The Lion King

Viewed – 20 November 2011  Blu-ray

Once upon a time, nobody could touch Disney for feature length animation.  In the early nineties, the house of mouse hit several home runs with Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin and this much celebrated classic.  For a long time, The Lion King was my all-time favourite animated movie.  The epic scale, the timeless songs, the beautiful animation, and the emotional, heartfelt storyline that surely means something to anyone who experiences it.  I haven’t seen the movie since the days of VHS, having missed its run on DVD.  So I suppose it was well overdue I check it out in glorious HD.

Telling the story of lion-cub Simba, next in line to be King of Pride Rock, who is watched over not just by his dutiful, protective father Mufasa (James Earl Jones), but also his jealous, bitter uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons).  When tragedy strikes and Simba is forced to flee and make his own way in the world, he teams up with likable duo Timon & Pumba (Nathan Lane & Ernie Sabella).  Simba must finally confront his past though and reclaim his rightful place as King, but that means facing his evil Uncle and his pack of wise-cracking Hyenas.

The story is simple rights-of-passage fluff granted, and nothing new for Disney, but the way it is told, with the backdrop of the African wilderness, feels much more epic and meaninglful than say, Bambi, which this movie shares many of it’s themes.  The beautiful animation and lush art-design bring the world to life, and at the time this was a bench-mark for hand-drawn cell animation.  Looking on it now, with eyes over-dosed on CGI, it looks a tad old fashioned, and dare I say it … a bit flat.  That being said the character design and the personality on show is still first class.  I must also add that the opening prologue is one of the greatest openings ever put on film.  Ok, maybe some of the comedy is a touch too kiddie focused, and a couple of the songs are a little silly considering the epic-tone, but set pieces such as the wilderbeast stampede, and the final confrontation with Scar are superb.

The Lion King remains first-class entertainment then, running the garmut of emotions; funny, heart-breaking and feel good – making it essential viewing.

The Blu-ray is vibrant and beautiful, even if a little colour bleed and shimmering rears its head at times.  Yet overall it’s very pleasing, but perhaps not entirely the wow-factor I had hoped for.  Sound-wise its a different matter entirely.  The African-themed songs and the overall sound-design thunders out of the speakers, and dialogue is very crisp throughout.  Hans Zimmer’s epic score and Elton John & Tim Rice’s lyrics are all showcased magnificently.  Extras, we get several deleted scenes, behind the scenes documentaries and even a very interesting retrospective of the films impact on not only cinema, but also broadway.  A commentary would have been nice, but no such luck here, and considering the movie’s long standing appeal, the material here feels a touch light.  Overall though, The Lion King is given good treatment, and only the age of the movie and how rapidly technology and animation has moved on since it was released, overshadows what is otherwise a fine package.

Verdict:  5 /5

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