Remember how many of the best visual gags from The Simpsons were accidentally removed on Disney Plus as old episodes were only available out of their original aspect ratio? Disney Plus has now solved the problem: Fans can now tune into the Springfield-set sitcom in its original 4:3 aspect ratio glory (or 16:9 HD edit), thanks to a nifty toggle switch that appears above old episodes.
However, this solution was much more complicated to create than expected. A lot more complicated.
In a lengthy blog post, Joe Rice, Vice President of Media Product at Disney Plus, revealed how this new feature was exceptionally hard to develop without breaking the streaming platform.
“The new 4:3 versions couldn’t be treated as standalone, bonus content,” Rice explained. “We needed to challenge prior assumptions and rethink how content for streaming is packaged and delivered.”
All the classic Simpsons episodes on Disney+ are in cropped widescreen format — this means you miss out on tons of great visual jokes, like how Duff, Duff Lite and Duff Dry all come from the same tube. pic.twitter.com/cTy9adulFl
— Tristan Cooper (@TristanACooper) November 12, 2019
For those technically minded, the issue was that Disney’s site architecture assumed each episode could only be designated one Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR) ID tag.
As Rice explains, to get around this, Disney introduced the concept of multiple media “facets” (combinations of audio, video, and subtitle components) – this meant they cold reuse thousands of audio and subtitle components for the original 4:3 edit.
If that means little to you, just know this: according to Rice, this way of storing shows on their system “opens up a number of exciting opportunities for novel ways of presenting content in the future”.
In other words, watch this space. In whatever aspect ratio you find fitting.
The Disney Plus aspect ratio switch is now available across mobile, web, and connected TV devices when available.
The Simpsons aired in a 4:3 aspect ratio from its premiere in 1989 to 2010. In 2010, partway through the show’s 20th season, the show switched to a 16:9 format.
Sign up to Disney+ for £59.99 a year (or £5.99 a month). Check out our TV guide for more to watch.