A lot of chatter preceded Disney's corporate takeover of Fox's various studios, and many wondered if they monolithic entertainment company would cause any hiccups for TV's longest-running primetime comedy, The Simpsons. So far, one major problem for fans has been the lack of original TV aspect ratios on Disney+ for The Simpsons' first 19 seasons, but that's actually changing soon. And we got an update from longtime director and producer David Silverman about how things have gone since the buyout.
David Silverman spoke with CinemaBlend and other outlets via conference call in promotion of the new short film Playdate with Destiny, his follow-up to the Oscar-nominated The Longest Daycare. The latest Maggie Simpson-fronted short screened theatrically ahead of Onward, but has now reached the masses via Disney+, with theaters around the globe shutting down not long after release. That quick turnaround was awesome for those who weren't able to catch it before, and Silverman is quite convincing when he says that Disney has been game to stay hands-off with The Simpsons. In his words:
It’s business as usual. Disney is extremely great at, ‘Here’s a working property that we’re now working with, and if it ain’t broke, we ain’t gonna try to fix it.’ They’re taking the same approach they did with Marvel and every other franchise they’ve been connecting with. It’s been great. No change whatsoever.
Granted, The Simpsons isn't quite the ribald counter-culture phenomenon it was in the early 1990s when adult animation was still rooted in the era of Fritz the Cat and Heavy Metal. But it's still great to hear that Disney execs haven't slowly started to slowly bombard the show's creative team with content notes and demands for endless displays of company synergy. (At least we assume that isn't the case.)
In fact, David Silverman says that much of the Simpsons team is hard at work even during the self-quarantine, since they obviously don't have to go to any sets or filming locations. Here's how he put it:
We’re having a great time. I just jumped off a meeting for an episode coming up, which is going to be amazing, and it’s business as usual -- as much business as usual you can do under these circumstances, but we’re still going! We’re still working ahead.
It's currently unclear whether or not Fox is prepping for The Simpsons Season 32 to be ready for the usual premiere dates in the fall, though it and other well-oiled animated series probably have better shots than so many live-action TV shows that won't be filming anything for a while. The next "Treehouse of Horror" installment might be particularly insightful, and it's possible that any of the guest stars they're seeking will be at home and available for the foreseeable future.
When it comes to the things that Disney is making better, fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when the streaming service announced it would be adding the original 4:3 aspect ration for all The Simpsons episodes that were produced before the HD-infused shift to 16:9 ratios. It hasn't been the only show to face unfortunate frame-cropping for a shift to streaming, but the effects were all too blatant, considering The Simpsons utilizes any and all space for blink-quick sight gags.
Here, David Silverman talks about why keeping the 3:4 aspect ratio is important for The Simpsons on any platform.
When you are working in a certain film ratio format, you’re designing your shots with that in mind. So when it’s cropped off, it’s going to undercut things. Some shots may not be that affected by it, but certain shots very much affected by it, because it’s going to cut out the top and bottom. It’s probably going to cut off the tops of people’s heads, their eyes, and in some cases I know it cuts off jokes. There’ll be jokes that are at the bottom of the frame --maybe it’s a subtitle joke or some physical thing that’s cut off because it’s been arbitrarily put into a 16:9 format.
For what it's worth, David Silverman isn't just a stickler for the formatting when it comes to The Simpsons' hallmark seasons or anything. He also doesn't want to see Disney pulling those kinds of updates on its own classics, either.
The 4:3 format has integrity so the material works. But also to me it’s the integrity of, ‘This is how the actual show was first presented,’ like anything else. Like any film in a 4:3 format, I want to see it that way. I don’t want to see Casablanca with the tops and bottoms cut off. I don’t want to see a Marx Brothers film in a 16:9 format; I don’t want to see King Kong in a 16:9 format. Nor do I want to see a film like Snow White in a 16:9 format, nor Pinocchio, nor 101 Dalmatians or the Disney shorts. I want to see them in their proper aspect ratios.
How bizarre would it be to watch Three Stooges shorts, or classic TV shows like Get Smart and The Addams Family in 16:9 widescreen? Hopefully we'll never have to find out.
However, fans can instantly find out just how cute, heartwarming and Maggie-tastic David Silverman's Playdate with Destiny is. All you have to do is head to Disney+ to check it out!