Somewhere in Korea, an animation factory just kicked into overdrive.

The Simpsons Movie has long been the Chinese Democracy of the tube-to-screen adaptation world (a world that still breathlessly awaits The Small Wonder Movie). Suddenly, there’s a teaser trailer, attached to Ice Age 2. On the weekend of April 1. Can you blame the wag-o-sphere for being a little suspicious?

I mean, it looks like a joke. The 20-second teaser begins with an extreme close-up of Superman’s “S” logo, and a voiceover promising a hero’s leap to the big screen. We pull out to see Homer on the coach, in a horrifically undersized Superman T-shirt.

The project has been cloaked in Burns Mansion-level secrecy, which means it may be up to 15, 20 minutes before a version of the script leaks.

Honestly, I wish it were a prank. (Doubtful: Pre-production reportedly began last June, trusted newsman Kent Brockman promised a breaking Simpsons story during last week’s American Idol, and producer James L. Brooks confirmed the timetable on Friday.) The movie was supposed to be the icing on the cake: Matt Groening & Co. wanted it to open after the show’s sunset. Now, it’s the beginning of the end. The big-screen version will come out July 27, 2007, between the show’s 18th and 19th seasons. Does this mean a 20th-season bow-out? Only time and ratings will tell.

In the meantime, here’s a question: Did the suits at Warner Bros. flip their wigs when they saw that great big Superman “S”? Parody is protected, of course, but they couldn’t have been happy to see another company piggyback on their Superhype, however lightheartedly. I imagine a response more along the lines of, “Smithers, release the hounds.”

Honestly, how weird is this? Seems like yesterday Bart Simpson “eat my shorts” shirts were banned from my fourth-grade classroom. Now, a mere decade-and-change later, they’re making a movie. Guess this can mean only one thing: It’s time to dust off my Manimal petition (so far, two and a half signatures).

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