... it all starts with a pitch. The best ideas in the writers' meetings get sketched onto Post-it notes that cover the walls of their conference room. The story is refined and drawn into big booklets called boards. Quintel pulls one from his desk. It's like a thick comic book.
"One episode is 250 pages with two drawings on a page and all the writing is there," he says.
Those boards go to stylist Jessica Yost, who uses Photoshop to bring color into the stills.
"I'll put a background in and if there's a couple characters in there, I'll throw them in there so you can kind of get an idea of what that looks like," Yost says.
"She colors every little thing, if it's a pencil, a bag of chips, or the main character. Or an explosion," Quintel says. "We love explosions on the show; they're hilarious."
Meanwhile, animation director Robert Alvarez is in his office penciling in instructions onto what's called an exposure sheet. It's a long, lined document that provides detailed guidelines for the animators.
"This is their blueprint," Alvarez says. "You're telling them everything you want and hopefully you get it back that way."
Every movement of each character in every frame is accounted for. Alvarez logs nearly 16,000 frames per episode by hand.
"I had a bar room brawl where all the characters are fighting, and you see this long, wide shot of everything that's in it," he says. "So you have to break it down. One guy's throwing a punch with his left, another with his right, and you have to break all that action down and squeeze it in on the exposure sheets and make sure it makes sense."
From Burbank, all of the materials get sent to Seoul, South Korea, where it finally gets animated. ...
Since this comes from NPR, they clue the uninitiated in about about the Korea thing:
... Outsourcing is common with American cartoons. Shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy and SpongeBob SquarePants have been doing it for years as a way to save on studio costs. ...
In television cartoons, the outsourcing has gone on for something like forty years. Of course, now that the outsourcing craze is hitting live-action in a major way, they're trying to do something to counter that in Sacramento.
A pity there was no attempt at countering runaway cartoons in 1974. Oh well ...