The Simpsons: The Show's Glorious App Is Gone Forever
What if there was an app where you could watch any Simpsons episode you wanted at any time?
OK, fair, that app is called Disney+.
But what if that app also was crammed full of Simpsons featurettes, commentaries, playlists, deleted scenes, and more?
And what if we told you that, unlike Disney+, that app was free? (Sort of.) Wouldn’t you be sort of … giddy? Back in 2014, that was fans' reaction when logging into the newly launched Simpsons World. One Slate writer described the feeling as, “in the words of Homer at the Candy Convention, ‘like a kid in some kind of a store.’”
Simpsons World would be crazy-ambitious in 2022. The idea that developers were trying to pull it off in 2014 is mind-blowing. Here’s what you got:
* Access to all 552 (at the time) episodes, available on demand
* “Everything Simpsons,” a newsfeed with the latest buzz on the show
* “The Simpsons Heartbeat,” a feature that sorted episodes by popularity
* A search function that allowed users to search by episode, joke, or guest star
* “Did You Know?” fun facts, social media posts, and curated playlists
And that was just the beginning! More features were added, including advanced search that indexed every single word of every single episode. Playlists were promised so you could watch episodes written by your favorite Simpsons scribes. You could even watch in Script Mode, with the screenplay running alongside the episode in real-time.
As legendary Simpsons producer Al Jean said when it launched, “Hello ‘Simpsons World,’ goodbye free time! Seriously.”
It all sounds too good to be true, and it actually existed! But if Simpsons World was so amazing -- why weren’t more people talking about it? And where did it go?
Well. As incredible as Simpsons World was, it did have its drawbacks. For starters, full episodes were only available to people who subscribed to Time Warner Cable or Comcast. If one of those companies was your community’s cable provider, you were in luck! If neither served your area? Then many Simpsons World features like full episodes just weren’t available, even if you were willing to pony up. Some providers, like Verizon, wouldn’t even let you load the app on your phone.
And because it’s the Internet, there were complainers -- some because the video occasionally lagged (again, it was 2014, when 3G was considered the gold standard) and others because the original episodes’ 4:3 aspect ratio was trimmed to fit phone screens.
Still. “The database is a gift from Jeebus,” wrote one euphoric reviewer. “Simpsons World is both exhaustive and easily navigable; it’s the ultimate pop culture repository.”
It was the best of the DVD and streaming worlds -- endless content available on-demand, along with the featurettes and creator commentaries that deep-dive fans crave. So what happened? Simpsons World got eaten by The Mouse.
When Disney acquired Fox back in 2019, the writing was on the wall. Literally.
With a new streaming service to launch, IP like The Simpsons was the perfect bait to lure new subscribers. Why give away all the good stuff when it could be safely stored behind the Disney paywall?
All of the episodes moved to the new service except for Stark Raving Dad, the episode with Michael Jackson’s cameo. No explanation was given, though Stark Raving Dad was pulled not long after HBO’s Leaving Neverland documentary leveled allegations against Jackson, so you do the math.
A visit to simpsonsworld.com today will zip you to Disney+’s Simpsons page. It’s fair to say the experience is not nearly the same.
Hardcore fans still lament the site’s demise. Shutting down Simpsons World meant losing site-exclusive commentary by show creators, never released on DVD. All of the nerdy extras? Gone forever.
“Too bad,” commented Reddit user u/pac4. “Simpsons World was one of the best ideas of all time.”
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Top image: Fox