There’s been no shortage of posting at alt.nerd.obsessive.
Inclusion of The Simpsons on Disney +’s roll-out has been the one thing that’s pleased even cynical members of Generation X. But never count out a giant corporation for finding new ways to tick off fans.
For reasons not even Professor Frink could understand, the streamer only presented tales from Springfield’s favorite family in the 16:9 aspect ratio, matching the size of modern televisions, yet way not the way many of the episodes were originally presented. But in the words of Roger Meyers Jr., “the screwballs have spoken,” and a fix is en route.
Some background for normal people who don’t have time to worry about such things:
The first 429 episodes of The Simpsons were originally formatted in 4:3, but in the middle of season 20 (early 2009) it switched to high definition. Aspect ratio aficionados (and don’t for a minute think that isn’t a real thing) first went to arms when FXX had a marathon broadcast in 2014. It up-converted the older programs (e.g. the ones people actually wanted to see) but in doing so had to crop out some of the margins. This meant that some visual gags got lost. This video produced by Slate at the time explains it nicely.
Later that year, FX made the series available on its Simpsons World app, but again, only in 16:9. After a wide rectangular outcry, it made 4:3 viewing an option – but with a catch. The “classic crop” was in standard definition, a bit cloudy and fuzzy compared to the widescreen’s crisp look.
One could be forgiven for assuming that when Simpsons World ported over to Disney + this functionality would come with it, but, alas, it did not. A week’s worth of social media dunking later, the new streamer announced that they will roll out new viewing options “in early 2020,” according to Variety. It is unknown if this means keeping the original aspect ratio in standard def, but to do otherwise would necessitate additional costs. What would Mr. Burns do?
We’ll never know which tweet of a botched visual gag was the straw that broke the mouse’s back, but a comment from none other than Simpsons creator Matt Groening bemoaning 16:9 couldn’t have helped Disney+’s case. A clip from a pre-streaming commentary track (DVDs! What a concept!) rebuked those who had their televisions pre-set to widescreen for 4:3 programming.
One thing that’s not likely to come to Disney+ in any format is the 1991 episode Stark Raving Dad which co-starred Michael Jackson. (Yes, this is the “Lisa, it’s your birthday/Happy birthday, Lisa” episode.) Producer James L. Brooks and other Simpsons producers made the decision to remove it from streaming after HBO aired Leaving Neverland earlier this year. It did not make the move from Simpsons World to Disney+.