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Adapted 10/40/70 – The Simpsons, “Krusty Gets Busted” April 13, 2010

Posted by Michael Rennett in Adapted 10/40/70 Experiment, Brad Bird, Television.
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More details about this experiment in my previous post.  I’ve always been fascinated by mise-en-scène within animation since the director or animator can place the camera at any position and draw in whatever details they want to put in the frame.  The Simpsons has been a hallmark of television for the past twenty years and I picked the episode “Krusty Gets Busted” from the show’s first season because it was directed by Brad Bird.  Since his beginning on The Simpsons, Bird has gone on to give audiences some of the best animated films created, including The Iron Giant (1999), The Incredibles (2004), and Ratatouille (2007).  Bird’s work demonstrates a tendency to push the boundaries of animation, something which I hope is prevalent in analyzing this episode.

Since Simpsons episodes are 23 minutes long, I am adjusting the variable formula to times of 1:55, 7:40, and 13:25.

Variable Analysis:  1:55-7:40-13:25

This frame from the episode’s first scene establishes the conflict between Krusty and his assistant Sideshow Bob.  Krusty is celebrating the young girl’s birthday that is in the frame with them.  The eyelines of the characters really dictate the action of the sequence.  Bob is looking down at the show’s guest, trying to appease her by playing his whistle.  The young girl is looking up at Krusty with admiration, while Krusty (ever the showman) is looking directly into the camera trying to pander to the television audience.  Connecting these eyelines emphasizes this relationship:

The characters are set up to form a triangle (which the eyeline match), creating a structure throughout the shot.  We also see the differences between Krusty and Bob.  While Krusty’s microphone bisects his half of the triangle, Bob’s whistle is parallel to the other eyeline match.  Each is a symbol of their work ethic:  Krusty relies on his voice, whereas Bob relies on the whistle and other silent tools within their act.

This shot occurs later in the storyline, when it is revealed to Bart and Lisa that their hero, Krusty, has just been arrested.  They are watching a news program that shows this footage of Krusty being arrested.  The mise-en-scène is meant to parody what an actual news clip is supposed to look like.  We can see that the camera is set higher than ground level, meaning that the camera is supposed to be elevated, possibly on the news truck looking down.  The high angle also suggests the disgrace Krusty feels at this point, as the camera is looking down at him.  Of course, we also have to remember that there are two “cameras” within this scene:  the first capturing Krusty’s arrest and the second shooting the actual television screen that Bart and Lisa are watching.  We are, in fact, seeing what Bart and Lisa are seeing, which is why the black sides of the television cut down on the outer edges of the frame.  This keeps us firmly connected with the two children who, by now, are the focus of the episode.

This frame is from Krusty’s court case, when he is placed on the stand to plead his case.  The Krusty in the frame truly contrasts the Krusty from our first frame at 1:55.  He is not wearing his clown makeup and is wearing a blue jumpsuit instead of the pink shirt he wears during his program.  His eyeline is looking down to the left side of the frame, connoting his unhappiness.  We can also see the now-famous “A-113” reference to Cal-Arts which Bird includes in all of his the things he has directed.  Once again, Bird uses a triangle to center the action on Krusty’s face:

As in the first frame, the triangle focuses the audience’s attention on the emotional center of the frame; in this case, Krusty’s downtrodden facial expression and lack of make-up.

Although the three frames are fairly nondescript, Bird’s use of triangles within his work presents a fairly interesting aspect of his mise-en-scène, which I would like to see if it carries over to his feature work.  Perhaps later on, I will do a traditional 10-40-70 on Bird’s other films to see if this triangle theme is continued.