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The Lion King(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 and the The Lion King Blu-ray release, see the The Lion King Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 23, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Directors: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Writers: Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, Linda Woolverton, Brenda Chapman, Burny Mattinson, Lorna Cook
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, Nathan Lane
» See full cast & crew
The Lion King Blu-ray Review
"Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 23, 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.
The Lion King Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hakuna matata indeed. Fans needn't bother with worrying about Disney's devotion to The Lion King; the studio's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer is nothing short of spectacular. Colors are bold and brilliant, black levels are deep and inky, contrast is impeccable and when the sun peeks over the horizon... well, you had better hold on to your breath. Even then, prepare to have it taken away. Again and again and again. 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 magnificent. 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. Best of all, Disney's encode is immaculate. Artifacting and aliasing are nowhere to be found, banding is kept to the barest of minimums, and the print is nearly spotless. (Eagle-eyed videophiles will spot a few specks of dirt/specks scattered throughout, but every instance I noticed was negligible and appeared to be present in the original source.) Kudos to Disney. The studio continues to put out the best animated presentations on the market, even when it comes to seventeen-year-old catalog animation.
The Lion King 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 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of The Lion King let's out a mighty supplemental roar, even if 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 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 Blu-ray edition boasts a gorgeous video transfer, 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 to your collection post haste.
The Lion King: Other Editions
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The Lion King Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Lion King 1½ and 2 Blu-rays - December 20, 2011
Next year, Walt Disney Home Entertainment will release The Lion King 1½ and The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride on Blu-ray. Previously available only as part of the studio's eight-disc Lion King Trilogy, these two animated films detail the further adventures of the ...
• Blu-ray Sales, Oct 10-16: The Lion King Still Rules - October 20, 2011
For the week ending 10/16/11, The Lion King withstood a very strong challenge from Green Lantern to remain the No. 1 Blu-ray title. Released exclusively in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, The Lion King finished its second week in stores as the No. 4 seller on the overall ...
• 'The Lion King' and 'Fast Five' Drive Blu-ray to a New Sales Record - October 18, 2011
The successful Blu-ray release of The Lion King and the home video debut of Fast Five resulted in a new weekly Blu-ray revenue share record. For the week ending 10/08/11, Blu-ray's market share of total package media sales was an all time best 40%. The new mark ...
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