Ending The Simpsons with the Christmas pageant that first brought the fandom together would be ingenious, writer and executive producer Al Jean tells Digital Spy on Tuesday, as it creates a loop that goes on forever. The show’s current showrunner, a distinction he shares with Matt Selman, sat down with Rianne Houghton and David Opie recently to discuss the continuing legacy of The Simpsons, a possible conclusion to the series, and the present-day repercussions of the Fox-Disney merger, to which Jean replies that all “is great.” The long-running animated show is enjoying an extra 120 million viewers on Disney+ thanks to the general convenience of on-demand streaming, and is presently number one in both the U.K. and United States. The future of Springfield couldn’t be brighter.
With The Simpsons entering its 34th season of programming, Houghton and Opie couldn’t help but inquire about the status of the show going forward: is the expiration date in the offing and if so, has the storyline for the finale already been discussed? No and yes. The Simpsons just received a brand-new coat of paint this year — with improved management, sweeping marketing strides, and more coherent leadership to boot. According to Al Jean, nobody on staff is working on season thirty-four with a definite (if at all) conclusion in mind. Everyone is on a Mickey Mouse high, especially after The Simpsons in Plusaversary streamed to much fanfare on Disney+ Day. Nobody is walking around the studio with the day’s script, going, “Let’s wrap it up,” as Jean so emphatically pointed out. Disney is the most lucrative brand in entertainment right now. Why undermine that in the midst of a clear high?
At the same time, Al Jean was feeling sentimental and wondered out loud how The Simpsons should end after 32 years of steady programming. On the other hand, maybe running the last lap on a high is exactly what the series deserves — which is to say The Simpsons at its best. Whatever the case, the Farmington Hills native already has a rough outline of a finale written up in his head: a picture of the Simpson family reentering the Springfield Elementary School Christmas pageant from “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” the first ever episode released. Originally airing on December 17, 1989, “The Simpsons Christmas Special” revolved around the family’s attempts at keeping the holidays festive, starting with gift-giving.
Unfortunately, Bart gets a tattoo against his parents’ wishes and the episode unfolds in characteristic Simpsons fashion as both Homer and Marge try to fix the resulting conflict their own way. Marge has Bart’s tats removed at the dermatologist’s clinic, but uses up the present money to do so. Hoping to recover the funds lost and make his kids happy on Christmas day, Homer poses as a shopping mall Santa Claus after his Scrooge of a boss announces there will be no holiday bonuses. One thing leads to another and Homer spends what little earnings he collected on a greyhound racing bet that goes under; the losing dog, Santa’s Little Helper, is promptly abandoned by its owner, only for Bart and Homer to take it in. The Simpsons family gathering is a resounding success as Lisa also gets what she wants (the closest there is to a pony) on Christmas day.
Al Jean was a member of the original staff when the first episode aired in 1989. He remembers watching the special and thinking The Simpsons was about to become the single greatest gig of his career. And to be fair, it has. Jean hopes to recreate the fun but hopeful energy of “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” when jotting details of the last episode to paper. And it will be “a beautiful thing,” he says. Not so much because it revisits the Simpsons of old, but because it both continues the loop and ends the story full-circle. The show began with a Christmas special, hence it will wrap up with another meaningful holiday segment. But more importantly, ending the series with a beginning ensures fans will never feel like something they love is going away.
“I just thought that the beautiful thing about that would be that the whole show would never have an end,” Jean elaborates. “It would be a loop, and you’d never go. In animation, you don’t want characters to age and grow. You want them to be the same, you know, Bugs Bunny that he always was. So, I thought that would be a perfect end to the show.” Al Jean would rather not jinx The Simpsons a la Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, so for now, let’s keep this image of a perfect ending in the back of our minds and only retrace it when the time comes.
The Simpsons in Plusaversary featured a massive cast composed of different characters from across the corporate Disney multiverse, coming together to celebrate Disney+’s second anniversary as an active streamer. The short film debuted on November 12 as part of Disney+ Day.