THE SIMPSONS Showrunner Al Jean Talks New Disney+ Short, Cameos, Stan Lee, And THOSE Predictions (Exclusive)

THE SIMPSONS Showrunner Al Jean Talks New Disney+ Short, Cameos, Stan Lee, And THOSE Predictions (Exclusive) THE SIMPSONS Showrunner Al Jean Talks New Disney+ Short, Cameos, Stan Lee, And THOSE Predictions (Exclusive)

The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean sits down to talk with us about Disney+'s "May the 12th Be With You," the short's huge number of cameos, and much more (including the show's habit of predicting the future).

By JoshWilding - May 11, 2024 11:05 AM EST
Filed Under: The Simpsons

"May the 12th Be With You," a new Mother's Day-themed short from The Simpsons, is now streaming exclusively on Disney+. In that, Marge Simpson joins the moms of Disney+ on a special holiday outing that turns into an epic galactic adventure filled with heroes, villains and a surprising old friend.

Earlier this week, we sat down with showrunner, writer, and executive producer of the long-running series, Al Jean. His name has been popping up in The Simpsons' credits since 1989, and is responsible for penning some of the show's most iconic episodes.

For "May the 12th Be With You," he set out to deliver a special celebration of Mother's Day that puts Marge front and centre...along with an insane number of cameos which should mean this short demands repeat viewings for anyone hoping to catch them all.

In this interview, The Simpsons veteran talks about the inspiration for this story, what it's been like working with Disney, the work that goes into making these shorts, and why now was the right time to put the spotlight on Marge. We also hear from Jean on the possibility of making another Simpsons Movie, why he loved working with Marvel's Stan Lee, and the show's uncanny knack for predicting future events.

You can read the full interview below. 

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It’s such a pleasure and honour to chat with you as I know you’ve been part of The Simpsons pretty much from the start. How reinvigorating has it been for you to find ways to tell stories in this world with these fun, wacky short films we’ve been getting?

It’s a lot of fun. I was asked to do this about three years ago and to work with Marvel, which I grew up reading because that was my Simpsons, and Star Wars, ditto, as well as the Disney classics and to do it with David Silverman as the director…it’s a dream. I’m really glad they let us do them. I think we set a record in this short for the most Disney characters in any one thing ever. We got over 1000, I hope. I couldn’t enjoy it more. 

There’s a great Bambi joke which had me cracking up - 

Yeah, we got Bambi’s mother for this short. Can you believe it? [Laughs]

- but did Disney ever tell you there are any characters or jokes that are off-limits?

No, Mickey, they’re selective with the jokes, but as you can see, there’s a funny Mickey joke that Jim Brooks pitched in the short. No, they’ve been really, really open to everything. 

It’s great to see Marge take centre stage because she’s such a great character. What do you love about stories which revolve around her?

Well, this is my personal Marge work. I wrote an episode of the show that aired Sunday, it’s on Hulu now, called ‘The Tell-Tale Pants’ about Marge and then this short which hits May 10. Marge is streaming everywhere people! Julie Kavner is such a loveable person and voice. There’s no question that there would have been no show if you hadn’t of had her making everything okay, making Homer justified, being there for Bart in the beginning and all the way through. I’m glad whenever she gets her well-deserved due. 

These shorts are great and have been hitting Disney+ pretty regularly, but for you working behind the scenes, what’s the turnaround like on these and how do you make sure they’re still relevant with the characters we see? I loved seeing Ahsoka in this one. 

Yeah, and although she’s not technically a mother, she is a guardian to Rotta the Hutt, so that was why she’s in the short! We did take a little pause with the shorts because we obviously weren’t doing anything during the WGA strike. So, we started this in December and the turnaround is about five months. There’s always a period of, ‘Hey, we have plenty of time!’ and then a period of, ‘Oh no, we have no time at all!’ [Laughs] I give total credit to David Silverman and the animation team. They knocked it out of the park.

There are some great jokes about the Disney Parks and loved the Galaxy’s Edge scene. Was it fun to play around in that world too?

I think the most fun for us was getting Seth McFarlane to do a cameo because Hulu is now available on Disney+ and he immediately said yes. That was a great pleasure and we were really, really excited about that. I know people who are fans of The Simpsons and Family Guy will really like it.

Long before you started working with Disney, there’s always been some great cameos and Easter Eggs in The Simpsons. One of my favourites was when you had the great Stan Lee in an episode - 

That was a dream come true for me to meet him and ask him questions about Marvel. Like, ‘How come The Watcher is only supposed to watch but always interferes?’ You can see I’m a nerd. That’s why I do these! 

I am so jealous. But anyway, Disney has so many franchises like Alien, Predator, Planet of the Apes, Avatar…could any more crossovers follow?

I’d do another Marvel one. There was no bigger pleasure than working with Tom Hiddleston and I’m really looking forward to Deadpool & Wolverine this summer. As I said, when I was a kid, Marvel was my Simpsons!

The show has such an incredible legacy. I’m 33 and grew up with it, I’ve got a family member who is 17 that’s done the same and nephews discovering it for the first time too - 

[Laughs] It’s neverending!

- and it’s awesome to see. Having worked on the show for such a long time, what does that legacy mean to you?

It’s one of the wonderful things about Disney+. New kids discovered it, particularly during the pandemic, and they watch every episode. We’re still in the top 5 TV shows on Disney+ and I think it’s because every generation makes The Simpsons their own which I love.

Do you think streaming has given the show new life?

Oh, Disney+ has absolutely been a huge boost. No two ways about it. We didn’t have control on where we landed in the streaming wars and we’re really lucky with where we wound up. They’ve been totally supportive and great. Disney+ has been a fantastic place to work. 

I’ve got to ask, has there ever been any talk with Disney+ about making another Simpsons Movie for streaming?

There’s talk and I think something will happen. It’s tough for the entire animation business right now to know what the best path is. I think we want to see how the animated films do this summer. There are a couple of great ones coming out and, I’m all for animation, so I’m hoping the genre comes back in full theatrically. It’s bigger than The Simpsons; it’s a question for the whole genre. 

Episode 800 is on the horizon. Have you been thinking over any ideas for a benchmark I’m guessing you never expected to reach back in 1989?

I would have been institutionalised [Laughs] if I knew we’d get that far. I was showrunner for episodes 300 to 700, so I’m happy to let someone take on 800 and up to 1000 at least.

I was hoping we’d get another of these shorts and expected a May 4 one, but this is all about May 12 and Mother’s Day. Where did the inspiration for that come from?

It was actually because I was thinking, ‘Well, we’ve done one on May 4…wait, Mother’s Day is on May 12.’ Then, we centered it around Marge. On a personal note, my own mother passed this year so I dedicate this to her. And moms, none of us would be who we are without them in any way. 

To go back to the cameos, people are going to be pausing every frame to find these characters, but did you have any favourites you desperately wanted to include?

It’s always a little tricky to get Mickey in. Jim Brooks pitched the joke that they approved; they’re just a little more careful with him. Everybody we wanted to get in is in. They’re all there.

All the time on social media, people talk about the show’s accuracy in predicting future events. What’s it been like seeing that take off and for it to happen, not just once or twice, but a yearly or twice yearly occurrence?

I think I should have done better betting on football [Laughs] because I’m such an oracle. You know, one writer who predicted Trump as President said it best: ‘If you do over 700 episodes and you don’t make any correct predictions, then you’re really kind of doing a bad job.’ You’re bound to hit a few targets! 

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JustAWaffle
JustAWaffle - 5/11/2024, 11:19 AM
It’s kind of funny that Disney owns the Simpsons, but the Universal park still has the ride. Their Duff beer wasn’t bad from what I remember.
FinnishDude
FinnishDude - 5/11/2024, 11:57 AM
Haven't seen the latest one, but so far all Disney+ Simpsons shorts have been pretty bad and all the Disney jokes are soft-ball versions of jokes youtube parodies did a decade ago.

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