8 Lost ‘Simpsons’ Sight Gags Restored by New Disney+ Option (VIDEO)
No one loves letterboxing or pillarboxing—the horizontal or vertical black bars used to accommodate varying aspect ratios on TV—but Simpsons fans have been particularly cranky about the practice: It steals away some of the animated show’s visual humor. But now those laughs are back.
The long-running Fox comedy shifted from a 4:3 ratio to a 16:9 “widescreen” ratio in 2009, midway through its 20th season. But when the streaming platform Disney+ debuted, every episode was shoehorned into the 16:9 ratio to “guarantee visual quality and consistency across all 30 seasons,” according to a spokesperson in a statement last year.
Visual quality and consistency are great and all, but eventually fans realized they weren’t getting the full picture in a larger sense: Many sight gags at the outer edges of the frame had been cropped out. As Bart would say, “¡Ay, caramba!”
After a fair amount of outcry online last year, Disney+ vowed to eventually offer viewers the choice of aspect ratios. That change went into effect May 28, so viewers can now decide whether to watch the episodes in 16:9 or in 4:3. Those who choose the latter will see the following silly details in their full glory.
In one of the earliest examples, viewers of the cropped version of Season 1’s “Bart the General” missed a noteworthy offering in the display case at Herman’s Military Antiques: a box labeled “Hitler’s Teeth.”
Duff vs. Duff Lite vs. Duff Dry
As Homer tours Duff Brewery in Season 4’s “Duffless,” it’s revealed that Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry are all the same beer! In the cropped format, however, viewers can’t see that the three varieties are coming from the same pipe.
Clumsy Student Movers
The cropped version of Season 4’s “New Kid on the Block” obscures the name of the moving company helping the Simpsons’ new neighbors with their move—Clumsy Student Movers—and totally cuts out the employee who trips and breaks a lamp. (Although all viewers could hear the klutz say, “Awww, not again!”)
Teen Spleen Magazine
Homer ventures out to get magazines for a sick-at-home Lisa in Season 2’s “Bart’s Dog Gets an F,” and viewers of the cropped version would have seen such ridiculous titles as Martin Sheen’s Teen-Scene and Non-Threatening Boy. But concealed on the top row of periodicals were even more faux reads, including Teen Spleen and Teen Beam.
Homer’s Peach Fuzz
Viewers of the cropped version of Season 4’s “The Front” only get a flash of Homer’s pubescent mustache in his high school yearbook photo, but those who opt for the original version get to really behold all nine wisps.
Big Butt Skinner
In “Bart’s Comet” from Season 6, Bart defaces his school’s weather balloon to resemble a figure of Principal Skinner getting hoisted by his exposed derriere. Much to viewers’ great dismay, we’re sure, the cropped version of the episode didn’t show the inflated Skinner’s butt-cheek delineation.
Scorpio’s Moving Sidewalk
The Simpsons move to Cypress Creek so Homer can start working for the villainous Hank Scorpio (guest-voiced by Albert Brooks) in Season 8’s “You Only Move Twice.” Without seeing the full frame, viewers don’t realize Homer and Scorpio step off a treadmill…immediately onto a moving sidewalk.
Maybe it’s better Milhouse’s father loses his job at the cracker factory in Season 8’s “A Milhouse Divided,” considering his boss’s choice of decor includes a cracker sculpture and—only visible to those watching the original version—a painting of a single cracker on a plate.