outsourced it was technology taking away these same jobs. Let’s be honest ,how many American kid’s expect to be factory workers when they grow up..

      • Joe

        It’s funny that it’s always the people talking about “education” that have the posts riddled with spelling and other errors! You left out your comments about Obama… oh well maybe “nxet tyme”…

      • SR

        Really, Vince? When have you ever seen a product’s price go down after the labor is outsourced? It’s not about “staying competetive”, it’s about increasing profit margins.

      • Paleanotologistssss

        I’d pay that much for a computer, gladly, if I had one of those sweet call center jobs that has been sent to India. This argument is so stupid and based upon the assumption that people are buying stuff. How, exactly, are we supposed to be buying stuff when unemployment is so high, wages are so low, housing is so high, and nobody is making any money here because all the jobs have been shipped overseas?

        Just wait, buddy, it’ll happen to you.

      • Craig

        One reason that the jobs get sent overseas is that unions et. al. have overpriced workers in low-skill positions, so that corporations, which represent investors, including many Americans, need cheaper labor to make a profit and remain competetive in the business world. To demonize corporations or workers is unproductive, but until labor costs in the USA are adjusted down according to productivity, companies will continue to “outsource.” Would you pay a union guy $35 an hour to do a job that a worker in India will do for $1 a week? Incidentally, you don’t hear complaints from the Longshoreman’s Union members who make $100k a year for working in ports receiving those foreign goods produced by “outsourced” labor.
        Paleanotologistsss, you should consult recent history, like 80 years ago, protectionism greatly deepened and extended the Great depression. Let’s not repeat our mistakes or we will need real paleontologists to uncover what our people and society was about when non-democratic (see Nobel controversy) China takes over.

      • StevePi

        Craig-nice rhetoric. Did you study your globalized free market talking points as you posted? How expecting our workers to compete with a non-democratic country like China fair. All these free trade agreements neglect to account for factors such as govt subsidies of certain industries, taxes, etc. Until the numerous discrete economies which make up the global economy are on a more even playing field, this free trade thing will only work for those with enough capital to take advantage of it.

    • geewhiz

      Does anyone realize that Korea outsources their manufacturing to the US now where they can get really CHEAP TEMP LABOR–

      • JD

        Really? I haven’t heard anything about this. Cite your sources please.

    • Ron Darvie

      why leave it up to the media? take it upon yourself to research this topic on your own.

  • DT

    My wife and I loved it, even though it was pretty dark [humor] for The Simpsons.

    It’s exactly what John is saying: it’s a parody of people’s perception of an overseas animation shop, though I did read they +do+ actually use Unicorn horns for DVD production (from dead Unicorns obviously).

    • trashytvlover

      LOL!

    • Chris

      I’m pretty sure they grind up those blue guys from Avatar to make the Blu-Rays.

  • Veronica

    Who cares?!

    • eatme

      You do!?!?!? Morons, God bless em.

  • Steve Kypers

    Lighten up. It’s satire. There is too much PC in the world.

    • Richard

      Agreed.

    • JC Visser

      Yes, absolutely

  • steve

    Perhaps they are trying to get themselves cancelled. it has been 20 years, with no end in sight. the show will always be profitable.

    • Sequoyah

      That is what I said to my mom when we watched it. I said, “They obviously don’t give a crap anymore, they’ve been on the air for a very long time…maybe they just want to be free.”

      • mike

        Naw, they all say they would like to keep going on. They all do comentaries on every single episode. I think they have just done SO well over the years and pretty much helped make FOX a working network that they can get away with a lot. But the episode was a really sweet episode BTW.

  • JDW

    Yeah, the voice actors for the Simpsons – voice actors – make a million dollars an episode. Cry me a freakin’ rivah!

    • Jen

      Actually, the main voice actors are bringing in 400K. Still seemingly excessive, but not quite a million an episode.

  • Jerry Gonzales

    LOVE IT!!!

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