The first short film from The Simpsons harks back to the golden age of the show, and unexpectedly gives new life to an often overlooked member of the family.
After twenty-three years on the air, The Simpsons is far from being the fresh show it once was. This is partly due to new challengers to the animated crown, including the much edgier Family Guy and a whole suite of Adult Swim titles, but largely due to the inability of any show to sustain its quality as it forges on into its third decade in our homes. These days, The Simpsons is best taken in small doses, which is where this new theatrical short comes in. Playing in front of Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, the first of what we hope is a series of theatrical shorts reminds us of why we love animation and indeed, why cinema is magic.
The Longest Daycare sees Marge Simpson returning to the Ayn Rand School for Tots, last seen back in the 1992 episode “A Streetcar Named Marge”, to drop Maggie off for a few hours. After going through an intense security screening, it is determined that Maggie is of average intelligence and will not be joining the kids in the idyllic gifted room. Instead, she is plonked down with her nemesis Baby Gerald, better known as the ‘Unibrow Baby’. Gerald takes great pleasure in squashing butterflies, so when Maggie spies a caterpillar ready to cocoon, she goes to great lengths to protect it.
Veteran Simpsons director, and helmer of the 2007 full-length The Simpsons Movie, David Silverman has used the twin arts of animation and 3D to create a short silent classic. Without a single line of dialogue over its four-and-a-half minutes, we go on an epic odyssey with one of the family’s least outspoken characters. Maggie stories don’t often get much light in the television show, simply because she is difficult to sustain over 20 minutes, but in the abbreviated format of the short film, Maggie becomes the cinema star she was always destined to be. Like the silent movies of yesteryear, 2011’s The Artist notwithstanding, Silverman recognises the inherent comedy in action rather than words. The focus on a single character is reminiscent of the classic Disney or Looney Toons shorts, and we hope this means more Maggie, Homer or even Bart ‘toons to come.
The animation is beautiful, with butterflies a focus of the narrative. The fluid movements are noticeably more nuanced and richer than their television counterparts, making us wish for a second theatrical outing for our favourite yellow people. This is also the first time we have seen The Simpsons in 3D, with the 2007 feature proudly being in glorious 2D. The added dimension seamlessly ads depth to a previously flat world, although with The Simpsons there is usually so much going on it wouldn’t matter what dimension it is in. Go in, laugh hard and welcome a new age of The Simpsons! It might be worth the price of admission into Ice Age alone.
Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare is released with Ice Age 4: Continental Drift in Australia on 28 June 2012 from Fox. It is released in the US on 13 July 2012.