Oscars 2013: A close-up look at the animated short nominees

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Image Credit: Matt Groening

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Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare

“Everyone has a nemesis. For Maggie Simpson it’s that one eyebrowed baby,” director and longtime Simpsons animator David Silverman told EW.

In The Longest Daycare, Maggie Simpson visits the Ayn Rand School for Tots, which any die-hard Simpsons fan will recognize from “A Streetcar Named Marge” – an episode that aired over 20 years ago. Maggie is placed among the average students in a nightmarish classroom, decorated with an army of Raggedy Ayn Rand dolls, and is horrified to see Baby Gerald (that villainous unibrowed tot) smashing butterflies against the wall for art. She then makes it her mission to save a cocoon from certain death.

When Gerald defeats her and smashes the cocoon she was trying to protect, the lights go out and you hear “Vesti La Giubba” from the opera I Pagliacci. But it didn’t start out that way. Silverman said in the first boards, they didn’t have that ending. Maggie was just sad and something didn’t feel right. Then [Simpsons producer James L. Brooks] came up with the idea that Maggie should be in anguish. “He told us she should be wailing, and we thought, well wait, she doesn’t talk, so she’d probably be clutching her heart and pantomiming. And we both said I Pagliacci simultaneously.”

Sometimes the randomness of a YouTube search can result in comedic inspiration, too. Silverman said, “when I was storyboarding it, I went online and found this recording of I Pagliacci without the singing, just with the music. I think it was like some karaoke version, though, because it had this drum beat in it. When we recorded it we wanted the drumbeat so we added the toy monkey with the drum in the background. And it turned into this funny bit. We took liberties too – I thought the lighting could change, the logic of where the kids are doesn’t matter, and Marge comes in and it’s like a mini fantasy. And nobody questions it when things change like that. You just buy it.”

When people ask Silverman about his plan or the way he animates or finds jokes, he turns to a quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: he’s making it up as he goes along.

-Lindsey Bahr

NEXT SHORT: Paperman

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