Good News for ‘The Simpsons’ Fans: Disney Reacts to Your Complaints

After 30 years, The Simpsons is showing no signs of stopping. The iconic Fox series remains one of the most influential television series of the past few decades. And now that the show is available to stream on Disney+, fans should be thrilled to have such easy access to it, right?

As it turns out, the initial reaction to the show’s Disney+ debut was met with decidedly less enthusiasm than expected. However, due to an immediate outcry, longtime fans of The Simpsons now have good reason to celebrate now. Here’s what all the fuss was about.

The screen at The Simpsons panel during the D23 Expo
The screen at The Simpsons panel during the D23 Expo | Angela Papuga/Getty Images

Fans’ issue with ‘The Simpsons’

One of the most famous elements of The Simpsons — in addition to its tendency to predict real-life events — is its density of clever jokes. In fact, a good portion of the humor on the show relies from visual gags. Of course, therein lies the issue tons of fans had upon streaming the series on Disney+.

Because widescreen televisions weren’t popular when the show started, it was produced for a 4:3 aspect ratio until roughly season 20. This is generally the shape of older TV screens, since widescreen televisions weren’t really around in the 1990s. However, Disney+ transferred all streaming episodes of the series to the widescreen alternative, a 16:9 aspect ratio.

The switch was probably done to maximize the now-omnipresent availability of wider screens. But in the process, Disney+ actually cropped out many of fans’ favorite visual gags. This led to an immediate backlash regarding The Simpsons‘ misrepresentation on the service.

Disney+ is taking action to fix it

After hearing fans everywhere complain about the decision, Disney has now addressed the situation. The company has taken heed of the rabid Simpsons fanbase and reacted accordingly. Here’s what Disney+ had to say in a statement:

We presented The Simpsons in 16:9 aspect ratio at launch in order to guarantee visual quality and consistency across all 30 seasons. Over time, Disney+ will roll out new features and additional viewing options. As part of this, in early 2020, Disney+ will make the first 19 seasons (and some episodes from season 20) of The Simpsons available in their original 4:3 aspect ratio, giving subscribers a choice of how they prefer to view the popular series.

It’s easy to see why Disney made the decision to go with a consistent aspect ratio. Still, this is an absolute win for Simpsons fans who want to experience the show as its creators intended. We have a bit of a wait now until The Simpsons is presented in the original 14:3 ratio. But Disney+ certainly made the right call in taking this complaint head-on and rectifying it.

Any other content discrepancies?

The marketing for Disney+ has centered on original content like the much-talked-about Star Wars series The Mandalorian. However, the drama surrounding The Simpsons isn’t the only bit of controversy the streaming service has already encountered. In fact, its handling of many existing programs has received criticism.

Naturally, the Disney+ team has elected not to include dated — and very problematic — content like 1946’s Song of the South or its earlier animated shorts. But there’s also the matter of censored jokes in films like Toy Story 2. And, of course, fans online have been busy mocking the already-infamous “Maclunkey” change to Star Wars: A New Hope.

Some of these changes are noteworthy simply for the novelty of it. And others — like leaving out Song of the South — are smart calls based on today’s world. Yet, the fact that Disney has so much prominent pop culture in its grasp is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, Disney+ subscribers have access to a lot of great content. On the other, that means Mickey Mouse can make whatever changes he sees fit with any Fox, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and National Geographic property. At the very least, that burgeoning monopoly should be a cause for concern for consumers.