‘The Simpsons’ Boss Al Jean Talks New Disney+ Crossover With Marvel’s Loki & Creating Superhero Gags
By the power of Asgard, our favorite Marvel characters — including Tom Hiddleston voicing the God of Mischief — have crossed over with the residents of Springfield in The Simpsons’ new Disney+ short, The Good, The Bart, and the Loki, now streaming. With plenty of superhero gags, costumes, and easter eggs, fans of both worlds are sure to find a lot of laughs in the new short.
This isn’t the first time The Simpsons has crossed over with another Disney property; The Force Awakens From Its Nap premiered on May 4 as a collaboration with Star Wars and showed how the series’ signature humor could work in another universe. This time, the short lampooned Loki and dropped the same day as the first season’s penultimate episode.
Below we spoke to the longtime showrunner of The Simpsons, Al Jean, about the process of making the short, working with Marvel and Disney, and the potential for future crossovers.
How did the idea for the short come around and how much was Marvel involved in the process of making it?
Al Jean: The idea came because we’re on Disney+, and if you want to find The Simpsons on Disney+, there isn’t a tile that says The Simpsons. So [The Simpsons producer] Jim Brooks [said] “Hey, what if we do shorts like crossing over with Star Wars or Marvel” and got the deal approved in January of 2021. So our first deadline was that we’ve got to hit May the 4th for ‘May the 4th be with you.’
Then, while we’re finishing that in April, we said, “Oh my God, Loki is coming out as a miniseries, that’d be perfect for Loki.” So we worked on it about three months, and both of them were very fast and Marvel definitely approved everything just as the Star Wars people approved everything in the first short. And they were great. Tom Hiddleston couldn’t have been better, Marvel people just [were] great on everything and let us parody their publicity, their old covers. Just a fantastic experience.
As a Marvel fan, what was it like to be able to use Loki and other Marvel characters to poke fun at them in the classic Simpsons style?
I just kept thinking that there was a Thor cartoon in the ‘60s that people remember. It had a song, [and] “The God of Thunder, Mighty Thor” I think was the ending lyric, so I just kept thinking “Wow.” I remember watching it and if somebody told me I was writing a cartoon with Thor and Loki years later I would be totally dumbfounded. The big key was saying, “Hey, Bart is Loki, he’s got Lisa where Loki has Thor,” and then we thought it would be funny if Lisa became Thor like Natalie Portman in the new Thor movie. Once we had that, then we had a really good motivation for the short, and then the other goal was to put as many post-credit sequences in the short as you could in a four-minute short à la Marvel movies.
How did you decide which Simpsons characters to cast as their Marvel counterparts? How did you match them up with each other?
It was mostly just going through a list of characters like, “OK, Agatha Harkness and the Scarlet Witch would be great as Patty and Selma,” and then figuring out The Simpsons analogues. My favorite was Ralph as the Hulk — I just think they have similar emotional sensibilities and intelligence. And we could have done more. I think there’s a hundred Avengers now. We had limits on the enemies, which was done very well for a very short turnaround by David Silverman.
How much freedom were you given to poke fun at Disney? Like that one sign that says, “This is what happens when Disney buys Marvel and Fox,” and jokes like that?
No problems from Marvel, no problems from Disney, they’re both great. At that end, it just sailed through. The Marvel people said, “Would you like to use the Avengers music?” It was like, “Would we!?” It was just really fun, so I look forward to another crossover very, very much. And again, Tom Hiddleston just was really funny and really nice. He came in twice to record over Zoom from London, and he’s smart like Loki but nice not like Loki.
Were there any jokes or ideas that you had originally that you decided to cut?
We had a reference to Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life from Asgardian mythology. We cut that because it just wasn’t that funny. We did show Bart winding up in the Rainbow Bridge as head of Asgard the way Loki ruled at the end and he kicked Skinner off the bridge. But since we cut that, I guess Bart has an uncertain fate, which is kind of creepy.
How is the production process different for one of these shorts compared to an episode of the show?
I work directly with the director David Silverman and we write a script and it’s approved by Jim Brooks and everything. David just immediately starts boarding it very roughly, and the designs get done very quickly. He sort of sends stuff to me just through the day, “What do you think of this little bit and that little thing?” and I send him ideas like, “Oh, let’s put in Odin’s wolf in the prison,” and it just goes back and forth like this. It’s a fantastic process because it makes everything funnier and better.
You mentioned how nice it was working with Tom Hiddleston on the short. Are there any other Marvel stars or characters you’d like to work with in the future?
Could there potentially be other Simpsons crossovers with Marvel in the future? Are there any plans or anything you could tell us about?
Nothing planned but I’m sure there could be. It was such a pleasure to work with them and they’re not going anywhere, we’re not going anywhere, so I think it’s possible. And I think the Loki miniseries is fantastic. It’s the wave of the future, these mini series on Disney+, so I’m sure this is just the beginning.
Has this partnership with Disney allowed you greater freedom to include their characters or more references in the main show itself?
Ironically yes, because we’re not worried about them suing us anymore. People said, “Well, what’s going to happen?” The funny thing is we did a lot of anti-Disney jokes in the first 25 seasons, which you can all now see on Disney+. We’ve been told, “We bought The Simpsons, we need The Simpsons, so don’t change, be yourselves.”
How do you feel about Loki, the show itself?
Fantastic. I thought the [fourth] episode was really brilliant and I have no clue where it’s gonna wind up. I think that it’s super clever. I love the different apocalypses, I love being in Pompeii before the lava hits. The twist at the end of the [fourth] one was so big that you just go like, “I have no clue where it’s going.” [People] were going, “You must have seen it all before you did the parody.” And it was like, “No, I’m watching with everybody else.”
The Good, The Bart, and The Loki, Short Premiere, Wednesday, July 7, Disney+