Matt Groening and Hayao Miyazaki are two names that do not often appear next to each other, although they are among the world’s most influential artists and animators. Groening’s The Simpsons has sustained for 25 seasons on American television and been a watershed for both small-screen comedy and animation around the world. Meanwhile, Japanese filmmaker Miyazaki’s work, which includes Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky, has also reached a world-wide audience. His dazzling stories are frequently touted as some of the greatest animated films of all time. Alas, Miyazaki announced his retirement from making films in September, while The Simpsons continually seems to be on the cusp of its own final season.
Although the worlds of Homer Simpson and Totoro seem very distant, a reference-filled sequence from this Sunday’s Simpsons episode, “Married to the Blob,” is a sumptuous tribute to Miyazaki’s films. In the scene, Homer and a friend stagger through a Japanese section of town, drunk on wine, and have a hallucination filled with clever homages to Miyazaki’s most notable images. Among the reference are various characters from the Oscar-winning Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service, the bus from My Neighbor Totoro, and a certain beloved Simpsons locale turning into a moving castle (like Howl’s).
The Simpsons is known for making elaborate homages to world cinema and this is yet another top-notch tribute. The wistful score, haunting images and beautiful animation ring true to the spirit of Miyazaki. It’s unclear when this sequence was done and it may have been conceived before the director announced his retirement. Regardless, it is good to know that the creative minds behind The Simpsons have the work of another animation giant at heart. With that in mind, don’t forget to check out The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s swan song, when it hits theatres on February 21.
Check out The Simpsons‘ sequence below, and see if you can find any more cultural references to the work of Hayao Miyazaki.