The Simpsons' Playdate With Destiny Short Was A Product Of Serendipity

As one of the longest-running American sitcoms, there is no corner of the entertainment industry where "The Simpsons" hasn't entrenched its mark. Even during the series' early years, you would have a better chance of escaping a grizzly bear on its home turf than someone wearing an "eat my shorts" or "don't have a cow, man" T-shirt. The dysfunctional animated family is an exemplary fixture of adult animation that has endured for well over three decades and 33 seasons of television.

On top of everything else, "The Simpsons" is endlessly quotable. You could remember your favorites and still only chip away a sliver of the iceberg. You'll never run out, whether it comes out of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, or any other outlandish resident of Springfield. But the creative team behind this long-running series also knows how to revel in the quieter, and sometimes silent moments.

Enter Maggie, the Simpsons' youngest child, who has always been a stealth vehicle for minimalist gags and some of the series' most emotional moments. I can delineate the differences between human beings and soulless monsters based on their response to the "do it for her" reveal. The Simpsons may have made their big screen debut in 2007 with "The Simpsons Movie," but it's the sprout who continued coming back.

The adventures of Maggie Simpson hits the big screen

In 2012, back when they were still under the 20th Century Fox banner, the studio did something a little different and released a "Simpsons" short film called "Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare" to theaters, which preceded "Ice Age: Continental Drift." The four-minute short follows Maggie on her first day of daycare at the Ayn Rand School of Tots, which favors groups of children over others.

The appeal of "The Longest Daycare" is that it doesn't feature a single line of dialogue, focusing instead on Maggie's silent attachment to a blue butterfly that a unibrowed baby wants to squash. Even when there's no spoken banter for these characters, the subtle inflections on Maggie's face coupled with the rapid-paced background gags prove how adept this team is at getting a laugh. The short was even nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Disney's "Paperman."

Maggie would return to the big screen nearly a decade later with another silent short entitled "Playdate With Destiny," which featured the youngest Simpson finding herself in a meet-cute romance with a boy at the park named Hudson. According to an interview with The AV Club, executive producer Al Jean claims the short had been in development for years. It was likely for another episode in the series' 31st season ("The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby").

But there was an exciting development for the team behind the short when they learned where it would ultimately end up.

The Simpsons crew got to (briefly) open for a Pixar release

According to Jean, while "Playdate With Destiny" was coming together, it dawned on them that they had essentially made a Disney short before the merger. The David Silverman-directed short was later sent to former Disney boss Bob Iger by "Simpsons" producer James L. Brooks to see if they could prop it up next to Pixar's "Onward." As the story goes, he was successful:

"Jim sent it to Bob Iger and the folks at Disney, and they loved it. And we just said, 'Can we please, please go in front of a Pixar movie?' And despite the fact that it was only out for a couple weeks — which I really feel bad about, because I think 'Onward' is a great film — both are now on Disney+. I was really thrilled that we were in the theater and you could see a Pixar movie following us."

Pixar usually has one of their in-house shorts preceding their films, so this is a rare instance where one of the 20th Century Fox acquisitions stepped in to fill the void. It's a real shame, however, that the unfortunate timing of its release around the start of the pandemic limited the number of people who got to see it on the big screen with "Onward."

I would love to see the "Simpsons" folks continue to produce more shorts in the vein of "The Longest Daycare" and "Playdate with Destiny," and less stuff like " The Good, the Bart, and the Loki," which mostly resembles an uninspired advertisement for Disney+.

Seasons 1-32 of "The Simpsons," in addition to both shorts, are currently streaming on Disney+.