I’m sure that there are many people who are aware that the Simpsons are animated in Korea. This fact has even been lampooned on the show itself. (unfortunately I couldn’t find video from that episode). That same studio has long been involved with animating other American cartoons since the 1980’s including such greats that I enjoyed as a kid, like “Muppet Babies”, “G.I. Joe” and “The Transformers”. The studio is called AKOM, and at the head of it all is Nelson Shin.
Originally AKOM and other Korean studios were given animation “grunt work” from American companies, because the quality of the work was good, and the labor cost was cheaper. Basically the grunt work involved drawing the same picture over and over again frame by frame, a very tedious job. American companies found that by outsourcing this type of work to Korean companies, they could save production costs.
Companies like AKOM also did similar grunt work for Japanese Animation companies. The practice has been in tact since then. However, as Korea’s technology began to improve, so did it’s animation technique. Practically every cartoon made on the Cartoon Network these days is actually made in Korea. Don’t believe me? Check the credits. I actually once even met someone who had worked on the show Ed, Edd, and Eddy.
I think the outsourcing had an interesting effect on world animation. Everyone thinks about Disney when it comes to animation, but I don’t think they’ve created anything that really captured people’s imaginations since 1994’s “The Lion King”. Think about all the Disney classics made before “The Lion King”. We have, “The Little Mermaid”, “Alladin”, “Snow White”, “Cinderella”, “Fantasia”, “Peter Pan”, and the like. What has come after “The Lion King”? Probably the only thing worth mentioning is “Lilo and Stitch.” Sure, “Pocohantas” and “Mulan” were interesting but are hardly remembered as classics.
I think that this is a result of the decline in American animation. People say that the reason that America drawn animation has declined is because of Pixar and Dreamworks. That’s probably true, but I think we also have to take into account that after most animation began to be outsourced to Korea in the 1980’s and 1990’s, fewer artists in the U.S. could find jobs as animators, leading to a general decline in talent.
Meanwhile Korean animation is on the up and up. As the years go by it’s getting better and better.
Compare AKOM’s heavily criticized work on “The Transformers” from the 1980’s with it’s later work on “The Simpsons”, clearly the technique is getting a lot better.
If you’d like to know more about AKOM itself, here’s a news piece on the studio.