“Sequel?”

As many fans of Fox’s perennial animated sitcom The Simpsons know, the above question was posed by baby Maggie during the end credits of 2007’s The Simpsons Movie. While America’s favorite yellow-skinned family has not since made a return to the big screen, it looks like they are taking baby steps (pun intended) in that direction.

Fox has announced a series of animated shorts featuring The Simpsons, the first of which will premiere in theaters with Ice Age: Continental Drift. According to Bleeding Cool, the short – which will appear in 3D – is titled The Longest Daycare and focuses on Maggie Simpson. The first trailer for The Longest Daycare is out now and can be watched above.

Considering the iconic nature of these characters, it makes perfect sense that Fox would use two of their most profitable animated properties – Ice Age and The Simpsons – to complement each other. It’s also similar to the way Disney has been implementing Pixar shorts with theatrical releases going all the way back to Toy Story 2. What’s curious about this move is why they’re choosing to do it now.

In recent years, the glow of The Simpsons has faded, giving way to more adult-oriented series like South Park and Family Guy. That’s only natural, considering the series just finished its unprecedented 23rd season. The show has at least two more seasons left on the air, but while The Simpsons Movie was a tremendous success, there has been little progress on getting the characters back to theaters… until now.

The producers have mentioned their interest in creating a sequel down the line but have expressed their concerns that the show’s schedule takes precedence over any potential sequel plans. With the show certainly in its declining years, it’s plausible that these shorts are intending to keep Homer, Marge and the gang in the public consciousness to ensure the bankability of a yet-to-be-announced sequel, perhaps within the next few years.

Only time will tell, but the odds indicate that another big-screen adventure with The Simpsons is inevitable at this point.

The first short starring The Simpsons premieres in front of Ice Age: Continental Drift in theaters on July 13.

Source: Bleeding Cool