Guillermo del Toro had quite a year, with his robots-vs-Godzillas blockbuster Pacific Rim doing brisk business on the world stage. Capping this achievement, the director was also invited to animate one of The Simpsons’ opening credits couch gags, an honor reserved for celebrated artists like Bill Plympton and Banksy. Considering how far del Toro knocked it out of the park, however, it seems like the honor is all The Simpsons’.
In recent years, high-profile guests have made the couch gag an event–like when Banksy controversially depicted the South Korean animators of the show drudging under hellish conditions. However, whether viewers know who Guillermo del Toro is or not, they will likely be floored by his take on the opening, which doesn’t even wait until the couch makes an appearance for all sorts of twisted mayhem to break loose.
Describing the animated sequence would turn anyone into Saturday Night Live’s Stefon: it’s got everything. Springfield Zombies. Harryhausen skeletons. Beheaded Ralph Wiggum. Mr. Burns as that Pan’s Labrynth hand eye monster. There’s also a cavalcade of traditional movie monsters ranging from the classic Universal batch to some more obscure entries of today’s modern horror.
What makes the sequence truly great, however, is that instead of merely referencing famous monsters as well as one from his own movies, del Toro also digs into Simpsons mythology. All the beats of the opening credits play in sequence, but in bizarro versions of themselves that pay tribute to the show’s past. When Maggie takes the wheel of Marge’s car–without Marge even being in the car!–she hits Milhouse on his bike, who then tumbles into a river, where he is eaten by the storied three-eyed fish. It’s this kind of creativity and experimentation that can revitalize a show in its 25th season–a point at which some might accuse it of turning into a zombie itself.