Drawing the Simpsons
Woo-Hoo! Paul Wee, the Kaiser grad who is the lead animator for the Simpsons, is on the cover of Midweek
By Kerry Miller
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Growing up in East Honolulu, Paul Wee was always a doodler. Now he’s a lead animator for The Simpsons, and just finished working on the movie
Don’t have a cow, Homer Simpson fans, but Paul Wee, a local boy who’s one of the lead animators for The Simpsons, says he enjoys drawing all of the Springfield residents. But his faves are sketching Bart and mean old Mr. Burns. Since the show’s second season, Wee has worked as one of many animators who bring every character, from Marge, Grandpa and Lisa to the Simpsons’ friendly neighborhood-neighborino Ned Flanders into our lives every Sunday night. Wee sat down with MidWeek while he was home “recharging his batteries” for an exclusive interview to talk about his life drawing such an iconic family and his experience working on the show’s big screen debut.
“I’ve always loved cartooning, animation,” says Wee, who admits that he grew up being an avid doodler and can’t recall a time when he didn’t enjoy drawing.
While his love for drawing has pretty much led his career path, Wee’s first job didn’t involve using a pencil and a sketch pad. During his days at Kaiser High School, Wee worked at Dole Cannery canning pineapples. He laughs recalling how he operated the machine that put the lid on the can. The Hawaii Kai native graduated from Kaiser in 1981, afterward attending Honolulu Community College to study graphic arts. Armed with his associate’s degree from HCC, Wee moved on to the Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. His first job in the animation field was working on Saturday morning cartoons such as Alf Tales.
“I thought I was just going to be an illustrator. I had friends who were in animation, they offered me a job. One year I saw the first Simpsons episode. I thought it was the funniest thing I’d seen,“he says.
As luck would have it, Wee also had a friend who was working on The Simpsons who got him in to take a test to be an animator on the show. He passed, and it’s been a labor of love ever since. He especially enjoys the instant celebrity status he gets when he tells people what he does for a living. During a trip to Italy, Wee discovered just how far the show has reached after coincidentally introducing himself to some international Simpsons fans.
“I feel fortunate that I can do (what I like to do) for fun, for a living. Mostly I like drawing because the voice actors we have are so good at what they do. They make my job easier,” says the Burbank, Calif., resident.
Of course, the show wouldn’t be what it is today without the genius of creator Matt Groening.
“He’s still a regular guy, really accessible,” says Wee. “He makes himself available to us. We call him ‘Uncle Matt.’ He goes out of his way to credit the artists.”
Before working on The Simpsons Movie, Wee’s previous feature film animation credits included Open Season, a Sony Pictures release. Working on an animation feature film, he says, is “more intense, the stakes are higher and expectations are so much larger.”
The Simpsons Movie was all this and more.
“It was nerve-racking. Most animated
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