‘The Simpsons’ Producer Al Jean on How the Show’s New ‘Star Wars’ Short Came to Be — And If Marvel Is Next
You’re not the only one surprised by the sudden announcement of the new “The Simpsons” short “Maggie Simpson in ‘The Force Awakens From Its Nap.’” For executive producer Al Jean and the team behind the long-running animated series, they’re still marveling at how quickly they turned it around.
“The Force Awakens From Its Nap,” which premieres at Midnight PT on Disney Plus, came out of an idea that executive producer James L. Brooks came up with in January. Because “The Simpsons” library is such a hit on the streamer, why not do a series of shorts where the show interacts with other Disney Plus franchises?
Jean’s idea was “Star Wars”-centric, sending baby Maggie to a Jedi pre-school. He wrote the script with Joel Cohen and Mike Price, while “Simpsons” director David Silverman helmed the short.
Lucasfilm and Disney Plus were on board. Keep in mind, this was January. “And then they said, ‘we’d really like to time the Star Wars short for May the Fourth,’” Jean said. “Obviously because that’s the big day. But that’s a very tight schedule. We immediately had to write it. I think the first draft is dated January 18. And we’ve been working on that staff with us and David and the animation ever since. We finally finished the mix on Friday last week. So I would say about three months is about as fast as you can do these things.”
“The Force Awakens From Its Nap” is the third in a series of shorts focused on Maggie, and with no dialogue. The first, “Maggie Simpson on ‘The Longest Daycare,’” premiered in theaters in 2012 and was nominated for an Oscar. The second, “Maggie Simpson in ‘Playdate with Destiny,’” ran on Disney Plus in April 2020.
“Maggie, I would say is like Buster Keaton,” Jean said. “She’s silent, she’s funny and she can take a fall. So she’s an excellent silent comedian… I just love doing them. When I started watching comedy, my heroes were Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, and there was an essence to those shorts that they did that was amazing.”
Jean said the Lucasfilm team was game to work with “The Simpsons” and “had some good suggestions. They wanted to make sure that we used the full universe of their characters,” he said. “I’ve been watching since the first film and I’ve enjoyed ‘The Mandalorian’ and their references to everything in between. It’s always been an inspiration to us at ‘The Simpsons’ and it was fun to really mix the two universes. It’s hard to describe until you’ve seen it, but I think it’s really gorgeously animated. I think it really came off well.”
Among the characters who appear are BB-8 and “Darth Maul Baby.” Baby Yoda, aka Grogu, is referenced but not seen. “Baby Yoda is probably the most in demand character in the whole Disney universe right now,” Jean said. “I think they don’t want Baby Yoda to be overexposed, which is understandable. So there’s a small reference.”
Where the “Star Wars” team also came in handy was making sure the Star Wars language, Aurebesh, was correctly translated on a chalk board. “They corrected our language and retranslated it for us,” Jean said. “You have the top minds of two organizations of nerds combining on this.”
Monday’s Disney Plus announcement revealed that the new short “is the first of several from ‘The Simpsons’ that Disney Plus will release throughout the year paying tribute to the service’s marquee brands and titles.” And indeed, Jean confirms that another one is in the works, and this one doesn’t center on Maggie.
“I won’t say what it is but it’s also very exciting in different ways,” he said. “The only goal is to sort of walk across the Disney Plus tiles from Star Wars to Nat Geo and plant our seed everywhere.”
Could Marvel be next? “Could be,” hinted Jean. “I’m a huge Marvel fan. We’ve dealt with them in a couple of ways. We’ve parodied them a lot. We even had a couple of them, including Kevin Feige, on the show. So our relationship with them has only been fantastic. Just as I’ve been inspired by ‘Star Wars’ for 40 years, I grew up reading Marvel Comics. And have a bunch still. If somebody told me I’d grow up to write for ‘Star Wars’ and Marvel I’d be pretty happy.”
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