“It’s amazing for me when I see kids of 8 years old and they tell me how much they love ‘The Simpsons.’ It’s great that it’s still fresh to people that young. That’s an amazing feeling, so I don’t see any end in sight.” David Silverman
Animation director David Silverman is most prominent for his work on the phenomenally successful cartoon television series “The Simpsons” (Fox, 1989 - present), from which he picked up four Emmy Awards in the Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour) category, and for directing the motion picture adaptation “The Simpsons Movie” (2007), which was a blockbuster hit. He earned nominations at the 2008 Annie Awards and the 2008 BAFTA Awards for the latter project. Starting out as freelance animator, the UCLA graduate is also known as the co-director of Pixar's hit “Monsters, Inc.,” (2001) from which he nabbed a Hochi Film Award. Other movies he has worked on include “Road to El Dorado” (2000, director), “Ice Age” (2002, story consultant), “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” (2003, animation consultant) and “Robots” (2005, storyboard artist).
“One thing that's very satisfying about television production is the timelines are much shorter. But I've got to say, I don't think I'll ever have as satisfying an experience as 'The Simpsons.' That was really the first thing I worked on, my first job directing. It's such a great show and a great success. It would be hard to duplicate that kind of experience.” David Silverman
Outside the animation circuit, Silverman is an accomplished tuba player and has performed at events like the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert.
The Strange Case of Mr. Donnybrook’s Boredom
Childhood and Family:
David A. Silverman was born on March 15, 1957, in New York City, New York. By age 4, David decided he wanted to become a cartoonist and as a child, created comic strips and animated “flip-books.” Raised in a supportive family, young David was introduced to such big names as Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, and the Marx Brothers by his dad, who was a great fan of old comedies, and got encouragement to learn history from his art historian mother.
Growing up, David soon learned that earning a sufficient income from animation was hard so he switched his attention to architecture. Still an animator at heart, he contributed illustrators to the year book and drew cartoons for the student newspaper while he was in high school. He even won a prize for a short film at the Kodak Teenage Movie Awards for his outstanding work in clay animation. While participating in the contest, he befriended the future director of Walt Disney's “Pocahontas,” Eric Goldberg, and they went on to support each other in the early stages of their careers.
After graduating high school, David studied architecture for two years at the University of Maryland. He then transferred to the University of California, in Los Angeles, where he majored in film and animation. In between providing cartoons for The Los Angeles Times and illustrations for a line of music books for children, he finished his first student project titled “The Strange Case of Mr. Donnybrook’s Boredom,” which he adapted from the Ogden Nash poem. The film went on to receive high marks and won accolades at student film festivals. David graduated from UCLA with a Master's Degree and continued to pursue a career in the world of animation.
Realizing he wanted a career in animation as a child, David Silverman cultivated his passion in high school by drawing cartoons and providing artwork for the student newspaper and the year book. Also working in clay animation, he took part in a contest for amateur filmmakers, the Kodak Teenage Movie Awards, and ended up being a winner in a short film category. Although he once shifted to architecture, the New York Native continued to work with animation at UCLA, where he made the student project “The Strange Case of Mr. Donnybrook’s Boredom” (1981). After receiving his Master's Degree from UCLA, Silverman got an animation job at Ruby-Spears, the company that produced various Saturday morning cartoon shows. Despite his happiness about landing work in Hollywood, Silverman had difficulty earning a living as a freelance animator. However, he landed work on the Savage Steve Holland-directed film “One Crazy Summer” (1986), which starred John Cusack, and the Fox sketch comedy show “The Tracey Ullman Show” (1987-1990), where he provided 30-second animated bumps put between sketches. Talking about “The Simpsons Tracey Ullman Shorts,” he said, “We were working an average of 60 to 80 hours a week. Bill Hedge was the cameraman and Georgie Peluse was the colorist. She was amazing! She was a one woman show, painting all the cells. I don't know how she did it. She was the one who made the characters yellow.” He added, “Matt (Groening) had done one initial drawing of the characters and he had done fairly tight layouts, and we really followed those to the letter. We made efforts to give more dimension to the drawings so they could develop performance personas.
Recognizing his potential, the producers recruited Silverman as a full-time animator and when the animated segments, which featured the Matt Groening-created “The Simpsons,” took on a life on their own, Silverman was a member of the team. The animated sitcom “The Simpsons” debuted on the Fox Network on December 17, 1989, with Silverman directing the pilot “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” He went on to direct twenty two more episodes, including the second episode “Bart the Genius” (January 1990), “Bart the General” (February 1990), “Some Enchanted Evening” (May 1990), “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” (November 1990), “Blood Feud” (August 1991), “Homer's Triple Bypass” (December 1992), “Treehouse of Horror IV” (October 1993), “Homie the Clown” (February 1995), “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular” (December 1995), and “Treehouse of Horror XIII (November 2002), “XV” (November 2004), “XVI” (November 2005) and “XVII” (November 2006).
Apart from being a director, the popular animated series “The Simpsons” has also given Silverman opportunities to work in other positions. He served as producer/consulting producer for 173 episodes during 1991-2008, storyboard/lead storyboard for 12 episodes during 1990-1995, and title designer for 85 episodes during 1990-2006. Largely recognized for creating most of the rules for drawing “The Simpsons,” Silverman co-won four Emmys for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less, 1990, 1995, 1997 and 2006), and five additional nominations in the same category.
While still working on “The Simpsons,” Silverman wrote an episode of the syndicated cartoon show “Beetlejuice” called “Journey to the Centre of the Neitherworld,” which was broadcasted on December 5, 1991. He also served as visual designer on five episodes of the animated series “The Critic” (1994-1995) and helmed an animated segment in the motion picture “Robocop 3” (1993), which starred Robert John Burke in the title role.
Silverman left “The Simpsons” to direct his first feature film, “Road to El Dorado” (2000), for DreamWorks SKG. Starring Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh in the voice roles of Tulio and Miguel, respectively, the film was not a hit but Silverman did land a subsequent directorial gig on “Monsters, Inc.,” (2001) for the Pixar Animation Studio. A critical and commercial success, the film, in which he shared the director's chair with Pete Docter and Lee Unkrich, grossed more than $5 million worldwide and brought Silverman a Hochi Film award for Best Foreign Language Film.
2002 saw Silverman serve as story consultant on the box office hit “Ice Age,” which was produced by Blue Sky Studios and Twentieth Century Fox Animation. He next worked as an animation consultant on Warner Bros. Pictures' “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” (2003) directed by Joe Dante, and as a storyboard artist on Twentieth Century Fox Animation's “Robots” (2005), starring the voices of big names like Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Amanda Bynes and Paul Giamatti.
Silverman returned to “The Simpsons” to direct the anticipated movie version “The Simpsons Movie” (2007), which starred the regular television cast of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria, Pamela Hayden, and Tress MacNeille, and featured Albert Brooks as the evil Russ Cargill. The film was a huge box office hit and created some American box office records, including highest grossing opening weekend for a non-CG animated film and for a film adapted from a television series, and the third-highest grossing opening weekend for an animated film. With a worldwide gross of over $5 million, “The Simpsons Movie” became the eighth highest grossing film of 2007. For his directing job, Silverman took home an Annie nomination for Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production and a BAFTA nomination for Best Animated Film.
Emmy: Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour), “The Simpsons,” 2006
Hochi Film: Best Foreign Language Film, “Monsters, Inc.,” 2002
Emmy: Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less), “The Simpsons,” 1997
Emmy: Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less), “The Simpsons,” 1995
Annie: Outstanding Individual Achievement in the Field of Animation, 1992
Emmy: Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less), “The Simpsons,” 1990