When SYFY WIRE caught up with Al Jean back in May, the Simpsons showrunner voiced his desire to make a Disney+ short inspired by the Marvel Universe. Little did Mr. Jean know that — much like Thanos manipulating reality with the Infinity Gauntlet — he'd soon get his wish.
"We started the Star Wars short in January, trying to hit May 4th — and we did. And then in April of this year, we thought, ‘Oh, Loki’s coming out, and that’s gonna be a fantastic show. So, if we could just get Tom Hiddleston to do a short, then we’re home free,’" Jean tells SYFY WIRE during a Zoom conversation. "It all worked out, it’s amazing. You have this sort of wild speculation and it all comes true."
Now available to watch on Disney+, "The Good, The Bad, and The Loki" — whose title is a parody of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the third entry in Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy — finds the Asgardian God of Mischief (voiced by Hiddleston) cast out by his father, Odin (Maurice LaMarche), and sent to live in Springfield, where he finds himself the newest member of the Simpson household.
"We wrote the script and sent it to Marvel and Disney+. Marvel was really helpful in getting [Tom on board]," Jean explains. "He did come to the studio in England. We don’t record anybody in person at the moment, so we recorded him remotely. He was very smart like Loki, and unlike Loki, he was very nice and he could not have been better. He was just a pleasure."
While directing Hiddleston during the voiceover process, Jean says he made sure to tell the actor he "always thought Loki was the best ruler of Asgard," a reference to the character's brief stint as Odin between Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok. "And he goes, ‘Exactly! He brought culture to Asgard! That’s what they need, culture!’ I thought, ‘What a great answer to have on the spot.’"
In the short, Loki is the mischievous and mayhem-loving older brother Bart (Nancy Cartwright) never had. Moreover, his ability to multiply pork chops at will has Homer (Dan Castellaneta) renouncing every other god he might believe in. Mmm...magic pork chops. Lisa (Yeardley Smith), meanwhile, is transported to Asgard and gets her hands on Mjolnir.
"It’s always just trying to figure out a story that relates to the Simpsons," Jean says. "We thought, ‘Well, Bart could parallel with Loki. And then Loki’s jealous of Thor; Bart’s jealous of Lisa.’ And then we thought, ‘Oh! Well, in the new Thor movie, Jane Foster becomes Thor, so Lisa could become Thor.’ Once we had that, we had a pretty good dynamic for it and the idea that Loki is jealous of Bart and wishes he was a part of Bart’s family. We thought it was a really funny way to approach it."
According to Jean, The Simpsons crew already had a great professional connection with Marvel Studios after Kevin Feige and the Russo siblings guest-starred in the Season 31 episode: "Bart the Bad Guy."
"Everything was run by him and he could not have been easier to deal with or more of a pleasure," Jean says of Feige. "He said, ‘Hey, would you like the Avengers music?’ It was like, ‘Would we?!’ This is almost emotional to me. I started collecting Marvel Comics in 1966, so to do this and have it come together so easily has just been a dream come true."
He continues: "It’s always a little brazen of us to go, ‘Hey! We’re gonna do your thing! Your franchise! Because these are very powerful powers and abilities beyond our own. But they were great about it and I think it’s fun for them and definitely great for us."
Fittingly, the showrunner actually owns "the first issue of Thor with Loki in it." But owning such a covetable piece of comic book memorabilia wasn't enough for him (or any other member of the crew) to receive early Loki spoilers. Instead, the short's final post-credits scene, which pays homage to Loki's Time Variance Authority hearing before Ravonna Renslayer, was a last-minute addition once the show had already premiered in early June.
"[We had] no inside knowledge," Jean adds. "We saw the trailer when the trailer came out and then when the first episode came out, [Simpsons executive producer] Jim Brooks said, ‘Can we still fit something in to the short?’ And we had a week. So we wrote it on a Monday and we got Dawnn Lewis, who plays the judge, on a Thursday, and it was finished by Monday of [the following week]."
Despite being in charge of one of the most famous television programs in history, Jean has been watching Loki in real time, just like the rest of us.
"I think it’s fantastic. I’ve watched all four," he says. "My only theory is that he’s up to no good; I have no idea where it ends. It’s funny because you’re rewatching something and you’re like, ‘I don’t even know if he’s good or bad.’ I thought the twist ending on the fourth episode was great. I’m just trying to figure out who’s really behind this — it’s really fascinating."
The Simpsons team doesn't know what blockbuster property their next Disney+ short will be inspired by, though they're pretty much game for anything. "We’re not quite sure what our next short would be," Jean concludes, "but based on this, it’s the most fun thing in the world."
"The Good, The Bart, and The Loki" is now streaming on Disney+ along with Episodes 1-5 of Loki. The show's sixth and final episode premieres on the platform next Wednesday, July 14.