“Honest Bunny Sez: You Have No Future”
With it’s 25th season underway and a feature film already under its belt, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Matt Groening and James L. Brooks‘ “The Simpsons” begin a foray into animated shorts. Just as Disney/Pixar has been doing with their Toy Story franchise, I can see Gracie Films continuing to make these brief vignettes as a sort of insurance plan for if or when the long-standing television cartoon staple moves into retirement. It also doesn’t hurt that The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare borrows more than a few nods to old “Merrie Melodies” shorts with its bookend Maggie faces, stylized title cards, and nicely composed score.
Using the Objectivist principles of Ayn Rand for its humor—the titular daycare is called Ayn Rand School for Tots—we watch as Maggie becomes caught inside a totalitarian system of fear-mongers. After a mental detector, lice detector, and high-tech Hogwart’s Sorting Hat, the young pacifier-sucking toddler ends up being shuffled past the gifted kids and dropped amongst the paste eaters, finger-painters, and uni-brow bullies with anger management problems. Caught in a color palette of black and dark greys, the beautiful blues and reds of butterflies become her only salvation. Saving them from the wrath of a mallet-wielding Baby Gerald becomes her mission.
The film carries “The Simpsons” aesthetic with a polished sheen, retaining the show’s subversive nature and penchant for textual gags in the background. Using a bit of sleight of hand, we witness the intelligence level of everyone’s favorite cartoon baby despite her misdiagnosis of stupidity as she looks to best her archrival before Marge returns to collect her. It’s a fun little tense thriller with a ton of Rand-lite joking that will go over the heads of its demographic while entertaining the adults who brought them. I don’t like admitting the “Simpsons” label hurts it because I can never see the show as more than a plebian attempt at high art, but there it is.
I also probably shouldn’t admit that the Pagliacci aria playing at the climax made me sing “No more Rice Krispies” either.