Making a single episode of an animated show takes most of a year, and you’d better have a shitload of people working on it. Here’s the long, torturous process:

It starts with a team of writers spending up to seven weeks fleshing out a story idea, like Bob’s restaurant being overrun with sentient bees or facing some similarly relatable problem. Then one writer goes away for a week to write the script, which is then given to two teams – one team focuses on improving the plot, while the other team punches up the jokes. For each joke in the episode, they write around a dozen alternatives, which means at one point Homer Simpson’s catchphrase may have been “Derp,” “Dang,” or “Sweet tickling fartscuttles.”

At that point, you have a script that is entirely too long for a 22-minute TV show. So another week gets spent getting it down to a reasonable size, and from there it goes to the network for notes, such as highlighting jokes they feel are too risque and suggesting that Bob’s five-minute speech on the benefits of peeing in the shower be cut from the third act. Then the script gets read by the actors in front of the writers, animators, directors, and showrunners, all of whom give more notes. So, already a typical episode involves more notes than most of us took through our entire academic careers, although these notes actually get used for something.

Then, finally, all the actors record their lines. Those lines get edited and cut into an audio play, basically like an episode of an old-timey radio program without any sound effects. Then the producers meet with the animators and decide how they want each scene to look. That leads to an animatic, which looks a little like a flipbook, only much more expensive:

Then, after yet another round of fucking notes, it’s shipped off to Korea to get fully animated and colored. There, dozens of animators grind out tens of thousands of drawings. Other than the wages being roughly a third of what American animators make it’s not nearly as sweatshoppy as it sounds (although we can’t speak to the quality of the North Korean animation studios that helped bring you The Lion King).

When they get the episode back, which usually takes about four or five freaking months, they add the sound effects and music, typically completing the production process two weeks before the episode airs. That’s anywhere from nine months to a year for a single episode, which takes less time to watch than it does to return a bag of socks at Walmart. You can make a freaking human being in the time it takes to create that episode you had playing in the background while you were microwaving a Hot Pocket.

Now, it’s true that shows like South Park cut this way down by going with an intentionally rough, low-budget look (and we’ll get into that in a moment), but most forms of animation involve a staggering number of man hours, if for no other reason than the medium inherently requires many more steps than a live-action production. If you get back an animated scene only to discover that it’s hideously drawn and the jokes aren’t working, you can’t just go reshoot it – you have to wait another four or five months for it to be reanimated.

“5 Dark Realities Of Animating Shows Like The Simpsons (by animators and writers from Bob’s Burgers, The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Oblongs and more)