Published May 28, 2020Eerily prescient cartoon The Simpsons had a rocky launch on Disney+ last November, with the 16:9 aspect ratio killing some of the visual gags from the early seasons (which were made in 4:3). That finally changes today, as older episodes are available to stream in the original aspect ratio. Disney exec Joe Rice has now explained why it took the service over six months to fix a seemingly simple issue.
According to Rice, Disney+ was built without the option for viewers to alter video settings on its content. Users can now toggle between viewing The Simpsons in 16:9 or 4:3 — something that was impossible with its original system, which assumed that each video had a single edit.
In other words Disney+ needed to rebuild its system without breaking what was already in place. "We needed to challenge prior assumptions and rethink how content for streaming is packaged and delivered," Rice told Variety.
With the new system, different combinations of video, audio and subtitles can be used for the same content.
So why didn't Disney+ simply release the early seasons in 4:3, as standalone content that was separate from the later seasons in 16:9? According to Rice, that would have potentially killed key Disney+ features like Continue Watching, Watchlist, and auto-playing episodes in chronological order. It was key, therefore, for users to be able to toggle between aspect ratios on the same video.
The Simpsons ran in 4:3 ratio from 1989 until 2010. Midway though Season 20, it switched over to 16:9 and has been in that format ever since.