When Disney announced that The Simpsons would be joining Disney+, fans of the series were looking forward to enjoying their favorite episodes anytime they want – until Disney+ messed with the aspect ratio of the show, ruining some of its visual jokes in the process. Disney+ arrived with a bunch of titles available at launch, including movies and TV shows that came in the Fox package, such as The Simpsons.
Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Maggie have had a complicated relationship with streaming services, and the series was only available through FXNOW’s Simpsons World for a couple of years. This app was met with criticism because the episodes had the wrong aspect ratio, cropping the upper and lower parts and awkwardly stretching some areas. The service eventually fixed it and allowed users to watch The Simpsons in its original 4:3 format. Now that the series moved to its new home, it brought with it the same aspect ratio issues, with Disney+ cropping the episodes to fit its 16:9 ratio.
This wouldn’t be a big issue if The Simpsons wasn’t a series that includes a lot of visual gags that can get lost when trying to fit into another aspect ratio – especially if it’s done without paying attention to what’s being left on the cutting room floor. Disney+ has already responded to this and assured fans that they will be able to enjoy the series in its original format... in 2020. Although some jokes could be saved, some others have already been ruined by the cropping. Here are some examples pointed out by fans.
Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry
In season 4’s episode “Duffless”, Homer sneaks out of work and accompanies Barney on a tour of the Duff Brewery. Once there, the tour guide shows them the containers for Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry. Disney+’s version is cropped in a way that it misses the joke that the three Duff types are the same beer as they come from the same tube. Changes as subtle as those can kill the joke, and those who are not familiar with the episode won’t even notice there was something more to that scene than just three “different” types of Duff beer.
Clumsy Student Movers
Another season 4 gem that got lost in the aspect ratio change. “New Kid on the Block” saw Bart falling in love with his new next-door neighbor, Laura Powers. Marge, being the good neighbor she has always been, welcomes Laura and her mother to Springfield, and as she (and Bart) approach the door, there’s a visual gag coming from the moving company unloading the Powers’ belongings. The company is called “Clumsy Student Movers” and they shouldn’t be trusted with fragile objects, as one of the students trips and breaks a lamp, saying “not again!”. The cropping left out half the truck (and thus the name of the company) and the clumsy student breaking the lamp, with viewers left wondering who did what to exclaim “not again!”.
Take Their Oil
Visual gags are everywhere in The Simpsons, including Nelson’s room. In season 8’s episode “Lisa’s Date with Density”, Lisa develops a crush on Nelson, and when she visits his house, she finds some peculiar objects in his room, such as a “Nuke The Whales” poster, a sticker that reads “Bomb The Indians And Take Their Casinos”, and another one that says “Bomb The Arabs And Take Their Oil”. This last one got completely lost in the aspect ratio adjustment, and even though it’s not as relevant to the scene as the Duff tube or the clumsy student, it does add to the overall joke and to the character of Nelson, who clearly doesn’t care about social issues such as building casinos on Indian grounds or prompting wars for oil – or maybe he just doesn’t know about all that.