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Why People Are Ticked About The Simpsons On Disney+

The sound you just heard was the entire Disney+ launch team smacking themselves in the heads while projecting a collective "Doh!" into the stratosphere.

You've probably already heard that the hotly anticipated streaming service made its debut yesterday, bringing with it all manner of titles from the Disney vault — not to mention a slew of properties of the Star WarsMarvel, and Pixar persuasion. We're pretty sure you've also heard that launch day for Disney+ was far from perfect, with many early subscribers unable to even log on to the service.

Those that were finally able to log on, and had a hankering for some early episodes of The Simpsons, were met with their own set of issues when they found that those episodes of the beloved (and often prophetic) animated series appeared to be missing something: significant portions of the picture. (via Digital Trends)

The problem, it seems, stemmed from Disney's decision to screen all content on Disney+ in the widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9. On the surface, that seems like a sound choice by the House of Mouse, as the widescreen ratio is by far the most popular for home viewing; computer monitors and flatscreen televisions display images rendered in this aspect ratio natively, and it's standard for HDTV broadcasts and digital media.

The problem lies in the fact that The Simpsons has been on the air since before the format was in wide use — before, in fact, consumer flatscreen televisions even existed — and that earlier episodes were aired in the then-standard 4:3 aspect ratio. Episodes of the series weren't produced in the 16:9 format until its twentieth season — and when the 4:3 aspect ratio is cropped for the newer format, a large portion of the picture is lost. So, much to the chagrin of the show's fiercely loyal and often fanatically astute fan base, the first 19 seasons of The Simpsons are indeed only partially streaming on Disney+.

Now, for some shows that would not be a significant problem. But as any Simpsons fan would be quick to tell you, part of what's made the show so special (and part of what's set it apart from so many other animated sitcoms) is that some of its best jokes are not front and center. Rather, the creative teams behind The Simpsons have long reveled in the chance to hide sly in-jokes and savage social jabs in virtually every corner of the frame. 

That inspired stylistic choice is obviously a big part of what has made The Simpsons one of the more endlessly re-watchable shows in the history of television. It's also exactly why fans were so excited at the chance to revisit some of their favorite early moments of the iconic series on launch day — but for now, at least, it seems that those brilliantly winking comedic morsels have been unceremoniously nixed, as Disney made the questionable decision not to adjust the aspect ratio for Homer and the rest of the Simpson family's game-changing early episodes.

Will Disney+ fix The Simpsons' aspect ratio issue?

The decision to go ahead and screen the cropped versions of those early episodes is even more surprising because it's seems like there's no way that the Mouse House wouldn't have known this would be an issue. After all, extended cable outlet FXX (now also owned by The Walt Disney Company) did the exact same thing when it began airing episodes of The Simpsons back in 2014, and it also experienced the same sort of backlash from the series' eagle-eyed fandom.

It seems like it'd be pretty simple for Disney+ to remedy the issue by offering earlier seasons in 4:3, or perhaps even giving viewers a choice between the 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios when watching The Simpsons — but at the time of this writing, Disney hasn't announced any plans to do anything of the sort, and in fact, the entertainment megalith has been mum on the whole uproar.

While we wait to see how Disney+ addresses its launch day Simpsons crisis, it seems that most of the show's fans are at least trying to take the issue in stride — if only because they're beyond excited to stream all 30 seasons of the series. Still, there is (perhaps predictably) a faction of fans already threatening to cancel their Disney+ subscriptions if the problem is not addressed. For the time being, it seems they'll just have to make do with watching some of the series' best episodes without getting all of the winking and in-joking goodness they're used to.

The staunchest fans of The Simpsons will certainly continue to be frustrated by what they're not getting to see. But, one could make the argument that even a cropped episode from the first five or six seasons of The Simpsons is still a hell of a lot funnier than a great many of television's current offerings, so it's still nice to have full access to the series' golden days. 

Besides, it's probably just a matter of time before the Disney+ team puts on their mouse-eared caps and gets to work making the necessary changes to ensure that fans young and old can enjoy those early episodes as they were intended to be seen.