Blog: Audio describing The Simpsons

Audio Description, Blog 15 Feb 2016
Homer With Donut

It only took over 26 years and 575 episodes, but on Sunday 14th of February, blind and vision-impaired viewers in NZ had the chance to enjoy an episode of The Simpsons with audio description.  

Season 27 of the iconic animated sitcom is currently screening on TV2 for the first time since the late ‘90s, giving us the opportunity to  consider audio descripting the series, and it was one that we leapt at with the enthusiasm of Homer chomping into a pink-iced doughnut.

Everyone in the audio description team is familiar with The Simpsons, and we want our AD to do justice to the well-loved and well-watched programme. Unlike standard practice for a brand-new audio described series, we named characters and places right away.  We made the assumption of viewer recognition and familiarity. The Simpsons is more than just a TV show, and we figured viewers would be acquainted with the yellow cartoon characters of Springfield.

Bearing that in mind, we found after audio describing the first episode, the content is fairly dialogue-heavy, meaning it is difficult to find gaps to describe all the fast-paced visual humour, let alone take time to illustrate the physical attributes of the characters and their wardrobes.  Where possible, though, we will continue to try to make reference to their visual quirks and their outfits.

The first challenge was to describe the classic opening sequence.  Episode one’s sequence was abbreviated and different to the standard version and didn’t feature the eponymous ‘couch gag’ where the Simpsons run into their living room to find any number of unusual happenings occurring with their sofa. Rather, a parody of several Beatles album covers played, and time didn’t allow for nearly enough description of the content of the covers, so instead we focused on getting across the gist of a couple of key ones.

The first episode took around two hours to write the AD script and about 20 minutes to record the descriptions, and everyone in the AD team is eagerly awaiting their turn to try and describe the obscure pop-culture references and wacky adventures of future episodes.

Don’t worry if you missed the first audio described episode -- you will have 21 more chances throughout this new series!

All New The Simpsons: 7pm, Sundays, TV2, with audio description available.

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