For a long time The Lion King was the highest grossing animated film in history. For my money it is still miles ahead of any other animated feature. Using more frames per second in animation than the modern cost-cutting standard, this animation simply flows. Elton John and Tim Rice combined for some spectacular songs that somehow appeal to adults and the pop crowd while still maintaining that charm and sing-along ability necessary to attract children. The story is far richer in content than the typical animated fare.Finally, this film is quite simply just beautiful to watch. Without taking anything away from Disney groundbreaking features like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty or even the wonderful Fantasia, The Lion King is indeed king of the animated jungle.
The birth of Simba the lion cub and heir to the throne of Pride Rock is a cause of celebration to the entire animal kingdom with the exception of Uncle Scar who fancies the throne for himself.
The Lion King simply bursts alive with a glorious Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The ambient sounds are some of the most realistic I’ve heard. The sound does a great job of making you forget you’re watching animation. I felt more in that jungle than on films with sharp location visuals. The songs resonate from the system with majesty to rival the best of the DVD audio discs currently available. Lows are convincingly strong and highs are crisp and vibrant. I own the old CD release of The Lion King but this was like hearing it all for the first time.
There is a commentary track, but I found it distracted far too much from the crucial sounds of the film itself. I would imagine this track might play better as an audio only.
The Lion King is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The anamorphic enhancement for your typical wide screen TV is nothing short of perfection. Disney certainly lived up to the family reputation with this release. Colors literally jump off the screen to take you away to the environs of Pride Rock. Blacks are about as rich as they can be. Contrasts are particularly awesome to highlight the incredible animation. The picture flows with exquisite smoothness, revealing no digital artifacts whatsoever. The faint hint of grain carries from the original print and should not be considered a flaw. There were no evident artifacts or specs. This was a mint print.
Disc One contains two versions of the film. The original theatrical release is presented exactly as it appeared in theatres, and there is a slightly longer version which contains the musical number Morning Report lifted from the Broadway production.
Disc Two contains a little something for everyone from the children to the adults who love this film…
- There are three insignificant deleted/expanded scenes. With the cost of animation, it is not surprising that much less material finds itself on the proverbial cutting room floor.
- A sing along section will appeal to the kiddies and possibly drive the moms and dads a bit nuts.
- Two music videos are included: Circle of Life with the Disney Channel Circle Stars is basic Mickey Mouse Club kiddie pop, while the original music video of Can You Feel the Love Tonight features writer/singer Elton John with some clever film clips.
- The Making of the Morning Report explains the inclusion of the piece originally created for the Broadway production and is extremely short.
- Timon’s Grab A Grub game is strictly for the little ones as is the Lion King video game preview (advertisement).
- Short 1-2 minute pieces on each of the main characters delve into animation techniques and even the development of the character’s look and movement.
- Storyboard to Film Comparisons are typical looks at the film’s early stages of development.
- Six features compare the animal characters with their reality based counterparts (warthogs …).
- Fifteen art and production galleries cover just about every aspect of the film and animation process.
- There are also plenty of promos for Disney’s upcoming products, theme parks, and games.
The menus are a bit complicated at times, but an included pullout will help with navigation.
Boiled down to its most simple elements, traditional storytelling hasn’t changed much throughout history. From Shakespeare to Stephen King, good stories have always been about the reluctant hero and good’s triumph over evil. The Lion King is just that without any of the pretentious trappings that are intended to enhance but usually distract. Recently a friend described his experience watching the film with his 5 year old son.
It’s sad that few entertainment opportunities today offer such simple pleasure. Don’t buy this disc now because Disney threatens to throw it into a vault for 50 years. Buy it now because it contains a value immeasurable in dollars and cents. I guess you could call it, “Hakuna Matata”.