For the first eight years of its existence, The Simpsons was one of the most vital things happening in popular culture. It was sharp, it was funny, and it did a great deal to introduce smart comedy to mainstream audiences. That was a long time ago though, and The Simpsons has been on the air for so many years now and has amassed so many seasons of questionable content that it really couldn’t feel any less vital or relevant to the current cultural conversation. At this point, the only time the show even makes any headlines is when it pulls off some sort of elaborate animation gimmick, like when Guillermo del Toro animated the opening for their annual ‘Treehouse of Horror’ episode and stuffed it full of all sorts of references to his movies.
While this is a sad reality, at least we have these occasional gimmicks to act as reminders of how much The Simpsons once meant to all of our developing geek brains. And, hey, would you look at that… it seems like the show is about to air yet another one of those attention-grabbing gimmicks, and one that is going to be of special interest to film fans, because it involves the work of a pretty much universally beloved filmmaker.
To cut to the chase, this Sunday’s episode of the show is going to feature a sequence that pays tribute to animation master Hayao Miyazaki, and seeing as the sequence has been put up on Youtube already, we can all just click through and watch it now instead of trying to remember to watch a show on a TV network at the time when it actually airs. Because that’s the sort of thing cavemen used to do.
So, what do you think, Miyazaki fans? Not only are there quite a few specific images and characters that have shown up in various Miyazaki movies (like My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away) crammed in there, but for my money the sequence does a pretty good job of emulating that tone of gentle weirdness that permeates all of Miyazaki’s work. Maybe it’s the music. Probably it could have used a lot more goop though. Miyazaki always loves to create excuses for himself to animate fluid goop.
It should also be noted, in case you haven’t heard, that the likely reason The Simpsons have chosen now to put together a sequence honoring Miyazaki is that he’s said to be retiring after the release of his next movie, which is a story about the life of a man who designed Japanese fighter planes called The Wind Rises that’s set to hit theaters in the US on February 21. You can read our review of the film here, if for some reason you need any extra nudging to go see the last Miyazaki movie ever.
Also, if there are any specific references in that Simpsons video that are bugging you because you can’t place them, Slate likely has you covered, as they’ve created an annotated version of the video that points out which Miyazaki film most every image they animated is referencing. You can watch that below. Godspeed.