Exclusive: The story behind the secret Simpsons short heading to theaters
Executive producer Al Jean spills the beans on this years-in-the-making short film.
In a surprising move for Pixar, the next film from the Disney-owned animation house, Onward, will not be preceded by a Pixar original short. Instead, it will be attached with a Simpsons short, titled Playdate with Destiny.
"We're finally free to talk all about it," the show's executive producer Al Jean told EW. "We're very proud of it."
Though the news only just arrived with a first-look image of Maggie Simpson staring at the sunset with another baby named Hudson, the short has been in the works in one form or another for some time.
"It started because two of our writers, Tom Gammill and Max Pross, pitched the basic idea as part of a Simpsons story [for the show] a couple of years ago," Jean said. "When we did the episode, [executive producer] Jim Brooks thought they could turn that part into a theatrical short. So, we delayed the episode, which will now air April 19."
The short is directed by The Simpsons producer David Silverman, who helmed the 2012 Oscar-nominated Maggie short The Longest Daycare, which was shown in theaters alongside Ice Age: Continental Drift. Playdate with Destiny, which is essentially a silent film given how babies can't talk, is "a very romantic short" about "the first blushes of love," Jean says. Maggie meets, falls for, and has an adventure with Hudson — or as Jean puts it, "Girl meets boy, girl loses boy, guess what comes next?"
The episode that now will air in April will be an extension of this story, chronicling another adventure for the pair.
Jean, Gammill, Pross, Brooks, and Silverman developed Playdate with Destiny with Simpsons creator Matt Groening, executive producer Matt Selman, and Simpsons writer/co-executive producer Mike Price. "It's an enormous thrill for us," Jean said of the short's debut in front of Onward. "Pixar is the gold standard of animation. I think they're just the best, every film."
When Disney completed its purchase of 21st Century Fox properties, that included ownership of The Simpsons, Jean said the team approached the studio "with the short and said, 'We'd like to go with something that's compatible.' When they offered us Onward, we were ecstatic."
Onward, directed and co-written by Dan Scanlon (Monsters University), is set in a world of magical creatures who have traded magic for the technological conveniences of modernity. Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland), an elf, receives a present on his 16th birthday: a wizard's staff with a spell that can resurrect his late dad for 24 hours. When the spell goes awry, Ian and his brother, Barley (Chris Pratt), embark on a quest to finish the enchantment.
According to Jean, the short can be seen as early as tomorrow, when Disney will begin very early sneak-peek screenings of the film, which is set to hit theaters on March 6. As for what other fruit this Disney-Simpsons partnership will bear, Jean just teased, "I don't think this is the end of us doing theatrical work with Disney."
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated animator Matt Sullivan worked on Playdate with Destiny. He did not. Executive producer Matt Selman worked on the short.