Banksy, the Simpsons and the DPRK

Banksy’s Simpson credits have made a bit of a splash because he’s an art sensation, but watching it I understood he meant to dramatize the role inexpensive North Korean animation labor plays in the creation of much of what we see in animated film and television today, including, possibly, the Simpsons. The subcontracting of the creation of the animation cells for American programs to French companies—who are allowed to contract labor in North Korea, unlike the Americans—is the subject of Guy Delisle’s groundbreaking graphic travelogue, Pyongyang. There’s very little information on how many American shows and films are made this way as a result. Typically this labor is used to create the time-consuming cells in between the major still moments. According to Pyongyang, the major cells for those moments are done by more expensive Western labor and are sent to North Korea with a Western supervisor (Delisle’s job, for example, during the trip he dramatizes in his book).

The animators there then also use their talents to make their own shows, such as this North Korean animated television show for children, (“subtitled” by someone with a subversive, anti-North Korean, misogynistic sense of humor).  Watching it, you can get a little of a sense via reverse-engineering for what shows might be involved.

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