‘The Simpsons’ Is On Disney Plus In the Wrong Aspect Ratio
One of the big selling points of Disney’s new Disney+ streaming service is the fact that it contains every single episode of The Simpsons — hundreds upon hundreds of hours of Homer, Marge, and the rest getting into all their classic misadventures (plus the last five years). But if you try to watch any of the old episodes of the show, you may notice that they are presented in 16:9 widescreen. That will ensure they fill most widescreen TVs, but these shows were originally animated in 4:3 aspect ratio for old-school, boxy televisions. And to make them fit the 16:9 aspect ratio, the show is cropped on the top and bottom — or even sometimes awkwardly stretched to fill the entire screen
It might not sound like a big deal, but in some cases The Simpsons used the entire frame to tell visual jokes. And if you crop off the top or bottom, you miss the joke. Case in point:
On the old Simpsons World app from FXX (the previous streaming home of The Simpsons) it was possible to toggle between 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios. At the moment, it’s not possible to do that on Disney+. (Simpsons World also let viewers turn on creator commentary tracks on episodes, and while Disney+ does have commentary track functionality, it’s not currently offered for The Simpsons.) The Simpsons didn’t begin producing episodes in widescreen format until 2009.
The other side effect of the cropping process, which I witnessed on my own TV first-hand, is that the old episodes look fuzzier than they should, because they’re getting cropped and then expanded to fill a large screen. They would look better in every way if they were presented in the proper aspect ratio — even with the black bars that would appear on the sides of the screen as a result. Perhaps this is a situation that Disney will change if enough customers complain by writing the company and saying, in a loud but polite voice, BOO URNS.
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