Animation takes time. Good animation takes a long time. A delay of over a year between writing and air is not uncommon. This can really put a damper on a series' attempts to be topical.
Can be a major cause of We're Still Relevant, Dammit!.
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Examples of Animation Lead Time include:
- Teasers for The Pagemaster were in theaters 4 years before the movie came out.
- One of the reasons The Emperor's New Groove suffered a Retool was it because the 2000 release date was set, but by 1998 it was clear that the Troubled Production wouldn't be ready by then.
- This is one of the reasons (the other being heavy Executive Meddling in the version that eventually did get released) why people think The Thief and the Cobbler is a ripoff of Aladdin; it was released after it, but had actually been in development for so long beforehand that it's more credible to say Aladdin borrowed from it than the other way around.
- Happens a lot in the Disney Animated Canon. Sometimes three to five years will pass between the initial announcing of a project and the theatrical release of the movie, thus having the final picture entering into a social or economic market it is ill-prepared for.
- Also, in the early 90s, it was not uncommon for Disney to include rough pencil tests and story-boards in the trailers for their movies, simply because there wasn't enough finished footage to make a complete trailer. This practice seems to have stopped, probably because it looks sloppy. The response has been to make initial teaser trailers merely describing the premise of the film using little to no footage from the actual movie; creating a custom short. Both Lilo & Stitch and The Princess and the Frog did this.
- The Tale of the Princess Kaguya took eight years to finish. A joke inside production company Studio Ghibli was that the film will never be released.
- Hayao Miyazaki's The Boy and the Heron started production in 2016, and wasn't released until July 2023.
- Related trope: Newspaper comics are often written a long time in advance, which can cause problems for more topical comics like Doonesbury, as lampshaded here.
- Trudeau works two weeks away from deadline, closer than any other syndicated cartoonist. He also has a hired inker, which cuts back on lag time. Generally speaking, this keeps things relevant.
- Fans of the bygone comic strip version of The Boondocks may regret that the TV series can't joke about current events nearly so much.
- The Simpsons plays with this. They often try to overdub relevant jokes after the finished animation is back from its overseas production. They make it obvious on some occasions, such as the Super Bowl episode; the names of the teams were only said once, with Homer and Moe's mouths covered, and the overdub doesn't match the scene's audio.
- In that particular episode, it was deliberate to show what they were doing. They also took some potshots at the then-current Lewinsky scandal, where the status of Bill Clinton's Presidency was clearly overdubbed as well as the status of his marriage.
- They try to overcome it with overdubs and lampshade hanging, but they still fall victim to this trope big time. Combined with the occasional tendency of Simpsons episodes to air a season or more after they were completed, this trope has (for instance) caused parody episodes to be released years after the works they were mocking. Case in point, "Simpson Tide", a parody of the 1995 film Crimson Tide, was first shown in 1998.
- In one episode, several Itchy and Scratchy cartoons are shown in quick succession, all parodying films at least a year old. Krusty then hangs a huge lampshade on it, asking why they're parodying movies that old, and saying that the animation took too long to make to get it out sooner.
- South Park's animation process is so fast, and its lack of quality is part of the point, that it can be immune to this, often making episodes as little as a week ahead, and sometimes an entire episode is made in just three days.
- The ultimate example of this is the episode "Christmas in Canada", which included references to (and images of) Saddam Hussein's capture three days after it happened.
- South Park broke its own record with "About Last Night...", spoofing the results of the 2008 election and the ensuing aftermath that had happened the previous night. Of course they wrote it assuming Obama's poll lead would be the same in the election.
- Another example is the quintuplets episode being rewritten after commercials aired to be about the Elian Gonzales situation.
- Same for most shows on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. One episode of Robot Chicken did a Lampshade Hanging on this, however. During a spoof of the film Into the Blue, Seth Green (in stop-motion animated form) interrupted the skit to briefly explain how animation takes time and therefore some skits may be irrelevant. He then went on to state (with obvious irony) that he was confident that by now, Into the Blue had become a box office hit and won several Academy Awards, then closed by apologizing for any inconvenience.
- The British series 2DTV was an animated satire on the week's events, which obviously needed to be animated as quickly and cheaply as possible - and it showed. (The basic idea was originally done with puppets as Spitting Image.)
- The same goes for the Finnish animated series The Autocrats, which was a CGI-animated series about the largely fictional lives of the members of the Finnish parliament. Since each episode had to be done in a week for the sake of staying topical, in the end the show was neither particularly entertaining or particularly well animated, the latter being particularly obvious.
- The Family Guy episode "Ocean's 3 1/2" managed to do a joke about Christian Bale's Cluster F-Bomb within two weeks after the audio was first released, by quickly animating a reel-to-reel tape player playing clips of said outburst interspliced with Peter Griffin's voice reacting to it.
- This was cut out in later airings of the episode, and replaced with Quagmire's cutaway involving wanting to make an underwhelming thriller starring Jeff Bridges and Laura Linney.
- Admitted on the commentary track for the Futurama episode 300 Big Boys which was about a big tax refund that, when it happened, was quite a big deal... but, then came 9/11, the episode aired and none of the viewers would get the reference.
- The whole phenomenon surrounding Derpy Hooves from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is an interesting case. After bronies latched onto her appearance in the first episode, she appeared throughout the first half of season one with a more normal appearance. It wasn't until "Feeling Pinkie Keen" that Derpy reappeared with her now-famous googly eyes, as at that point the animators went back to intentionally animate her eyes in that manner. She's since been made a full-fledged character in season 2.