The Simpsons Cartoon Studio
Most new CD-ROM animation tools lift the best features from the old without apology; as a result these features quickly become the standard, without which any animation tool is incomplete. Any self-respecting auteur expects a sync bar at screen bottom (so she can easily zip around within the movie’s time-frame), layering buttons on screen left (so that your hero is not always on the bottom layer of the screen), and a grab bag of wacky sound and visual effects. Increasingly, in fact, the only real difference between these things is which established brand name they take advantage of. Fox Interactive has chosen perennial money-makers the Simpsons as their vehicle: hence, The Simpsons Cartoon Studio. All the features of this creativity tool are familiar, but they’ve rarely been combined with characters this rich. Manipulate Bart, Lisa, Marge, Homer, Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Principal Skinner, Sideshow Bob, Barney, and Moe in Springfield locales including the Simpson homestead and the power plant. Add three-eyed fish, candyland music, or 10,000 volts of electricity. It’s difficult to make a coherent story, but it’s easy to paint broad jokes that work: pre-recorded dialogue snippets include “d-oh!,” “mmmm, sacrilicious,” and “aye carumba!” There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but there is a nice combination of good source material and trendy technology. In a medium that changes as quickly as this one, “best” anything doesn’t mean a lot – but for the time being, at least, The Simpsons Cartoon Studio is the best animation tool around – providing, of course, you’re a fan of that family.
– October 1996