One of the biggest complaints Disney Plus received at launch was The Simpsons not being available to stream in the correct 4:3 ratio. Disney has worked on a solution, and the company is hoping subscribers will be able to stream the show in its proper format by the end of May.
“We appreciate our fans’ patience and are working to make the first 19 Seasons (and part of 20) of The Simpsons available in 4:3 versions on Disney Plus,” a tweet from the company reads. “We expect to accomplish this by the end of May.”
Instead of being available to stream in a 4:3 ratio, Disney Plus released episodes formatted for a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, which crops out many visual gags entirely. The company said in November that it chose to release the episodes in a 16:9 aspect ratio “in order to guarantee visual quality and consistency across all 30 seasons.” In doing so, the quality might be better, but the jokes don’t land as well.
When The Simpsons premiered in 1989, it was in a 4:3 ratio. The switch didn’t occur until the end of 2009, about a third of the way through The Simpsons’ 20th season, when the show’s aspect ratio switched from 4:3 to 16:9. It’s been an ongoing issue that has even developed into a meme among Simpsons fans. The situation improved a bit in 2015, though, when Fox’s FXX network announced that early Simpsons episodes would be available to stream in a 4:3 ratio on the Simpsons World app.
The move got FXX a ton of praise, with fans thanking the network for giving subscribers more technological freedom. Many assumed the same setup would apply to Disney Plus following the company’s announcement in early 2019 that all 30 seasons would live exclusively on Disney’s streaming service. When it didn’t turn out to be true, fans were livid. Even former Simpsons writer Bill Oakley expressed disappointment with the setup, telling Digital Trends in November, “Hopefully that will get rectified very quickly.”
Now, it looks like things are well on their way to being fixed. Of course, with the state of the world and production issues popping up because of people self-quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s always a chance the format switch might get delayed.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.