After debuting in selected screening of Pixar’s Onward, the latest Simpsons’ short recently hit Disney+, demonstrating that, when it really wants to, The Simpsons can still put on a show. It centres around Maggie Simpson and her crush on a baby she meets at the playpark, Hudson. Featuring zero dialogue, the five minute short is chock full of brilliant animation and no dialogue, and highlights everything that’s great about modern Simpsons, as well as a little bit of what’s wrong about it.

The Simpsons began in 1989 with incredibly janky animation, something which was initially part of the show’s charm. Since then, it has gone through a HD evolution, one which first left the show cold and sterile, before the show adopted to recover its animated flair, albeit in a much more polished fashion. This animated creativity is on full display here, most notably when Maggie wanders through the older kids’ playpark.

Modern episodes can be hit or miss, and around a third of the episodes in the last five years feature rebaked plots from better times. Homer and Marge can only have so much marital difficulty before it gets stale, and they that level a while ago now. The animation though has remained top notch, and is a big part of why fans have stuck around.

This fluid, fanciful animation is key to the characterisation, and Maggie has, strangely for a character with zero dialogue, never been short on characterisation. Episodes like A Streetcar Named Marge, Who Shot Mr Burns and Four Great Women And A Manicure have given her a wordless depth, as she’s already proven in her previous Oscar nominated outing, Maggie Simpson In “The Longest Daycare”. While fans can argue that characters like Lisa or Homer have been changed beyond recognition as the show has gone on, Maggie has remained consistent, and is perfect for a timeless short like this.

Hudson too is instantly given a personality, and the connection with the audience comes across clearly. While two babies being friends is low stakes, we feel the emotion and humanity of the story, and Playdate With Destiny manages to keep us hooked.

The animation is darling and while the story is wise not to over complicate things, you could argue it’s a little bit the middle. It sets up Maggie’s struggles well and provides a satisfying resolution, but there isn’t much between these two things. Running a total of five minutes, it has to make every second count, but it does feel slightly like a beginning followed immediately by an ending.

The Simpsons has relied on celebrity guests as a crutch far too often recently, but when they introduce actual guest characters and not just star vehicle walk ons, they can still nail it.

Hudson is cut from the same cloth, even if the show hasn’t had a Hank Scorpio or Frank Grimes level character for a decade. While Playdate With Destiny highlights that The Simpsons is much better than its given credit for right now, it also exposes its biggest flaw.

The show used to have a timeless quality mixed with its referential humour, which is a big part of its rewatchability. These days, it chases relevance far too often, and while using a podcast to frame Season 30’s The Clown Stays In The Picture was a masterstroke, episodes about YouTube influencing, e-sports, streaming sites, app development and the gig economy have fallen flat. Playdate With Destiny removes the dialogue, and while there’s definitely still some great lines in modern Simpsons, the silence of the short forces them to focus on storytelling and not just lazy gags or lowest common denominator references.

All things considered, Playdate With Destiny is a fantastic example of what The Simpsons is capable of on its a-game, reminds us of the importance of Maggie to the family and the importance of narrative to The Simpsons in general. Though the low stakes and slightly truncated middle are marks against it, Playdate With Destiny is still a clear win for modern Simpsons. Boy, did it need one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s