It’s one of the most recognizable animations around, and it’s hard to imagine a time before each of The Simpsons’ main character designs were forever etched on our consciousness. But a fascinating glimpse at an early 1990s style guide shows just how precise those looking simple drawings really are.
For Simpsons writer Josh Weinstein shared a photo of a hand-drawn page titled ‘Simpsons No-No’s’, demonstrating various characteristics you’ll never see on screen. Did you know Lisa Simpson has very specifically shaped teeth? (Check out the best character design tips if you’re looking for inspiration.)
What you will never see on the Simpsons (from a delightful, nearly 500 page early style guide, circa 1990) pic.twitter.com/0Gyv36UOqWApril 22, 2020
Weinstein only shared two of the document’s 500 pages – and like countless Simpsons fans in the replies, we’d love to see the whole resource published one day. But even in those two Lisa-centric pages, there’s a mind-boggling amount to chew on.
From just these pages, we’ve learned that Lisa’s nose should always overlap her eyes, her smile shouldn’t be pointy, and those teeth should never, under any circumstances, be square. It’s a fascinating glimpse at how much discipline and precision goes into even the most apparently uncomplicated character designs.
The pages went viral on Twitter when Weinstein shared them back in 2020, and have been doing the rounds on Reddit since. “I love animation bibles/model sheets like these,” one Redditor comments. “They really speak to the level of draftsmanship animators have. Even the silliest cartoons are best guided by understanding of 3-D space and anatomy and natural laws.” Another adds, “What’s neat about this is I could immediately tell which one is wrong even if I didn’t know exactly why.” As Weinstein himself puts it on Twitter, “The Simpsons could’ve become Bizarro Simpsons with any of these choices.”
Indeed, any changes to a beloved character design can prove a controversial topic – just look at the reaction to this year’s tweaks to Minnie Mouse and the green M&M. Still even a familiar design can look entirely different from a new angle – the less said about Mickey Mouse from above, the better.