In 1991, the third season of The Simpsons premiered with the episode "Stark Raving Dad." In it, Homer is mistakenly sent to a mental institution, where he meets a man who's convinced he's Michael Jackson. But should you want to watch season three of The Simpsons on Disney+ in 2019, you'll find that it starts on a different note: cutting straight to episode two, "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington," as pointed out by the Hollywood Reporter and other outlets.
Presumably, that's because of the episode's ties to Michael Jackson and, thus, the allegations of child sexual abuse against him. On top of the episode's plot focus on Jackson—whom Simpsons creator Matt Groening once described as a "big fan of show"—the singer himself also voiced the role of Leon Kompowsky, the man Homer meets in the institution.
We probably should have seen this one coming; after HBO released Leaving Neverland, a documentary that detailed two men's allegations of childhood abuse by Jackson, in March, the Simpsons production team decided to pull "Stark Raving Dad" from circulation out of consideration for Jackson's alleged victims.
"The documentary gave evidence of monstrous behavior," executive producer James L. Brooks told the Wall Street Journal, adding that although the episode included many great memories, "this certainly doesn’t allow them to remain." While Brooks bristled at the thought of book burning, he said at the time, "This is our book, and we’re allowed to take out a chapter."
Whether the decision to pull "Stark Raving Dad" was on The Simpsons crew or on Disney, it fits into a bigger trend of Disney attempting to atone on its new streaming service for past missteps. Also missing from Disney+ is Song of the South, a controversial 1946 musical about the Reconstruction-era American South that hasn't been made available by Disney for 33 years, according to the New York Times. "Commando Duck," a propaganda cartoon from World War II in which Donald Duck fights enemies in a Japanese airfield and runs into locals depicted as racist caricatures, is also pointedly missing, despite the presence of earlier Donald shorts.
The rhyme and reason as to what makes it on Disney+ and what doesn't remains unclear. For problematic but more popular content, the streaming service has picked a different solution. To head off any scrutiny that might come from a 2019 rewatching of the pervasive racism of Dumbo or the stereotype-heavy Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp, older content on Disney+ now comes with a warning: "This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions."
After all, if Disney pulled all of its old, problematic stuff off the streaming service entirely, we'd be left with basically none of our childhood favorites.