Disney+ UK has confirmed that you will be able to stream the first 19 seasons of The Simpsons in their original aspect ratio from 28 May.
Matt Groening’s animated sitcom was produced and broadcast in a 4:3 aspect ratio (for old style televisions) until the end of 2009 when it was changed to a widescreen 16:9 format, part way into the 20th season.
However, when you stream the early 4:3 seasons on Disney+, they are cropped to 16:9 so you don’t see the full picture and many of the great sight gags, punchlines, and wider context of crucial scenes have been cut from the picture.
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However, as of Thursday 28 May, that will no longer be the case as the older seasons will be available on Disney’s streaming will be available in their boxy 4:3 glory.
Disney has also revealed that it had to make extensive changes to the Disney+ service in order to add the 4:3 versions alongside the 16:9 ones, so users can switch between which aspect ratio they prefer to watch.
“To support both the original 4:3 aspect ratio and the 16:9 versions of The Simpsons, we needed to challenge prior assumptions and rethink how content for streaming is packaged and delivered,” explained Joe Rice, Vice President of Media Product at Disney+.
“We introduced a new Disney+ app feature today that not only gives fans a choice in video viewing formats, but also opens up a number of exciting opportunities for novel ways of presenting content in the future.”
There was outcry in North America when Disney+ first launched with the cropped episodes of the The Simpsons on 12 November, and just four days later Disney issued a statement explaining it had launched with the cropped version “in order to guarantee visual quality and consistency across all 30 seasons.”
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“Over time, Disney+ will roll out new features and additional viewing options,” a statement said. “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.”
Series producer Al Jean revealed the news via his Twitter account last week, with Disney+ following suit and we can now confirm this is a global rollout.
— Al Jean (@AlJean) May 20, 2020
The Simpsons is streaming now on Disney+.