For classic The Simpsons, 16:9, the default widescreen viewing ratio, is not the most cromulent option. In fact, it’s a pretty bad one.
But it’s the option that shipped with Disney Plus, much to the consternation of classic Groening fans everywhere. The problem is simple: the widescreen cropping, which has been an ongoing problem for those wanting to watch The Simpsons in a worthy fashion, is a pretty shoddy job. The first 19 seasons of the show were created and shown in 4:3 resolution, initially, and the widescreen crop literally crops out part of the picture. And, as any Simpsons fan knows, that picture contains a lot of intricate background gags that are presently just entirely missing from the Disney Plus version of the show.
All the classic Simpsons episodes on Disney+ are in cropped widescreen format — this means you miss out on tons of great visual jokes, like how Duff, Duff Lite and Duff Dry all come from the same tube. pic.twitter.com/cTy9adulFl
— Tristan Cooper (@TristanACooper) November 12, 2019
For those hoping that Disney Plus might play some role in helping to preserve Disney’s now vast, vast library of old media, it’s a disconcerting start. And for The Simpsons fans, it’s unacceptable, and after a well-publicised media backlash, Disney has finally responded in classic corporate fashion, with a correction that fails to admit that anything was actually wrong in the first place.
As Variety reports, Disney released a statement saying that the show launched exclusively in 16:9 “in order to guarantee visual quality and consistency across all 30 seasons.” But that’s going to change in time.
“Over time, Disney+ will roll out new features and additional viewing options,” the statement continues. “As part of this, in early 2020, Disney+ will make the first 19 seasons (and some episodes from Season 20) of The Simpsons available in their original 4:3 aspect ratio, giving subscribers a choice of how they prefer to view the popular series.”
For Disney Plus, this is hopefully a valuable lesson. Being able to view media the way it was intended to be viewed matters, and not just to historians and critics. Especially when there are jokes about Duff beer and Itchy and Scratchy on the line.