The Simpsons big screen story that time forgot

A 20-year-old movie was the one chance to see The Simpsons like never before - or since - in its 30 years on screen.

It was 30 years ago today when The Simpsons burst onto TV screens, and since then we've had 672 episodes, over a dozen appearances across the shows Duckman, Drawn Together, The Critic and Seth MacFarlane cartoons - plus one big screen adventure.

Or was it just one? And is all this material easy to find online or the physical media of yesteryear?

Well, first things first - that Michael Jackson episode of the show isn't available on Disney+ due to allegations against the deceased singer, but you can still buy VHS tapes and DVDs featuring the masterpiece that is Stark Raving Dad.

Secondly, there's one piece of Simpsons media that's never made it online or onto physical media; you can't even find naughty bootlegs of it.

We're talking about turn-of-the-century obscurity Cyberworld 3D, a forgotten relic of digital animation distributed by 20th Century Fox back in 2000 that also marked the first big screen appearance of The Simpsons,

The movie was a 45 minute-anthology released around the world for a limited run on IMAX and IMAX 3D screens. One segment making up those 45 minutes was entirely poached from a Simpsons Halloween classic - but presented in a 3D format that's been lost to time and never found on general release since.

As the above featurette explains, Cyberworld (to use its official name) is based around a 'futuristic museum of infinite possibilities' under attack from some anamorphic computer bugs. The damage they cause unleashes pieces from the Cyberworld collection, giving way to CGI-heavy music videos, short films and segments from popular animated movies of the time like Antz.

This was from a simpler time, when Woody Allen could get away with starring in kids films and VFX was still something new and exciting. It was also a time for more freedom with IP properties - the movie's poster features Homer Simpson alongside one of the Antz characters, the former owned as he was by Fox, and the latter by Dreamworks. Could you imagine that happening today, with all the legal silos of the 21st century? Disney would have balked at the idea (which is funny when you consider that they're now owners of The Simpsons franchise.)

The Simpsons segment used in Cyberworld came from an anthology itself, 1995's Halloween episode Treehouse of Horror VI, which featured the much loved storyline Homer3 (Homer Cubed). Simpsons fans will know that's the one where Homer Simpson entered another dimension and transformed into a 3D figure. 

The ten minute short was ahead of its time, with the show daring to dip into 3D just as the original Toy Story was being released. No other mainstream show had attempted such thing, and nor had many movies before Woody and Buzz hit the big screen. As such, its inclusion in Cyberworld makes sense, the segment being such a milestone in CGI animation. Everyone knows the short, but not many have seen it in actual 3D vision - in fact, no-one had until 2000 upon Cyberworld's release, and its unlikely anyone has since.

Funnily enough, Digital Arts editor Neil Bennett was invited to a screening of the movie, back when he was a reporter and we used to be a print magazine (nostalgia!) Asking him about his memories of the feature, he had only one thing to say:

"It was terrifying."

Well, you'd be just as scared if you saw a massive Homer Simpson heading towards you on a giant screen with his mouth wide open. As I said, these were simpler times, before IMAX became ubiquitous and everybody from Christopher Nolan to Michael Bay began shooting on IMAX cameras.

So there you have it, a Simpsons episode lost to time, and a real one at that, unlike those urban legends you hear of the Dead Bart kind.

Read next:  How The Simpsons live episode was created

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