“It’s your fault I can’t talk.” – Maggie Simpson
Perhaps the only really interesting thing to come out of “Lisa Goes Gaga” was the surprise announcement at the end of “The Longest Daycare”, a 3D short that will be shown before Ice Age 4, starting on July 13th. (FOX has helpfully put the announcement on YouTube, should you wish to relive all ten seconds of it.) At present, everything the internet knows about this thing comes from the brief announcement itself and from a quickie interview Al Jean gave to ew.com. Literally every other story I saw about “The Longest Daycare”, and I saw a lot of them, was originally sourced to this article. Even the Wikipedia page is basically nothing but information from this one piece.
So, what’s in it? Mostly it’s just basic plot and background:
- It will be set back at the Ayn Rand School for Tots. (Though no word on whether or not The Longest Day will be used as rough source material the same way The Great Escape was in “A Streetcar Named Marge”.)
- Jean teased an appearance from Baby Gerald.
- It’s four-and-a-half minutes long with no spoken dialogue.
- David Silverman directed it.
- It is indeed in 3D (though a 2D "animatic" will be shown at Comic-Con).
What’s most interesting here isn’t the 3D or any of the story information. It’s the fact that it’s dialogue free, which means they didn’t have to involve their expensive voice actors at all.
It’s more than a little reminiscent of the Coke/Super Bowl ad from two years ago. In the ad, even though they had a newscaster telling us that Burns was broke, it wasn’t Kent Brockman. The only other lines in the sixty-second commercial came from Milhouse, who is, of course, not voiced by one of the six main voice actors. That ad is doubly resonant because the generic news anchor guy was Maurice LaMarche, whom I’m 99% sure was the guy narrating the trailer for “The Longest Daycare”.
Without claiming any kind of predictive powers, this short is exactly what I was talking about in Chapter 12 of the book when I compared the future of the Simpsons to what’s happened to Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. Whether or not Homer, Marge or any of the rest of the family appears for a silent cameo, the short represents a new stage in the decoupling of the Simpsons as cartoon characters from their current home on FOX’s Sunday night lineup (and the people who do voice work there). It’s an animated story set in the Simpsons universe and populated with Simpsons characters, but the only things it has in common with the original show are things FOX owns.
Obviously this isn’t the first time FOX has leveraged the existing popularity of the Simpsons outside the realm of the show. They’ve been making video games and t-shirts forever, after all. But this is the first time they’ve done so in the form of animated entertainment, and that makes it noteworthy. Whether or not this is the first of many theatrical shorts or a one off deal, it’s a Simpsons cartoon that has even less to do with the original show than Zombie Simpsons does (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). It won’t be the last.
(And please note, I make no claims to whether or not “The Longest Daycare” will be good or not on its own merits. We haven’t even gotten a clip to view, so there’s no telling what it’ll look like, much less whether or not it’ll actually be funny. I doubt it’ll be worth sitting through Ice Age 4, which looks terrible, but there’s no reason to hold that against the short.)