One of the longest-running TV shows ever, The Simpsons— the colorful, comedic Fox sitcom— has amassed multiple generations of fans. While the show is now produced using digital computer art, the first 13 seasons used hand-painted animation cels, some of which the network made available for avid fans to purchase.
In 2020, generous animation fans and collectors Bill Heeter and Kristi Correa offered New York’s Museum of the Moving Image the opportunity to exhibit some of the treasures from their private collection. MoMI’s Deputy Director for Operations, Exhibitions and Design, Wendell Walker, had the task and privilege of designing—and lighting—the installation of the exhibition, which features Bart, Homer, and the entire Simpson family.
Funding and budgets always come into play in the art world. To make the most use of existing resources, it is important to have lighting technology and infrastructure that not only works for a particular exhibit but is adaptable enough to pivot when the content in the galleries change, which is an ongoing process in any museum. For this installation, limited space was also an issue, so properly lighting the pieces that were chosen for exhibition became especially important in telling the story.
“The objects in this exhibition have lots of bright, saturated colors and Ketra gave me lots of options for lighting the color uniquely for each cel.”-Wendell Walker, Deputy Director of Operations, Exhibitions, and Design, MoMI
Ketra opened up a lot of possibilities for experimentation. First, there were plenty of options to help properly light the exhibit’s bold colors, and Ketra’s Vibrancy feature in particular offered the ability to make those colors jump off the page. Second, the wireless fixtures provided the freedom to experiment with fixture placement. In the end, designer Walker found that he could have used far fewer Ketra lamps, given the tight precision and even illumination each fixture offered. Finally, customized programming played a key role. With help from the Lutron tech team, Walker was able to create the ideal base lighting settings from which we could later build layers to continue adapting the design.
Project photography by Sachyn Mital.
The exhibit’s full spectrum of bright, saturated colors shine true. The animation cels pop off the page, but in a way that doesn’t make the images’ colors look altered at all. This was especially helpful with the pieces featuring characters—the cels have been brought to life in a way that wouldn’t be possible with MoMI’s existing lighting system.
Woo Hoo! Despite the current health-related closure, MoMI’s website and social media channels continue to deliver interesting, fun content online. The museum will be back and welcoming visitors to this unique exhibit as soon as safely possible. For more information, visit MoMI's website or read more about "D'oh! Animating America's Funniest Family" at its exhibit page.
“Using the Ketra system alters the way I think about lighting —it's so flexible and capable.”-Wendell Walker, Deputy Director for Operations, Exhibits and Design, MoMI