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Simpsons fans, your jokes are safe: Disney+ will fix aspect ratio issue in 2020

Don’t worry, Simpsons fans. Disney has heard your complaints and it has a plan. While Disney+ only shows The Simpsons in 16:9 widescreen at the moment, you’ll have the ability to switch some episodes to their original 4:3 aspect ratio sometime in early 2020.

In a nutshell, the problem is this: Early episodes of The Simpsons simply weren’t designed for widescreen. The show is over 30 years old; when it premiered, the 4:3 aspect ratio was the industry standard. As such, when the first 19 seasons of The Simpsons are converted to 16:9, the top and bottom of the image are cut off.  Episodes might fit better on modern televisions, but you won’t be able to see a number of jokes.

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.

— Tristan Cooper (@TristanACooper) November 12, 2019

Some of these gags are important, too. As former Simpsons showrunner Bill Oakley told Digital Trends, widescreen cropping removed about “15 to 20% of the value of the show” and obscures some of its best jokes, including a vital clue in the two-part mystery, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?”

“I’ve seen dozens of these online,” he told us.

According to The Verge, which obtained a statement from Disney, Disney+ customers will be able to watch The Simpsons in its original aspect ratio “in early 2020.” If you still prefer the widescreen versions, you’ll have access to those, too. It sounds like Disney will allow users to toggle between the two aspect ratios, letting them watch The Simpsons in their preferred format.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. When FX first launched Simpsons World, a website where you could stream The Simpsons, all episodes were limited to a 16:9 aspect ratio. FX eventually released the affected episodes in 3:2 as well.

The Simpsons snafu is just one of the many problems plaguing Disney+, which had a rocky launch this week. The service, which debuted on Tuesday, was quickly overloaded as new users logged in, leading to a series of glitches when customers tried to access its content.

Still, Disney+ is already a huge success for the company. Over 10 million users have already signed up for the new streaming service, which contains all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, the live-action Star Wars show The Mandalorian, and a library full of Marvel, Pixar and animated Disney movies. You can get a 7-day trial of Disney+ for free, or sign up for a $13 bundle that also includes Hulu and ESPN+, and then check out Oakley’s list of the best classic Simpsons episodes. Even in the wrong ratio, they’re pretty funny.

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Chris Gates
Christopher Gates lives in Los Angeles, CA and writes about movies, TV, video games, and other pop culture curiosities. In…
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