Disney has finally launched its long-awaited streaming service, Disney+, but the way they’re treating The Simpsons means it's already made a mistake. After much discussion and many months of hype, The Walt Disney Company revealed Disney+ to North American audiences. Disney+ launched with every major Disney movie, countless TV specials and series, a host of National Geographic documentaries, and the blockbuster epics of Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar, not to forget the new and upcoming original films and shows such as The Mandalorian. However, the real gem in their lofty crown in terms of acquired material may be a little show called The Simpsons.
With 31 seasons and 668 episodes of television (plus one movie) to its name, The Simpsons has long secured its legacy in the world of entertainment. For certain generations, it’s one of the best shows to binge-watch, something that FXX made all the easier with its all Simpsons all the time service. But since that no longer exists, The Simpsons is now the exclusive streaming property of Disney+.
That’s one hell of a coup for the service, especially since so many consumers prefer to use streaming platforms to revisit shows they’re already familiar with rather than watch original material. What better show to sate that desire than the greatest animated comedy ever created? Sadly, it seems that Disney+ has gotten off on the wrong foot with The Simpsons on its first day of launch.
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How Disney+ Is Getting The Simpsons Wrong
Simpsons World, the FXX app that offered every episode of the show to fans, included an option to view the show in the 4:3 format it was originally shown in, as well as the 16:9 aspect ratio that had become commonplace. This meant that older, pre-HD episodes of the show were stretched to fit the frame. The Simpsons didn't switch to the 16:9 ratio until 2009, close to twenty years since its premiere. That means the bulk of the show is affected by this change, and it impacts the show itself in various ways. For example, many of the show's best sight gags are impeded when the joke is cut out of the screen to stretch the format out to 16:9. That’s a big problem for a show that’s chock full of amazing one-off jokes and background moments. IndieWire also noted how the FXX versions of the episodes, formatted for HDTV, included "heavy digital noise reduction to make it look cleaner", which spoils the look of the original animation.
Disney+ seems to just be using the episodes FXX used and is using the 16:9 ratio as default for The Simpsons, omitting an option for viewers to choose how they want to view the series, as well as the remastered animation that again, doesn't quite work with the older episodes. That’s a big let-down given the cultural value of this show and what it means to countless fans. As noted by writer Keith Phipps, Disney+ also doesn't offer the option of audio commentaries for the episodes, something the now-defunct app did include. In essence, fans are now getting far less for their money and loyalty than they previously had at a much cheaper cost.
This problem also has greater ramifications outside of irritating and inconveniencing fans. For the majority of viewers, streaming The Simpsons on Disney+ will become their default way of watching. Many seasons of the show still haven't been released on DVD either, meaning streaming will be the only way to access them. By limiting the way the show can be viewed and denying the opportunity for fans to see the series as was intended, fans are being robbed not only of options but of pop culture history. Surely The Simpsons, of all shows, deserves better than this? For fans of the show, it may be best for them to keep a hold of the DVD boxsets they currently possess.