"Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare'" is a 3D theatrical pantomime with Maggie as a pint-sized, pacifier-sucking Buster Keaton — and now it's gunning for an Oscar
If "Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare'" stuck out among the titles in the Oscar Best Animated Short category, it may be because we think of Maggie and her family as belonging to television. After all, "The Simpsons" is TV's longest-running series ever, with 27 Emmys under its belt over the last 24 seasons.
But director David Silverman can testify to the fact that Homer's brood also has a place on the big screen: He was admitted to the Academy on the heels of the 2007 feature "The Simpsons Movie," even though that film was overlooked by voters.
"We'd been experimenting with 3D on one of our Halloweeen episodes, and we just thought that since we weren't doing a feature right now, it'd be nice to do a short," Silverman told TheWrap.
But he wasn't thinking of an Oscar: "The whole thing was amazing to us," he said of the nomination. "The Oscars didn't even occur to me, because I was just working to meet my deadlines."
Still, he admitted, the Simpsons crew was simply mining a time-honored vein. "Those lines between television and theatrical are often crossed," he said. "I mean, the Warner Bros. cartoons were always designed to be theatrical, but most of us were exposed to them on television."
The short was conceived to be shown both theatrically and internationally, which is why the creative team opted to focus on the non-verbal Maggie's quest to rescue a caterpillar from a regimented daycare center. "We're usually dialogue-heavy, but we thought, 'Let's do a pantomine piece,'" said Silverman. "I've always thought that Maggie is like Buster Keaton: the stone face."
The usual Simpsons trademarks are in evidence: anarchic humor, smart weirdness and a healthy disdain for institutions of power, in this case a daycare center — the Ayn Rand School for Tots — that brutally separates the gifted from the merely normal kids.
"Jim Brooks wanted to explore the separation that goes on in day care," Silverman said. "It's a broad, broad parody of the things he'd experienced in raising kids." And while the medium may be different, Silverman conceded, "The Simpsons are the Simpsons regardless of where you see them."
So will we see them again in a big-screen feature? "We're always talking about another feature," he said. "The first took so much out of us that we didn't want to do another one right away, but everybody at Fox is very interested. We just need the right idea."
CORRECTION: The original version of this story stated that "The Simpsons" has won 37 Emmys over its run. It has won 27.