In a turn of events straight out of, well, The Simpsons, Disney’s foray into streaming hit a few road bumps during the launch of Disney+ this week. Snags included an unfortunate spate of server outages and login problems, not to mention serious backlash over its presentation of beloved animated satire The Simpsons.
You may not notice it on a casual The Simpsons binge, but the version of the show you’re getting on Disney+ isn’t the same thing that originally aired 30 years ago. The first 19 seasons of The Simpsons were originally presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which fits box-like standard televisions. Disney+, which offers the entire Simpsons library among its vast array of selections, instead streamlines the presentation of the show’s entire 30 seasons to a 16:9 aspect ratio. That’s the standard widescreen size, which we have grown largely accustomed to in the last decade or so of TV binging on laptops and big screens.
When something created in a 4:3 shape is reformatted for a wider, more rectangular screen, you typically have to zoom in and crop the sides of the image, usually along the top and bottom of the screen. Upon the debut of Disney+, Simpsons fans immediately pointed out how the crop can cut out some of the show’s visual gags and sly jokes — and they weren’t too happy about it.
Going to register my first Disney+ concern at 6:13 am. You can’t choose an aspect ratio for THE SIMPSONS nor can you listen to the audio commentaries, making it a step down from the old, now-defunct FX app. Why give fans less than they already had?— Keith Phipps (@kphipps3000) November 12, 2019
It isn’t the first time this has been an issue for The Simpsons. In 2014, the cable network FXX began offering the show on its own streaming service with a similar resizing.
In a swift course-correction following the backlash, Disney is now moving to offer earlier seasons of The Simpsons in their original size and presentation. Disney+ will soon offer both aspect ratios as viewing options — but, according to The Los Angeles Times, fans will have to wait until sometime next year for that feature.
“We presented The Simpsons in 16:9 aspect ratio at launch in order to guarantee visual quality and consistency across all 30 seasons,” a Disney+ spokesperson told the Times. “Over time, Disney+ will roll out new features and additional viewing options. 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.”
In the meantime, it’s not as if Disney+ is lacking in content — if anything, the streaming service’s debut has only solidified the Mouse House’s iron grip on modern popular culture. From newly-minted series such as the buzzy Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian to trips down memory lane with a massive library of Disney Channel Original Movies, Disney+’s reported 10 million new subscribers (and counting) have no shortage of properties to dive into. The Simpsons, in its fully preserved 4:3 aspect ratio, will be back after the break.