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The Simpsons - Editorial: Season 11: Worst...Packaging...EVER!

Box art is pretty to look at, but overall the box is really pretty bad

Posted by David Lambert
Yes, we realize that the headline might sound familiar. But the phrase "worst (insert item here) ever!," uttered regularly by Comic Book Guy, is a well-known quote among fans of The Simpsons...and utterly appropriate to use here!

Or maybe we can use the words from one of the episode titles on The Simpsons - The Complete 11th Season. In those words, this packaging is "beyond blunderdome." Fans of the show from coast to coast have been screaming "d'oh!" ever since Fox's October 7th DVD release of the four-disc set. Originally announced by the studio as coming only in a "Limited Edition Krusty Head Collector's Box" package, it was revealed at the last second that there would also be a "regular" package as well. The only difference between the two, though, was that the 3-D plastic "face" of Krusty the Klown wasn't affixed to the front of the box. By the way, that 3-D front seems to come off really easily, as it's only stuck on with some light rubber cement; underneath is the same picture as the "regular" box... at least according to everyone we've talked to who's tried it (your milage may vary!).

The inside of the box features a glossy cardboard zig-zag fold-out affair, which houses the discs in a manner that will remind you more of an album sleeve from an old vinyl LP than a standard DVD case. Many of us have gotten a demo DVD (or CD) in a small cardboard sleeve that opens at the top or on the side, but in this case you get the discs inserted into very thick cardboard that's difficult to reach inside, and since it's attached to this six-panel fold-out (one panel of which includes the booklet and a single-card insert inside a barely-there pocket), you don't want to exactly tip the whole thing over in order to let gravity aid the disc in coming out of its compartment.

How would you get the discs out of such a tight space then? You have to reach in with two fingers and pinch the edge... making it virtually impossible to not smudge your fingerprints on the "don't touch!" side of the DVD. Also, it's a cinch that the discs will get scratched up sooner or later, inserting them and removing them this way since 100% of the disc makes contact with the cardboard. It's a travesty.

Both Gord and I decided to take our DVDs and put them inside some of those disc sleeves (which are usually white squares, with a flap and a clear plastic "window" on the front so you can see what's inside), and store them this way to reduce wear and tear on the discs. But if you use these sleeves, you don't have enough room to slide the discs back into the place where they need to go... a good 3/4 inch sticks out when you're done pushing them in as far as you can. It's easier just to put the discs/sleeves into the folds of the zig-zag box, and slide it into its Krusty slipcover.

Why did Fox and the folks at The Simpsons choose this style of packaging? We contacted the studio to request a comment about that, but we didn't get a response. Still, it's not hard for fans to come up with a theory. The popular idea is this: Matt Groening's other big series, Futurama, has had the first two out of four direct-to-video releases come out recently: Bender's Big Score and The Beast With a Billion Backs. Both were marketed as coming in "carbon-neutral" packaging, to be greener and help with the environment. Consumers think that Groening probably wanted the DVD releases for The Simpsons to reflect a "less plastic" approach as well, hence the cardboard interior that used neither the plastic trays of the Simpsons sets that came out in the past (even the earlier "digipack" sets), or the plastic "thinpak" cases seen on other releases (such as the earlier Futurama sets).

That theory doesn't quite click with us, though. If the goal is to be environmentally friendly, then the glossy finish over all the cardboard doesn't seem very biodegradable, and the massive amount of plastic used in the 3-D "Krusty head" front isn't biodegradable at all...nor is the clear plastic outer sleeve that slides over it all. It also makes sense to us that any packaging effort made to be "green-friendly" would probably be marketed as such, in the same way that the last two Futurama releases were. No, this packaging doesn't make much sense to us at all.

The pictures on it, mind you, are VERY nice looking. It's obvious that a lot of care went into putting together some terrific original artwork to decorate the inside of this box. Of course, that's appreciated by the fans, but that positive is clearly cancelled out (and then some!) by the negative of the way the packaging actually works. Or rather, doesn't work. I think Gord said it to me best: "it fails to do the most basic job of any DVD box: to store the discs in a way that protects them and makes it convenient for the user to get at the discs to watch them."

Fox made some changes to the "head packaging" when consumers were upset with season 6, and it's time they make another change with season 11. Packaging should be functional, and this is functionally defective.

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The Simpsons - The Complete 11th Season box art: Limited Edition Krusty head

The Simpsons - The Complete 11th Season (regular packaging) box art

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