The Lion King (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

The summer of 1994 was a very good one at the box office. Two films amassed over $300 million at the domestic box office, one was expected to and the other really wasn’t. As you might have guessed, one was “The Lion King” and the other a little movie by the name of “Forrest Gump.” While the world caught “Gump Fever” (the movie also went onto win Best Picture), the younger audiences were singing “Hakuna Matata.” A little-known fact: that’s the most popular name in the world for a boat. Go figure. Out of all of the Disney animated films, and there are now over fifty of them, “The Lion King” is the most commercially successful. It was also the first to feature an on-screen death of a major character. I think it’s safe to say that anyone reading this review has seen this movie, but on the off chance you haven’t, here we go.

The story follows a young lion prince in Africa by the name of Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas later by Matthew Broderick) who is heir to the throne. His father, King Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones), is killed by his brother Scar (voiced by Jeremy Irons), though Simba is led to believe that he’s at fault. Simba goes into exile for years but is then persuaded to return home and claim the kingdom that’s rightfully his. Naturally, this being a Disney movie, there are plenty of friends, songs and such. Nowhere is this more epitomized than with Elton John’s “Circle of Life”, a fitting way to get the message across.

“The Lion King” will likely go down as one of the best if not the best 2D animated film and serves as a segue to the movies that followed like “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo.” Everything about this film just felt right and even watching is some fifteen years later, it’s still a good movie. There aren’t many films out there that stand the test of time, but “The Lion King” is certainly one of them. The film was just re-released having been re-mastered in 3D and it’s already raked up another $80 million at the box office. Suffice it to say, there aren’t many films with this kind of staying power. The movie did inspire a few direct-to-video sequels, though none having quite the power that the original did. “The Lion King” is perhaps the best example of a film that truly has something for everyone. If you’ve never seen it, there’s no better way to experience it than right now.

Video: How does it look?

We’ve become so spoiled by the (computer) animated films of today that when we dig back in the Disney vault the bar is set pretty high. It goes without saying that “The Lion King” is the jewel in Disney’s crown and, as such, they’ll make sure it’s presented in the best possible way. Thankfully the video presentation does deliver and the 1.85:1 AVC HD image looks like you could reach out and touch it. Colors are bold and vibrant, backgrounds smooth and there’s nary an error to be found anywhere. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen the film, so I don’t have a recent comparison in mind though I’ve seen some other Disney 2D titles and this blows them away. Everything about this transfer is good and no matter how big or small your television – your jaw will drop when you see how impressive this looks.

Audio: How does it sound?

Nearly as impressive as the way this looks is the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is now a full 7.1 lossless soundtrack, quite a bump up from the standard DVD Dolby Digital 5.1 mix from a decade ago. The dialogue is about as clear as it can get. I sensed no distortion among the front channels. There are plenty of songs ranging from the happy and joyful “Hakuna Matata” to Elton John’s Oscar-Winning “Circle of Life” and they’ve never sounded better. The movie isn’t without its share of action, though. James Earl Jones’ commanding voice sounds rich and robust, there are a few action-intense scenes that make excellent use from the rear channels as well. It’s a misconception that animated movies can’t sound great and this is living proof.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This three disc edition comes equipped with a standard DVD so if you’ve some little ones out there, they can watch this while the Blu-ray remains, well, scratch-free. Not all of the supplements from the previous “Platinum Edition” found their way onto this set, though there’s enough to certainly warrant a purchase. We begin with “The Morning Report” which is a two minute alternate scene. “Disney’s Virtual Vault” is a feature found on some other notable Disney titles and this comes directly from the standard DVD. We get a few deleted scenes, some storyboards and some making-of featurettes that are sure to entertain. Also included is a sing-along mode as well as the audio commentary with Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff and Don Hahn. It’s a good track and there’s a lot of information to be gleamed from this. I don’t think the little ones will enjoy it, but if you want to learn all you can about “The Lion King” then this is a great place to start.

Moving onto the Blu-ray exclusives is an interactive Gallery. We get peeks at pretty much every facet of the movie ranging from character design, the physical look and feel of the film, backgrounds and everything in between. There’s about an hour of material here and it’s actually all interesting! “Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition” is broken into three sections “Pride of ‘The Lion King'”, “The Lion King: A memoir – Don Hahn” and some deleted and alternate scenes. There is some new material here and we get a very in-depth look at the cast and crew of the film, what’s gone on in the 17 years since the film and about everyone involved in the making of this movie. Lastly we get some Bloopers which is mainly some animated material and such. I mean, it’s animated so anything will have to do with the audio. There’s more than enough material here for any fan of the film and if you needed another reason to pick this up – here it is.

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