Cultural touchstone animated comedy The Simpsons began airing when TV and broadcast technology was a far cry from where it is now. Thus, it was created and distributed in the 4:3 aspect ratio without any the thought that visual jokes might get cut out when aspect ratios would change for higher definition TV in the future.
The arrival of The Simpsons at Disney’s streaming service Disney Plus brought up this very issue as almost no new content is in 4:3 and translating the format to 16:9 indeed cropped out many of the visual gags that are signature part of The Simpsons as well as stretched. Today, Disney Plus, after suffering the ire of Simpsons fans, announced that it would be reverting back to the original aspect ratio as to preserve the integrity of The Simpsons back catalog, which lives exclusively at the streaming service now.
As the streaming services amass more and more content, specifically entire classic sitcoms as far back as the 60s, we’ll be curious to see if this will continue to be an issue. If so, will a “horizontal letterbox” become a thing?