Over the years (especially in the last five), The Simpsons as a show has gotten a little restless - which tends to happen after your extremely popular cartoon is on the air for over two decades, I guess. But while they're mostly content to repeat themselves endlessly in the actual episodes, they've found that the opening intro/couch gag is a place to experiment, try weird stuff, and bring in guest animators and directors to break the usual mold.
Here's our ranking of ALL of these mold-breaking intros (not counting the Treehouse of Horror entries though, since those have been a staple since the early days and our collective nostalgia would unfairly skew these rankings).
25. Homer Shake (Gorgeous Grampa)
Man, you know how people criticize later-years Simpsons on the internet that seems totally over-the-top and biased by nostalgia? They've actually been holding back.
24. Banksy (MoneyBart)
Let's start with Banksy, because screw Banksy. Absolutely everything wrong with the world's most insufferable pop artist is highlighted in his Simpsons couch gag - overbranding it with his name (his "Banksy" tag is everywhere), calling out obvious world issues everyone was already aware of but doing nothing about it (chiding The Simpsons for exploiting third world workers via cheap animation and merchandise, which...they still do), and providing some kind of faux-anarchy philosophy while being rich as shit and totally reaping the rewards of the system he claims to hate. Preachy and hypocritical, but at least the unicorn gag is okay.
23. Tik Tok Lip Dub (To Surveil With Love)
Here's the thing: Tik Tok's a pretty good song! It's fun and poppy and there's really no reason it or Ke$ha gets all the hate they do (well, having a dollar sign in your name is pretty dumb, but whatever). But the Simpsons doing an animated lip dub of the song just feels so, so wrong and awkward - very much like the writers were trying to jump on some bandwagon that didn't fit with their show. Because that's exactly what it was! Except the one thing that makes lip dubs sorta okay (the amount of in-real-life preparation that's necessary to pull it off) is - by definition - not possible in the world of animation. So, all in all, pretty dumb move.
22. Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Bart's New Friend)
I might be missing something here, but I'm really not sure why they made this. Sure, it's nice - there's clearly some more money thrown into the animation than usual, but doing a version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears with The Simpsons? Where they murder Papa Bear and all eat him? It's not bad, per se, but I can't tell what they were going for here.
21. John Kricfalusi (Bart Stops To Smell the Roosevelts)
Listen - John K. is an AWESOME animator. There's no denying that - the way he draws the Simpsons clan is new, fresh, and brimming with life and color and movement, especially in an age where Simpsons animation is stiffer and less interesting than its ever been. But John K. as a storyteller is....less good (anyone who saw HIS TRUE VISION of Ren and Stimpy on Spike will attest to this). The way he wildly oversexualizes Marge, pushes the child abuse angle between Homer and Bart, and goes for the odd gore stuff is so tonally OFF for the Simpsons, it's hard to believe anyone actually signed off on this.
Still, damn, that animation is top notch.