Only Pixar Can Save Failing ‘Simpsons,’ Showrunner Says

in Pixar

Lisa Simpson speaks into a large megaphone at an event, standing next to a red carpet where behind a barrier, several adult male characters watch her, with a scenic backdrop showing a palm tree and a sunset.

Credit: Fox

Pixar Animations Studios holds the key to keeping The Simpsons going at least a little bit longer, co-showrunner Al Jean has revealed.

Colorful illustration of the Simpson family and various other characters from "The Simpsons," gathered in a lively group setting.
Credit: 20th Century Television/Disney

The Walt Disney Company acquired 21st Century Fox (which includes 20th Century Fox, National Geographic, and FX, among others) in 2019 as part of Bob Iger’s spree of mega-purchases before he left his position as CEO, only to return a few years later. That made Fox and all its intellectual properties part of a big family that includes Walt Disney Animation Studios, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, and Pixar Animation Studios.

In particular, that made one of Fox’s best-known IPs, The Simpsons, part of the Disney brand, allowing the iconically irreverent show to be synergistically paired with Star Wars, Marvel, and even pop star Billie Eilish. Since the Disney acquisition, The Simpsons has been used for Disney+ specials like Maggie Simpson in “Playdate with Destiny” (2020) and The Simpsons Meet the Bocellis in ‘Feliz Navidad’ (2022).

Star Wars Disney Plus Simpsons short
Credit: Disney +

Related: ‘The Simpsons’ Kills off Original Character After 34 Years

But it turns out that the ultimate fate of The Simpsons might be more tied to Pixar, its sister in Disney, than one might have thought. In a recent interview, Al Jean, who began as a writer on the show in 1989 and has served as co-showrunner with Matt Selman since 2020, revealed that The Simpsons Movie 2 might be a possibility if the upcoming Pixar sequel Inside Out 2 is a success.

Animated characters from the movie "inside out" with joy in the center, surrounded by sadness, anger, and disgust, in a colorful setting, expressing a range of emotions.
Credit: Pixar

After years of rumors, The Simpsons Movie was released in 2007, co-written by series creator Matt Groening and a dazzling array of creatives throughout the history of the show. The movie was rolled out with a huge promotional campaign that saw real-life convenience stores becoming Kwik-E-Marts and grossing over $500 million, immediately becoming the highest-grossing feature film ever based on an animated series (take that, Smurfs!).

Despite the box office success and critical acclaim (the film still holds 87% on Rotten Tomatoes), progress has been slow on The Simpsons Movie 2 since then. According to Al Jean, much of that simply has to do with the state of animation in the current film industry.

It seems that the recent lack of success of theatrical animated films like Wish (2023), for example, has made it difficult to get a massive project like The Simpsons Movie 2 to get into motion.

Homer Simpson licking his fingers with a bitten donut in his hand, next to the text "The Simpsons Movie" with a donut substituting for the letter "O".
Credit: Fox

Al Jean told Screenrant, “I think it’s a bigger issue than The Simpsons. On several levels, we’re really hoping for Inside Out 2 to do great this summer. I want to see the animation business completely returned to what it was before the pandemic. And then, I think if that was the case, it would make sense to do The Simpsons theatrically.

But I understand that it’s an issue above me about, “Where would you release it? And how would you release it?”

To be fair, if any single studio is responsible for the state of the animation industry, it is like The Walt Disney Company itself. Disney (and, by extension, Pixar and Fox) has dominated animation in the United States for decades, being practically synonymous with the medium.

Related: Universal Reportedly Retiring ‘The Simpsons’ Land, Disney Said to Add Characters in Parks

The Pixar logo with characters
Credit: Pixar

Al Jean became more pessimistic about the possibilities of a future Simpsons theatrical film, saying:

“And we are, with the shorts and other things, streaming on Disney+, so I love seeing animated movies in theaters. I loved The Boy and the Heron (2023) that just won the Oscar, I’ll always go see the Miyazaki movies that come out. So, I really am all for animation being fully theatrical, so I hope that’s where it goes. [We have not] formally [talked] about a movie, no. We’re exploring different venues like this [the short] for presenting The Simpsons, but it’d be premature to say we had a movie script in development.”

It sounds like the rest of the Disney family is using Pixar as something of a canary in a coalmine for the future of animation. Inside Out 2 had better do pretty well at the box office, for all animation lovers’ sakes.

Do you want Disney to release The Simpsons Movie 2? Tell us in the comments below!

View Comment (1)