TV Takeover

TAG members hit a high note with all five Primetime Emmy nominees for Outstanding Animated Program from TAG signatory studios. 

TAG members are no strangers to the Emmys, and with all of this year’s Outstanding Animated Program nominees done under Guild contracts, they show their collective strength. As Bob’s Burgers’ Supervising Director Simon Chong points out, because this award is for a program rather than a person, “it’s truly the whole crew’s nomination from top to bottom.”

This year’s nominees display the breadth of TV animation, from twists on old favorites (Bart Simpson in anime) to a new contender—Entergalactic. It’s an animated Black rom-com, and because it’s driven by the album of the same name by Kid Cudi, “it’s also a new way to release music,” says Director and Executive Producer Fletcher Moules. Moules’ goal was to make the show look like a moving painting, and the creative direction included not only animation artists but also fashion designers, graphic designers, street artists, and comic book artists. 

Despite a legacy of excellence, the established shows faced challenges as they pushed fresh visions. In Rick and Morty’s “Night Family,” the family uses a device called a Somnambulator to make their bodies do chores while asleep. Supervising Director Jacob Hair had done live-action horror before, but he’d never had to time a jump scare for animation. He agonized over one for the cold open and didn’t quite get it right on his first pass, but he says, “having the safety net of our insanely talented team to review it and workshop it with me helped get it to where it needed to be.”

For The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII,” which was divided into three parts, Act 3 is set at the Simpsons World amusement park where android replicas of the family reenact scenes from the past. This required the creatives to go back in time to recreate a classic monorail moment from season four. “We traced the old footage verbatim, nudged a couple things here or there, and drew out to the edges of the newer, wider format,” says Director Rob Oliver. Then they added various filters to make it look like the original.

Parents trying to attend all three kids’ holiday performances formed the plot for Bob’s Burgers’ “The Plight Before Christmas,” and because the show usually relies on quick wit and snappy editing, things got complicated in a purely musical section that needed to be emotional without feeling rushed. “Finding the right music was key to tying the whole scene together,” says Chong. Once they landed on the closing score from Philip Glass’ Mishima soundtrack, “the picture fell into place, and our most difficult part of the show became the most beautiful.” In the reverse, Moules says “I think the biggest creative challenge [of Entergalactic] was being true to the music and creating a show that was just as emotionally engaging.”

To connect with viewers on a deeper level, emotional engagement begins during production before a show even hits the screen. Of the buried leadup to Tina showing up for her little sister in Bob’s Burgers, Chong says, “The reveal of that moment made me cry from script through to final.” And of Primal’s “Shadow of Fate,” where main characters Spear and Fang are separated in a strange land, Director and Executive Producer Genndy Tartakovsky says, “drawing and watching the story develop and reveal itself visually and emotionally—[that was] one of the most challenging and rewarding things we did.”

The Simpsons courtesy of 20th Television Animation. Entergalactic courtesy of Netflix. Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal courtesy of Cartoon Network Studios. Bob’s Burgers courtesy of 20th Television Animation. Rick and Morty courtesy of Rick and Morty LLC and Williams Street Productions.

The 75th Emmy Awards have been postponed due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. At press time a new ceremony date had not been announced. The dates for final-round voting remain the same, from August 17th to 28th (10 PM).