Meet "The Simpsons" — with a French twist.
The first of Sunday night's two episodes will feature a special couch gag guest-directed by acclaimed animator Sylvain Chomet, whose films "Triplets of Belleville" and "The Illusionist" have earned Oscar nominations.
The gag, which airs before "Diggs" at 7:30 p.m. on Fox, highlights Chomet's unique, quirky style. Just as the Simpson family members sit on the couch, the lights go out — and suddenly, they transform into French versions of themselves.
Yahoo TV spoke with "Simpsons" producer Al Jean about working with Chomet, who joins creative minds including Guillermo del Toro, "Ren and Stimpy" creator John Kricfalusi, the "Robot Chicken" team, and Banksy in creating special couch gags for the long-running animated series.
How did this collaboration come about? Did you approach Chomet? Did he approach you?
We approached him. We've been doing these specialized couch gags with Banksy, Guillermo del Toro, John Kricfalusi, and others, and we just look for these brilliant directors who might possibly say yes when we call. We contacted him and he immediately said, "That would be great." It was his idea and his style of animation. I'm just so excited he's on the front of the show. When I saw "Triplets of Belleville," it was like seeing something like "The Godfather" for the first time, it was a total revelation.
What drew you to his style of animation?
First of all, I'm part French [laughs]. Secondly, every design, every character design is brilliant. You look at our little gag, the way he redid each of the Simpsons, you can just watch each of those designs and analyze them for hours. Everything has a sly wit, everything has incredible fluid motion. Just real beauty. I think everything he's done, except for our gag, has been nominated for an Oscar, and you can see why.
Do you guys keep a running list of people you want to work with? This probably isn't something you can do all the time.
We can't — to do one of these things takes something out of our budget. We like to keep it special. It's people that Matt [Groening], Jim [Brooks], and I think are really wonderful people. Matt was saying that it's so great, it's like being a museum curator, you can approach who you think are the greatest living artists and animation directors and ask them if they want to do a piece. I never cease to be amazed when they say yes.
Who's next on the list?
We have one that's as famous as Sylvain, who's great, coming up. Not sure of the date. We keep considering different names and trying to see if other people will do it. I'm sure that this isn't the last of them. We feel like we've been really lucky that everyone we've had has been so amazing.
An all-new episode of "The Simpsons" airs Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on Fox.