Keeping true to its word, Disney+ has updated The Simpsons fans on how soon to expect episodes of the classic animated series be made available in its original aspect ratio. The fledgling streaming service had promised a fix by 2020, and according to a latest tweet, fans should be good to go by the end of May.
We appreciate our fans’ patience and are working to make the first 19 Seasons and part of 20 of #TheSimpsons available in 4:3 versions on #DisneyPlus. We expect to accomplish this by the end of May.
— Disney+ @disneyplus April 2, 2020
When Disney+ launched in November, Simpsons fans were quick to notice that older episodes looked noticeably off. Like most television series before the advent of flatscreen TVs, the show originally aired in a 4:3 ratio. To avoid showing black bars on each side of the picture, Disney+ used versions of the show that were cropped into 16:9 format, which cut off visual gags and led to characters looking stretched and distorted in certain scenes as shown below:
Not only are the classic Simpsons episodes on Disney+ awkwardly cropped, but they're stretched in a lot of places too. Bart's head looks 4 inches wider here: pic.twitter.com/fCpmTPasGj
— Tristan Cooper @TristanACooper November 12, 2019
In Disney+’s defense, the cropping issue also occurred when FXX started airing The Simpsons marathons, and it’s believed the streaming service simply imported those versions after acquiring Fox. However, Disney was quick to respond to fan reactions, and within days of launch, it promised to offer viewers a choice of aspect ratios in a statement to The LA Times:
“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.”
While May pushes the limit of “early 2020,” it’s understandable that Disney has had its hands full, as the pandemic has forced the company to scuttle release dates for major blockbusters like Black Widow and Mulan while hing production on a variety of upcoming projects headed for theaters and Disney+.
Disney+ may benefit from further delays with the studio's theatrical releases as more movies may be going directly to the streaming service in the future. This, according to former Disney CEO and current Executive Chairman Bob Iger. It was recently revealed that Artemis Fowl will debut on Disney+ sometime this year, skipping a theatrical release. As Iger explains, that may not be the only title to make the move from theatrical to streaming, but don't expect to see it happen with the studio's upcoming tentpole releases.
Given what's going on in the world right now, most movie theaters are shut down entirely and virtually all major releases through June have been delayed. Some have wondered if Disney might put movies like Black Widow or Mulan on Disney+ instead. While that won't be happening, Bob Iger isn't ruling out other movies making the shift. Here's what Iger had to say about it in a recent interview.
'There are some we've decided to put on Disney+. We already announced one, Artemis Fowl, that would have been released in theaters. Others we've simply delayed. In some cases we've moved things onto Disney+ faster than we would have. Frozen 2 was one of them, but Onward would be the biggest example. It was in theaters when this happened.'
'We moved to a pay-per-view period for a couple of weeks where people could buy it and own it. And then we ended up putting it on Disney+. In terms of movies going ahead after Artemis, there may be a few more that we end up putting directly onto Disney+, but for the most part a lot of the big tentpole Disney films, we'll simply wait for slots. In some cases we've announced new ones already, but later on in the calendar.'
There is a lot to unpack here. Black Widow and several other delayed movies were recently given new release dates as Disney reshuffled its 2020/2021 calendar. Black Widow and other big-budget tentpoles stand to make far more money in theaters, even with a relatively uncertain future ahead, than they could possibly generate via streaming. So putting movies like them directly on Disney+ doesn't make that much business sense.
In the meantime, taking riskier projects such as Artemis Fowl and giving Disney+ subscribers something flashy and exclusive is helpful. But what other movies might fit the bill for streaming debuts? The New Mutants perhaps? Whatever the case, as Bob Iger points out, the studio is content to wait until things return to normal. Disney, more than any other studio in Hollywood, is capable of raking in big dollars at the box office. So this truly isn't that surprising.
Other studios, on the other hand, may see value in doing a VOD/Digital release. Universal kicked that door wide open a couple of weeks back by putting recent releases such as The Invisible Man and The Hunt online. Trolls: World Tour, which was destined for theaters, will arrive digitally this month. Disney has not yet set a premiere date for Artemis Fowl, but it's...