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The Lion King 3D(1994)
A young lion cub named Simba just can't wait to be king. But the sudden death of his father, Mufasa, and the treacherous actions of his Uncle Scar lead Simba into exile and ultimately on a hero's journey of self-discovery. Adopting the "hakuna matata" philosophy of his comical jungle guardians — a warthog and a meerkat (Pumbaa and Timon) — Simba eventually comes to terms with his destiny and returns home to Pride Rock to help put things right.
For more about The Lion King 3D and The Lion King 3D Blu-ray release, see The Lion King 3D Blu-ray Review
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, Nathan Lane
Directors: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
» See full cast & crew
The Lion King 3D Blu-ray Review
"Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance." Yes, even Disney's 3D presentation...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 26, 2011
Set aside the circle of life for a moment. Let's talk shelf life. Not every Disney animated film is made equal; for every beloved timeless classic there's at least one forgettable misfire prowling the tree line at the edge of the clearing. Nostalgia plays a crucial role in keeping so many "Disney Classics" classic, and the Disney Vault -- brace for impact, naive Mouse Housers -- is a regulatory agency, not a preservation paradise. But The Lion King has had a long, illustrious shelf life, despite the many years it's spent in the Vault. Special editions, direct to video sequels, a wildly successful Broadway adaptation (the seventh longest-running show in Broadway history), merchandising, merchandising, merchandising and, now, a theatrical 3D reissue and a highly anticipated high definition release. Just what is it about The Lion King that resonates? Its proud kings of the plains? Its endearing sidekicks? Its sinister villain? Elton John and Tim Rice's songs? Hans Zimmer's score? The film's iconic coronation sequence? The tragic death of a noble father and king? The rise of a scorned son? The story's dark overtones? Its Biblical and Shakespearean roots? Simba's heartbreak? His conflict? His triumph? Perhaps a better question would be, what about The Lion King doesn't resonate?
A mixing pot of inspirations -- some intentional (Bambi, Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and the Old Testament stories of Joseph and Moses), others either shockingly unintentional or brazenly so (Osamu Tezuka's Kimba the White Lion, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the tale of a certain Pride Lands prince) -- The Lion King strikes a carefully honed balance between bleak tragedy and the family-friendly song-n-dance routine Disney all but perfected in the decades after dear Uncle Walt's seven dwarfs belted out their first rousing round of "Heigh-Ho." At first glance, the story is simple. A lion cub named Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas) is born to the rulers of the African Pride Lands, benevolent King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and compassionate Queen Sarabi (Madge Sinclair). But Mufasa's power-hungry brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons), doesn't intend to settle for scraps. With the help of a pack of hyenas, Scar murders the king and tricks Simba into believing he's to blame for Mufasa's death. Heartbroken and overcome by guilt, Simba flees into the wilderness. There, he meets Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella), a dynamic meerkat-warthog duo who save the cub and, years later, help an older but angstier Simba (Matthew Broderick) return to the Pride Lands to take back his crown and kingdom from Scar and the hyenas. Simple, yes, but strong. Upon closer examination, though, the story's layers become more apparent.
As does The Lion King's staying power. It's more than Mufasa's death, which remains as gripping and emotional a scene as ever. It's more than Hakuna Matata, which has only further solidified its place in the cultural lexicon in recent years. It's more than Elton John's catchy songs, more than Simba's fight to reclaim his birthright, more than his budding love for Nala (Moira Kelly), more than Scar's delightfully devilish traits, more than the young prince's desire to avenge his father's death and honor his legacy. It's even more than the artists' and animators' expressive characters, breathtaking vistas and beautifully realized animation, which continues to stand as some of Disney's finest. No, The Lion King's ascendancy doesn't come by way of any one element. It's co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff's painstaking blend of each of these things into a cohesive, colorful, dramatic and, above all, moving tour de force primed to appeal to children and adults of all ages. Simba is as sympathetic a fledgling hero as any, and his arc is -- thanks to a smattering of Timon and Pumbaa, a love interest, and a wise old sage (Robert Guillaume) -- both entertaining and weighty. Mufasa's passing is felt long after the king has given up the ghost as well, and Scar's machinations earn him a seat at the table with the best of Disney villains. And there's just enough comic relief to prevent the darkness from oppressing the characters' spirits altogether. Make no mistake, The Lion King is a joy to watch.
Still, Disney's thirty-second animated feature isn't without its nicks and scars. (Academy Awards and Golden Globes notwithstanding.) Kids may get a kick out of bantery buds Timon and Pumbaa, but let's take a critical step back: the film's second act lags. There are laughs to be had, friendships to be forged, tunes to be sung, visions to be had and turmoil to be explored. I know, I know. But all of these moments would be even more meaningful if they occurred right under Scar's nose; if Simba had to deal with the shame of his father's death while witnessing his uncle's rise to the throne firsthand. Shakespeare was wise to leave Hamlet's between-acts exile largely to the imagination and even wiser to stage it after the good Prince of Denmark had pieced together the particulars of his father's demise. In traipsing off into the wastelands, the filmmakers not only shuffle Simba out of the drama, they end up telegraphing the occasional punch and, to an admittedly small extent, deprive the tale of a little extra nuance and mystery. Likewise, try to imagine The Lion King as it would be if it had followed in Bambi's soft-spoken footsteps. There are times when Simba's feelings are wrapped in neat little packages, presumably for any kids in the audience. But the animation is so effective, the animals so visually emotive and thoughtful, that some of the chit-chat and silver-platter psychoanalysis is... well, a wee bit redundant. (Commence forum tar and feathering.)
Does any of it matter? Not particularly. The Lion King is a gorgeous and gripping animated classic that deserves the attention, accolades and long life it's earned. As I said, not all Disney feature animation is created equal, and The Lion King sets itself apart. With a stirring story, terrific voice casting and performances, extraordinary visuals and rousing music, it's also here to stay. If you've never roamed the plains with Mufasa, trembled at the charge of a stampeding wildebeest herd, shivered as Scar slithers past Simba, or cheered as the young prince returns home to dethrone his devious uncle, be sure to pick up a copy and share the experience with your family, be it 2D or 3D.
The Lion King 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Lion King's 2D video transfer is stunning. There's no two ways about it. And I'm happy to report Disney's 1080p/MVC-encoded 3D presentation is almost, almost as impressive as its 2D counterpart. But we'll get to the few oddities that appear in a moment. First, let's focus on all the things the 3D presentation gets right. There are those who have suggested hand-drawn animated films shouldn't be converted to 3D; that the post-conversion process can't possibly inject new life into something like a seventeen-year-old Walt Disney classic. I'm curious to see where those principled naysayers stand after watching The Lion King 3D. There are those who assume 2D movies stand to gain little from a 3D conversion. The Lion King, though, seems as if it was developed with 3D in mind. Simba sings and dances his way through a procession of animals that trail into the background, wildebeest pour down the side of a cliff and charge the audience, Mufasa leaps toward the screen to save his son, Timon and Pumbaa press in and mug for the camera (so to speak), Simba hugs the ground and peers through the high grass, Mufasa pounces and all but looms over the viewer, the painted Pride Land vistas stretch into the distance, Rafiki stands high above an assembly of Mufasa's loyal subjects, the clouds part to reveal the spirit of a murdered king, Scar and his shadow tower over an endless parade of hyenas... if you didn't know any better, it would be easy to assume The Lion King has been in 3D all along. The transition from 2D to 3D is just that natural, just that seamless, just that beautifully done.
On the technical front, Disney's 3D transfer rarely falters. Ghosting is kept to an absolute minimum and doesn't draw attention to itself when a rock, grub or tree trunk doesn't quite come together as perfectly as it should. Even then, instances of crosstalk are brief and, ultimately, negligible. Depth is dramatic, enveloping and free of distracting hitches or anomalies. The plains extend to the horizon with far more convincing realism than I expected, Simba's walks with his father are as visually engrossing as they are evocative and emotional, the song sequences explode off the screen and retreat into the jungles, the film's iconic opening has never looked so magnificent, and the wildebeest stampede is as startling as it astonishing, stealing the entire show in one fell 3D swoop. The slightest hint of aliasing is present in select shots, as are some limited bouts of almost imperceptible banding. Thankfully, neither amounts to much of an issue as the tiny mishaps that occur don't detract from the power, polish and proficiency of the presentation. In fact, the transfer is so crisp and colorful that it's difficult to feel any disappointment whatsoever. (If that sounds like hyperbole, just wait until you experience The Lion King 3D firsthand. I'm actually doing my best to tone down the high praise currently consuming my brain.) Primaries are bold and brilliant, black levels are rich and inky, contrast is impeccable and when the sun peeks over the horizon... I'm still in awe; so much so that it pains me to deduct even half-a-point for the exceedingly minor problems that pop up, ever so briefly, from time to time.
The playful palette of "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," the terrifying earthtones kicked up in a stampede, Simba's misadventures with Timon and Pumbaa beneath the lush and lovely canopy of the jungle, Simba and Nala's evening walk, his heavenly vision of his father, even the bleak, smoky depths of the Elephant Graveyard and the sickly greens and yellows that accompany Scar's rise to power; it all looks marvelous. The lovely greens, vibrant golds, savory reds, high-noon blues and midnight purples... simply marvelous. Detail and clarity are exceptional as well, be it by way of the animators' crisp, fluid lineart, the background painters' brush-stroked skies and plains, the CG artisan's perfectly rendered contributions, or the slightest imperfection in the hand-drawn animation. To top it all off, the print is nearly spotless. (Eagle-eyed videophiles will spot a few specks of dirt/specks scattered throughout, but every instance was a cinch to overlook and a part of the original source.) Kudos to Disney. The studio continues to put out the best animated transfers on the market, and its 3D presentations are proving to be every bit as noteworthy.
The Lion King 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It isn't very often that an animated film's lossless mix gives me chills, but The Lion King's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track did just that, and did so more than I care to admit. Simba's presentation to an ecstatic kingdom, the thunder-rumble of Mufasa's voice (not to mention his hair-raising roar), the choir of insects buzzing across the plains, the energy of the film's songs, the terrifying chaos of the wildebeest stampede, the chanting voices that accompany Hans Zimmer's score, the acoustics of Scar's cave, Simba's struggles and battles... I can't imagine a single second sounding any better than it does here. Dialogue is clean, clear and weighty, roars ripple across the soundfield, rear speaker activity is aggressive, directional effects are oh-so-convincing, pans are extraordinary, and dynamics are pitch-perfect. Just close your eyes and listen as the wildebeest careen through the canyon, as the hyenas cackle in the caverns, as Simba's paws crish crush through the underbrush, as Mufasa claws his way up the cliff face toward his treacherous brother, as Zimmer's music rises and soars over the Pride Lands. I thought Disney's transfer was breathtaking, but its lossless track requires an entirely different grading scale. As catalog animation AV presentations go, The Lion King just can't wait to be king.
The Lion King 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In addition to 3D and 2D presentations of the film itself, the 4-disc Lion King Combo Pack let's out a mighty supplemental roar, despite the fact that many of the previously released DVD edition's extras are only available by way of a BD-Live virtual vault. The disc itself serves up an audio commentary, two new high definition documentaries, deleted and alternate scenes, interactive image galleries and more. And another two hours of featurettes and bonus materials can be viewed via an online stream.
The Lion King 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hoist up the Blu-ray edition of The Lion King, dear readers. Hoist it up high. Once again, Disney has treated one of its animated classics like royalty and the results are nothing short of spectacular. The 4-disc 3D edition boasts a breathtaking 3D presentation, a pair of gorgeous video transfers, a powerful, earth-shaking DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track and a host of special features (including a number of new extras produced specifically for this Diamond Edition release). Add The Lion King 3D to your collection post haste.
The Lion King: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with The Lion King 3D (1 bundle)
The Lion King 3D Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Gold Box Deals of the Day: Lion King Trilogy and Cars Bundle (Exp... - November 22, 2011
Amazon's Blu-ray Gold Box Deals of the Day affects the Lion King Trilogy and the Cars: Director's Edition packages. These popular animated box sets offer the complete series entries - so far - in both the Cars and Lion King franchises. Through today only, Amazon ...
• This Week on Blu-ray: October 4-10 - October 4, 2011
Arguably the best animated film of all time – and easily the pinnacle of the Disney Renaissance - The Lion King arrives on Blu-ray today after pulling in nearly $80M over the past three weeks during its theatrical re-release as a 3D feature. Disney is offering ...
• $5 Off Beauty and the Beast 3D and The Lion King 3D Combo Packs - September 29, 2011
Disney is currently offering two $5 off coupons towards the purchase of Beauty and the Beast 3D and The Lion King 3D. The combo packs, both of which are set to go on sale this Tuesday, include Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions of the animated classics. ...
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