'The Simpsons' "Treehouse Of Horror XXVI" Couch Gag Has A 'Ren & Stimpy' Connection & Will Hit You With '90s Nostalgia
Any '90s kids who watched The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" episode on Sunday night definitely noticed something familiar about its opening sequence. Sure, Bart and Lisa were wearing some Huckleberry Hound masks, but was that actually Bart and Lisa? The animation style was so wild, weird, and different — just like beloved Nickelodeon toon Ren & Stimpy. That's because Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi made the couch gag for The Simpsons Halloween episode, as reported by Entertainment Weekly, and it seriously took me back to the '90s. I thought I was watching the wrong show when it started, but slowly, I realized everything was truly awesome with this Halloween world. “It’s different from not only anything that we’ve done, but anything I’ve ever seen him do,” Simpsons exec producer Al Jean told EW. "If you want to know how hard he worked on it, this was originally going to air on last year’s Halloween show."
The opening sequence/couch gag is meticulously-crafted and begins with Bart, Lisa, and Maggie (as a bee) trick or treating in Huckleberry Hound masks as a narrator sings to us. The song tells viewers that scent of their "innocent souls" awaken a witch, some zombies in a graveyard, and now-dead friends who are hanging by a tree — Milhouse and Ralph Wiggum, among them. These supernatural creatures corner the Simpson children until Frank Grimes rises from his grave as a big, burly green zombie monster, which the song describes as "more than 25 feet tall ... and his mouth tastes just like crap" (yikes). To refresh your memory, Frank "Grimey" Grimes was Homer's former power plant co-worker who died while trying to get people to see that Homer is an idiot in the 1997 episode "Homer's Enemy."
In any case, Zombie Frank Grimes has all the other creatures terrified. He attacks them with his disgusting breath, peels Bart like a banana, and munches on the 10-year-old boy's soul — until Maggie uses her bee stinger to sting Grimey's tongue, saving her older brother. Grimes and the other ghouls chase the Simpson children to their home, where Homer tells them, "There's no such thing as ghosts, you dumb kids." Then Frank Grimes arrives to get his ultimate revenge on Homer — he eats the Simpson patriarch's soul. This has been a long time coming for Grimey and the whole sequence was a nice '90s callback, with references to both "Homer's Enemy" and Ren & Stimpy.
It's not the first collaboration between The Simpsons and Kricfalusi, who also contributed a couch gag to an episode in 2011 (below).
It's so great to see animators coming together like this to make a couch gag that in addition to showcasing Kricfalusi's talent, brings Nickelodeon fans back to Ren & Stimpy and gives Simpsons fans some Grimey closure. I don't know about you, but for me, this sequence certainly hit all the right nostalgia points.