The project for The Lion King began as a cartoon entitled King Of The Jungle out of which the story developed into a theatrical animation feature. Set amid the majestic beauty of Africa's Serengeti plain, Disney's epic coming-of-age saga tells of the love between a proud lion ruler, Mufasa (Earl Jones), and his son Simba (Thomas), a naive and curious cub who is the heir to the throne. In the shadows prowls Simba's envious Uncle Scar (Irons) and his hyena followers. Their scheming for the throne leads to tragedy...and Simba's self exile from the kingdom he should rightfully rule. Befriended by the warmhearted warthog Pumbaa and his manic meerkat companion, Timon, Simba forgets his regal responsibility and adopts the carefree lifestyle of "Hakuna Matata." Simba comes to learn that he can reclaim his true destiny in the "circle of life" with the help of Rafiki, a wise mystic baboon. Until the success of Finding Nemo, The Lion King was the top-grossing animated film of all time. This new 3-D Blu-ray Disc™ rendering impressively enhances the technical and narrative achievement, and the suspense, laughs, and tears are made more engaging with this 3-D treatment. As a box office note, The Lion King had ruled for two consecutive weekends, with the 3-D version grossing $61.7 million, which is incredible for a 17-year-old film released in 3D that also followed within a week's time on 3-D Blu-ray Disc.
Special features include the option to watch the movie with Disney Second Screen; a tutorial on what Second Screen is; bloopers and outtakes (HD 03:44); the following under "Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition": Pride Of "The Lion King" (HD 38:06), "The Lion King": A Memoir—Don Hahn (SD 19:40), and five deleted and alternate scenes with introductions by Co-Directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff (HD 14:33); the following under "Music & More": the option to play the movie with a sing-along mode and "The Morning Report" extended scene (HD 02:30); an interactive Blu-ray Gallery; "Disney's Virtual Vault" BD-Live; "Discover Blu-ray 3D With Timon & Pumbaa" (HD 04:23); sneak peeks; and up-front ads. The set includes the 3-D version, the Blu-ray, a DVD, and a digital copy of the film.
First reviewed in the LaserDisc format in Issue 16 and then in Issue 77 as a DVD and DVD Collector's edition, as an anamorphically enhanced DVD, framed in a 1.66:1 windowboxed/pillarboxed ratio, the DVD picture exhibited beautiful imagery that looked absolutely incredible on larger home theatre displays. Colors jumped from the screen with excellent depth. The vivid blues, reds, and yellows visually contrasted the more subtle animated appearance of the African savanna. The picture exhibited an impressive amount of dimension and realism. There were no signs of artifacts, pixelization, or annoying edge enhancement to distract from the picture. Once again, Disney animation took the cake for reference-quality DVDs. This newly restored and re-purposed 1080p MVC 3-D Blu-ray Disc rendering of the original hand-drawn cell animation is absolutely stunning. The animation, while technically dated, is superb, even though it doesn't have the intricate shading of modern computer-animated films. Instead, the imagery exists on different visual layers, and it's those planes that had to be painstakingly converted to 3D. Though drawn on layers, each layer was composited for the final film. For 3D to work, there needs to be different layers. The computer artisans at Disney took each piece of the action and composited them to look three dimensional. Some of the scenes had over 100 layers, so this new version required a lot of labor and expense. The result is there is now a wonderful sense of depth to the imagery—the essence of 3D—and a more immersive visual experience. The imagery virtually always takes place in the comfortable positive parallax viewing zone, with virtually no out-of-screen moments. From the opening scene, with the animals gathering for the unveiling of the future king, the perception of depth is amazing. Grass layers perfectly between animals, in front and behind, with revealing clarity. Backgrounds have superb nuanced detail vibrancy. The colors are boldly vivid and rich and a sight to behold in 3D. Blacks are deep and solid, and shadow delineation is superb. Textures on painted background and foreground objects are impressively rendered. Even in the darkest of scenes, such as the elephant graveyard sequence, the 3D is always discernible, always enhancing the visual effect. Even in the more elaborate stampede sequence, each layer of depth is perfectly rendered with impressive 3-D effect. Some slight, but infrequent, crosstalk ghosting is, at times, apparent, especially during high-contrast segments, but the artifact is never annoying. This is an effectively rendered 3-D presentation that, though reserved dimensionally, is dramatically a better visual experience than viewing the 2-D Blu-ray version. The Lion King has been masterfully layered to create one of the most impressive 3-D experiences to date. (Gary Reber)
The DVDs featured two (English) Dolby® Digital 5.1-channel soundtracks. One was the original audio mix, and the other an audio re-mastering that Disney has been prominently touting as optimized for home theatre presentation. The latter had dramatically greater spatial presence and low-end content than the original, which sounded a little thin in deep bass and more frontal-balanced in comparison. The re-mastered audio also was somewhat higher in overall level. The presentation of the "home theatre-optimized" soundtrack was generally wonderful, with a very prominent surround presence and engagement of substantial, sometimes powerful, low frequencies, and the LFE channel. It should be noted that the surrounds tended to be rather high in level, in fact, often even more so than the front channels. As a result, the surround channels, at times, drew somewhat more attention to themselves than usual. Nonetheless, the end result really enhanced the involvement and entertainment. In retrospect, this mix lead the way to the ideal holosonic® immersive and enveloping qualities that today's best soundtracks emulate. The newly re-purposed DTS-HD Master Audio™ 7.1-channel soundtrack features the "Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mixes," optimized for home theatre presentations. The atmospherics and sound effects are perfectly supportive and dimensional. The dialogue is placed perfectly throughout the soundstage, with a wonderful sense of spatial integration. The dynamics are wonderful with powerful, but natural-sounding bass energized in the .1 LFE channel, particularly during intense action sequences, such as heard in animal thumps and stomps and during rampaging moments. The use of reverberation and echo is impressive and enhances the sense of soundfield dimensionality and holosonic envelopment. While thunderous energy is overall lacking, the sound is generally well balanced throughout and faithful to the original source. The added two channels at the 90-degree positions nicely enhance the sense of seamless soundfield integration and sense of dimension and envelopment. This is a wonderful soundtrack experience that perfectly complements the classic Disney animation and storytelling. (Gary Reber)