Television shows have employed the “live episode” gimmick for years, but "The Simpsons" made a first by doing it while animated.

Last Sunday’s episode, "Simprovised," was, for the most part, a typical episode, with a plot of Homer joining the improvisational-comedy circuit, but it dedicated its last three minutes to taking calls from viewers at home.

How could something be animated live?

One would assume that the three-minute sequence was animated in advance, and simply played the live calls to Homer’s pre=recorded responses, but as even that would have been too risky, technology actually did allow for the scene to be animated live.

Two-dimensional variation

The trick was created using the Adobe’s Character Animator tool, which allowed the animators to rig Homer’s actions, especially the movements of his mouth, to his voice actor, Dan Castellaneta’s live responses, using the Character Animator’s Puppet tool. To put it simply, the trick was produced with a two-dimensional variation of motion-capture animation technology.

Live scene keyboard shortcuts.

The sequence, as seen above, also featured background gags, such as the other characters from the show moving about, including one notable cameo from Futurama’s Bender, which had, however, been created beforehand, and were inserted into the live scene through keyboard shortcuts.

Reportedly, the show took live phone calls from fans twice, taking calls from the East Coast and the West Coast, a few hours apart, due to the delays in airtime. The video from above came from the East Coast airing.

The Main Plot

As mentioned, the main plot of the episode revolved around Homer breaking into improvisational-comedy to build up his confidence after humiliating himself during a speech at work.

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Likely meant to tie into the “live” promotion of the episode, many viewers possibly thought they would be giving Homer a scene to act out on stage when they called up. The episode’s B-plot involved Marge building a treehouse for Bart, only for him to incur her wrath by being ungrateful for it.

Throughout the show, text on the bottom of the screen reminded viewers they could call up to talk to Homer until the end.

At one point, to poke fun at themselves, they warned “No Flanderses.”

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