Of all of Disney’s movies, one of the most memorable has to be The Lion King. Taking a touching coming-of-age story, a great selection of characters voiced by an equally great cast, some good musical numbers and a fair bit of comedy, it remains one of those movies that’s great for all ages and still stands up. And now it’s getting the royal (no pun intended) treatment with not only a 3D re-release in the theaters (though that’s a totally different review) and an upcoming limited time blu-ray release.
The focus of the film is Simba, the son of Mufasa, the king of the jungle. This makes Simba next in line to inherit the throne, something he’s all too excited about. The only one not happy about the whole deal is Scar, Mufasa’s younger brother, who desires the throne for himself. Plotting with some sneaky hyenas, Scar arranges Mufasa’s death, and his sly tongue manages to convince Simba that it was his fault, making the young cub run away in guilt. Years later, after growing up under the care of the easy-going pair of Timon, a meerkat, and Pumbaa, a warthog, Simba must return home to confront both his uncle and his own doubts and fears and accept his place as king.
There’s lots of reasons why this movie is so enjoyable, no matter what age you are or whether you’re a parent with kids or not. The first, of course, is the story. Disney has made a habit of making use of the classic coming-of-age tale to the point where they do it so well, hardly anyone else can match them. All the classic elements are there, from the young hero who must overcomes all challenges both physical and internal, to the allies who helps him along the way, to the lessons he learns in the process. Like most main characters in his situation, Simba is all too eager to become king, leading him to make mistakes and have his dad bail him and later give him some lessons on the realities of the position. Later, when he’s grown up and doubting if he should take the job, he to man up (or lion up, in this case), face his fears and confront Scar. No matter how many times we see it, one can always enjoy this kind of story if done right, and Disney has proven it can do it again and again.
Next is the characters, who you can’t help but love or hate, or sometimes both. We’ve already talked about Simba, who a lot of folks might be able to relate to, so we’ll focus now on some of the other characters. Like most villains, Scar is someone you just love to hate. He’s sly and sneaky, getting others to do his dirty work for him without getting his own hands (or paws, rather) dirty, only getting involved when his target is in no shape to fight back. Some might argue that the real stars of the film are Timon and Pumbaa, who rank right up there with some of the great comedy duos of film history. Their antics and banter make us laugh and make the film that much more enjoyable, whether they’re debating what’s really shining up there in the night sky or distracting the hyenas so Simba can sneak past unnoticed (if you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it, you just have to see it). Probably no surprise it was these two who got their own TV show, given the trouble they can find themselves in.
Naturally, these characters probably wouldn’t be who they are without the cast behind them. As the adult Simba, Matthew Broderick gives us someone who, while grown, is still a bit young. Jeremy Irons provides Scar’s voice, giving a bit of culture to a sly tongue who wants something he doesn’t deserve. Nathan Lane is perfect as Timon, the voice matching that little body, and we got Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings as Scar’s hyena cohorts, who are sneaky yet not too bright. Probably the best choice of casting is James Earl Jones as Mufasa, whose deep, commanding voice is perfect for a wise old king. Like with any movie, a good cast can make or break it, and Disney always seems to take the time to make sure they get the right actors for their movies.
Ever heard the phrase, “Taste so good makes you wanna’ smack yo’ Momma!” Well I’m sure you could twist that phrase into a number of ways to describe the video quality on this release. It’s just so freakishly amazing that it makes you want to smack the crap out of the person next to you. :p By far you do not have to worry about the blu-ray video quality on this release. Buy, buy, buy! The 3d is also done exceptionally well as there is plenty of “coming at you” scenes. The colors are rich and vibrant when needed and then dark-dark-dark when called for. No need for fancy words to describe this release, instead just stating it is absolutely awesome should be good enough! 😉
Coming to you in an amazing 7.1 DTS HD Master audio track the audio quality is nothing short of incredible. The Lion King is famed for it’s catchy songs and coming to you in this audio bliss is just down right remarkable. The one folks remember most, of course, is “Hakuna Matata”, Timon and Pumbaa’s theme that explains their “no worries” lifestyle. Don’t ask me why, but it just sticks with you, no matter what age you are or what kind of music you like. Then there’s the other two songs most recognized with the film, the Elton John-penned “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, the first of which bookends the movie. Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, you might be able to put up with it for the sake of this one just for the story. Audiophiles rest happy.
The Lion King comes with a boat load of extras included with this Diamond edition already housing the Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy and 3d version. While some extras may be a bit trickier to access than others regardless the edition gives you plenty of supplemental features to explore with the whole family.
Disney Second Screen – Sync The Lion King with your computer or iPad
Audio Commentary: Producer Don Hahn and co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff are present for this one.
Pride of The Lion King
The Lion King: A Memoir – Don Hahn
Disney’s Virtual Vault (109 minutes)
Deleted & Alternate Scenes
The Morning Report
Bloopers & Outtakes
Interactive Art Gallery
While some people are of the opinion lately that when it comes to blu-ray, even though you can play DVDs in a blu-ray player, there are only some movies you just have to buy again, whether for special effects or just the cinematic experience. The Lion King is one of them, just so you can truly enjoy it in high-definition. A definite to have for your collection. The video quality and audio quality is just down right amazing while the blu-ray comes with tons of extras as well. Hi-def Ninja highly recommends The Lion King on blu-ray.