This review is based on the two disc Blu-ray and DVD set.
BLU RAY SPECS
RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2011
ASPECT RATIO: 1.78:1
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUDIO: English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix
SUBTITLES: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French
SPECIAL FEATURES: “Pride of the Lion King” documentary, “The Lion King: A Memoir – Don Hahn” featurette, Deleted scenes, Blooper reel, Deleted Song, “Morning Report” Extended Scene, Sing Along Mode, Gallery, “Virtual Vault” featuring extras from previous DVD releases.
The DVD included in the Blu-ray 2-pack differs from the Blu-ray in the following ways: it does not have high definition video, and it does not include any extras, except for the “Lion King: A Memoir – Don Hahn” featurette. The audio tracks include the English, French, and Spanish 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mixes.
A young lion prince goes into exile after his father’s death, and with the help of his friends, later returns to his pride to take back his rightful place as king.
Directors: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
The animated classic finally gets a Blu-ray release. Borrowing from Shakespeare and the Biblical tale of Moses, The Lion King is an epic story that has entertained millions since its release in 1994. Everything clicks here: a perfect balance of drama and humor is presented with outstanding animation and a beautiful color palette. The soundtrack, featuring songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, is superb. Think about it: both “Hakuna Matata” and “The Circle of Life” have both entered the pop culture lexicon. I’m not a big fan of musicals, but I can listen to this music all day. Hans Zimmer tops it all off with an incredible score that echoes with African themes yet blends with an epic, orchestrated feel.
After almost twenty years, there is not much more to say about the film that has not already been said. A review at this point is nearly pointless, as almost everyone has had the chance to see the film and see the greatness first hand.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
I’ve said in previous reviews that Disney does some of the best high-definition video transfers, and this is no exception. The level of detail seen here is jaw-dropping. During the opening “Circle of Life” sequence, I marveled at the tiny dashes of color put into Pride Rock (especially visible during the overhead shot when Rafiki is taking baby Simba out to be presented). In addition, the colors really pop moreso than in previous DVD releases. The picture is near perfect. The DVD video, of course, is not high-definition, but still features the newly-restored video, and looks great.
The audio is 7.1 DTS, and sounds superb. The lion roars are especially thrilling to hear, with some strong bass to give it some punch. The Spanish and French language tracks are 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater tracks, which is a sound remix for smaller home theaters. The DVD features these soundtracks, including English. They actually sound quite good, giving voices a little more prominence.
The extras provided for the Blu-ray are more than enough for any fan of the film. All of the extras from former DVD releases are included in the Virtual Vault, which uses your Blu-ray player’s internet connection to load extras. Depending on your connection speed, it could take time to load the extras, and at least once, my player could not load them at all. It is not a major detraction, and it is necessary to get everything to fit on one disc.
All of the other extras appear to be loaded onto the disc, including a number of great documentaries. “The Pride of the Lion King” is an extensive look at the making of the film, and includes a number of new interviews, including Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane discussing the film. It’s great fun to watch. Don Hahn provides his own look behind the scenes in the “Memoir” documentary, including how a trip to Africa by the creative minds behind the film inspired the final look, as well as provided the phrase “Hakuna Matata.”
A deleted song (“King of the Wild”) is shown in outline form with the original audio, and several never-before-seen unfinished deleted scenes are provided. A blooper reel, which is basically new animation put to outtakes from the original recording sessions, is included. The “Morning Report” song, included within the film in a previous DVD release, is included here as a extra. According to the directors, the song was never intended to be a permanent addition to the film. It is not exactly a great song anyway, and it is nice to see the Blu-ray present the original theatrical cut.
The “Second Screen” feature, which we first saw in the Tron Legacy Blu-ray, is again presented here. It allows for viewers to sync their laptop or iPad to the film and view extras like concept drawings and storyboards.
A gallery of over 100 production sketches is provided, as is a Sing-Along mode, which puts words on the screen so kids can sing along to the music.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
OVERALL GRADE: A+
One of the best Blu-ray releases of the year, The Lion King is a must buy for any movie lover. This is not only one of the finest animated films ever made, it is one of the best films made, period. What was considered a gamble by Disney executives has become an enduring classic. Pick it up as soon as possible and feel the love again.
The Lion King: Diamond Edition is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Walt Disney Home Entertainment on October 4. A four disc 3D Blu-ray set is also available.