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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.66:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Hebrew: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX
  Subtitles
    English, Spanish, Hebrew, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Additional footage
  • Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer - Lion King 3
  • Audio commentary
  • Featurette - Multiple
  • Photo gallery - Multiple
  • Animated menus
  • Music video - Multiple
  • Booklet
  • Digitally remastered
  • Karaoke
  • Storyboards
  • Documentaries - Multiple
  • Interactive game - Multiple
  • Soundtrack information
  • Bonus feature film
  • THX Optimiser

The Lion King: SE

Disney/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 85 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Back in the days when I just drew poorly (more poorly than now) and didn’t animate stuff, I won a Gold Movie Pass from Birch, Carroll and Coyle. This entitled me to visit any of their cinemas and watch movies for free. Well, not the No Free List ones, but anything else I wanted at any time. I worked nights back then and so had my days free to go to the cinema and watch movie after movie; sometimes four in one day.

One of the films I watched four times (all up, not in one day) was The Lion King (Speed was another). I had always loved animation and this film managed to speak to me somehow in a way no other animated film had. And not that my experience was so huge back then (in 1994) but this film had it all. I didn’t even mind the songs.

By now everyone knows the story, but basically it follows the life of Simba, a lion cub born a prince to Mufasa, the king of the jungle. Mufasa has an evil brother though, Scar, and before long he has set in motion a chain of events that will lead to Mufasa dying and Simba running away. This puts Scar in the throne (as it were) and with his poor practices he invites an army of hyenas to dwell in the pridelands, with the lionesses as the hunters.

"It is time…"

Meanwhile far away in another part of town, Simba has met Pumbaa and Timon, a comical pair who tell him not to worry so much about his past and subscribe to Hakuna Matata, a philosophy that means ‘no worries’. Simba grows up eventually and meets Nala, a childhood friend. She tells him about the horrors back at home and Simba finally decides to go back and claim his throne and right the wrongs of his evil uncle.

This film was the first one of its kind in that the Disney Studios didn’t go with a traditional fairytale or children’s book as the basis. It was considered a huge gamble and, thankfully, was one that paid off for them with The Lion King becoming one of their most beloved animated films of them all. This is the 32nd in a long string of feature films and one that helped lead a renaissance for Disney in paving the way for later hit movies. There has been a string of Broadway productions and world tours coming from this film as well, something the other Disney films have not had the strength to manage alone. Beauty and the Beast has had its own successful run of theatrical productions and ice spectaculars, but this has always traditionally played to the young female market. With The Lion King, the characters and story appeal to all children and a decent percentage of adults too.

Based in part on Shakespeare’s Hamlet and several bible stories, The Lion King has something for everyone and is overall an impressive and well-produced animated feature that incorporates some early and excellent computer generated animation. While this wasn’t new at the time, it was in the context it has been used in here with an incredible wildebeest stampede pretty much impossible to duplicate by traditional means. Ten years on, The Lion King still stands as a brilliant feature and all the more amazing for its uniqueness that spawned a wide range of wholly computer animated stories that don’t utilise fairytales or kid’s books. These of course range from the Toy Story tales through A Bug’s Life to our recent favourite Finding Nemo.

  Video
Contract

The transfer here is nothing short of perfect. Disney of course know how important this release will be to thousands and thousands of fans and they have paid this film with the respect it deserves. The Buena Vista transfers are rarely bad, but here they have excelled themselves with exceptional picture quality, brilliant, well-saturated colours and an artefact-free presentation. I was scrutinising this pretty clearly and I couldn’t find a single speck to annoy the loyal devotees. A reference quality picture, without question. Just perfect.

  Audio
Contract

Again, a faultless presentation here. The sound quality is brilliant and is delivered in the theatrical source of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. This is similar to the setup theatres had back in 1994, so they’ve taken that and using today’s technology have further improved it until the result is amazing. This is what they are calling their Disney Enhanced Home Theatre Mix and it works for me. Plenty of superb surround activity in the wildebeest stampede and the elephant’s graveyard scenes with some nice crackling fire in the final sequences. The subwoofer barely lets up throughout, particularly with James Earl Jones lending his ever-so-deep voice to the character of Mufasa. Pumbaa also delivers some subwoofer with his comical and resonant burping.

Sound effects are all well placed and timed impeccably, of course. These range from the moving to comical to downright silly, but all are appropriate to the content. Dialogue is well delivered and easily understood, which is naturally important when little kids are watching.

Musically, the score by Hans Zimmer is perfectly ‘Africanised’ with all manner of world music beats added to the overall soundscape. The much-celebrated collusion between Elton John and Tim Rice in the songs of the film is also brilliant here, fitting the fun and menace of the film’s moods in a manner that is truly befitting. The film won two Academy Awards, for 'Best Song' and 'Best Original Score', and the transfer does it justice.

  Extras
Contract

Well, knowing their market the Disney crew has assembled a massive grab bag of stuff for this chockablock two-disc set. There are repeated links to various items under different subheadings, so I’m not gonna waste time repeating where they are. Needless to say, when you see the discs, you’ll find them.

Upon opening the case a barrage of junkmail will assail you, but don’t throw away the four-page booklet! This is a handy reference to exploring the extras rather than ducking back to the main menu.

Firstly on Disc One we have a THX Optimizer. Always good if you’ve never used one before. There is also an audio commentary delivered in mono for the first time (at least that I’ve heard) with producer Don Hahn and the two directors in Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. This is full of fascinating insights into the film process with some funny anecdotes about voicework, characters, stories and minor events during production. Quite entertaining, though this is only available on the Original Theatrical Version. Disc One features two cuts of the film; the second is the Special Edition which features a new animated sequence and song created recently and dropped seamlessly into the original film. There is also the Enhanced Mix in this version.

Several subheadings lead us into various places to see more, and these are Tree of Life, Jungle, Grasslands and Elephant Graveyard. There’s also an Index should you get lost and need a map to find your way around.

Tree of Life contains a music video of the Disney Channel Circle of Stars performing Circle of Life. These kids are impossibly clean-cut and well-outfitted and feature the likes of Hilary Duff and Kyla Pratt. It’s in 5.1 and runs for 4:19. This bit also houses the sing along feature to lend lyrics to the songs in the film as it plays. Parents, enjoy.

Jungle features two games in Timon’s Grab a Grub in which you must do just that and Pumbaa’s Sound Sensations, which isn’t anywhere near as disgusting as it sounds. Both are aimed at very young children and only Pumbaa’s has a prize (at least that I could win).

Grasslands has a featurette on the making of The Morning Report, the extra song/scene added to the Special Edition. It’s kinda funny but Elton John and Tim Rice contradict each other in this. The whole thing runs for just 3:09 in stereo. Also here in the Grasslands is the Lion King Personality Profile Game. It turns out I’m most like Rafiki the baboon. Typical.

Finally for Disc One we have the Elephant’s Graveyard which contains three deleted scenes with commentaries. Each isn’t very long. Oh, and there’s also a Disc Two preview on this disc. I sense a single disc version appearing in rental stores pretty soon.

Disc Two presents a huge array of stuff seemingly, but once we get into the nitty-gritty, there are plenty of links included to stuff we’ve seen elsewhere on the disc. Again, I’ll just leave out the links to save on clutter, only discussing everything once.

First up, there are a series of continents listed with various local inflection subheadings within each. The first is Asia and is home to Leaps of Fantasy, a 3:36 featurette about the stage production of the musical adaptation. The puppetry and costumes in this part are absolutely amazing.

A multi-language clip reel is actually more interesting than it sounds and features the seamless integration of various languages into the Hakuna Matata song from the film. While each language plays for its ten or 15 seconds, you can click on the language and go to that country’s ‘favourite piece of the film’. How they know this, I don’t know, but there it is. The piece isn’t actually from the film anyway, as the quality is nowhere near as good as the full transfer.

Another featurette on the international release of the film is next and this runs for 3:34, detailing the simultaneous release in ten languages the world over in 1994. This, and the next three galleries, are the big repeat offenders I mentioned before. These are Stage Musical Publicity (11 pics), International Soundtrack Covers (16 pics) and International Large Format Release (11 pics) detailing the IMAX-like versions.

Africa naturally contains bucketloads of stuff, with the first being African Influence. This details Lebo M’s involvement in the music, while the Audio Sequel featurette discusses the follow up recording of Rhythm of the Pridelands. This album featured a lot of the ‘leftover’ music they never used in the final film.

Four short featurettes on specific animals in the film follow, with Lions (2:51), Meerkats (2:44), Warthogs (2:56) and Hyenas (2:25. On the footsteps of this is the Production Research Trip which details the trip to Africa by the lead art directors and animators. Character Design features short bits about the seven lead characters, while Art – African Influence runs for 4:03 and is an excellent if short featurette on the backgrounds of the film.

A Hakuna Matata music video is next and this is performed by Jimmy Cliff and Lebo M. (Lebo M is that voice that opens the film with some big African chanting). Finally, Film Character Design Galleries feature 11 subheadings and over 230 images.

Australia (Woo!) doesn’t have much but a trailer for The Lion King 3 which is the story of Pumbaa and Timon. A great looking trailer, actually, but a shame we didn’t get more. There are links to repeats though… sigh.

Europe holds more with a 3:14 featurette about the Landmark Songwriting and how the film was adapted into a musical stage production. Elton also jets in for two music clips singing Can You Feel the Love Tonight? and Circle of Life.

North America holds four subheadings breaking the country into four separate arenas of Burbank, Orlando, New York and Glendale. Burbank holds a short featurette about Disney and Animals which is an interesting historical doco. DVD Sound Design is another shorty telling us about the new sound in the Special Edition. Lastly, there is a piece entitled Reflections that features film historian Leonard Maltin discussing the film’s success. This one runs for 6:22.

Orlando holds, well, adverts really for The Disney theme park of Animal Kingdom Park and Lodge. Can’t blame them for trying and the ads are older ones, perhaps thrown in more for kitsch value than as an actual destination. However...

New York for some reason contains heaps of stuff, although it’s the smallest and least known city in the world. These four featurettes all discuss various aspects of the stage show production, but it might have been nicer to have this as one film for 15 odd minutes, rather than the smaller ones here. Musical Origins, Screen to Stage, Musical Texture and Setting the Stage are all here, with the highlight being an interview with Julie Taymor in Screen to Stage. She is an incredibly talented woman who designed the stage show, directed it and still finds time to make movies. (Julie Taymor directed Titus, the amazing Shakespearean movie featuring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange).

Finally, Glendale features the biggest collection yet. Production Art features some great original artwork running like a short film for 1:55. Storyboard Introduction features a quick description of the storyboards. The subheading ‘storyboard introduction’ contains a typo, too, which is weird for Buena Vista. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

Computer Animation is next and this details the wildebeest stampede brilliantly. It’s too, too short at only 4:27 however. The Storyboard to Film Comparison follows and this runs for 4:02 in a nice split screen with colour storyboards for a change.

Two early concepts in Pumbaa and Timon meet Simba and Simba’s Presentation follow with intros and collectively run for 7:05. There’s an abandoned sequence in a storyboarded Warthog Rhapsody running for 4:21 next, followed by an early presentation reel designed to give toymakers and such advance warning about the merchandise. This is interesting, but bears little resemblance to the final film with its raw art and working title (King of the Jungle).

Six design galleries are back to back with five layered sequences and these are fascinating to those folks who don’t understand just how many layers animators work in these days. The computer has made six layer animation (previously the limit before the cels degrade the bottom image) a thing of the past with layers now easily going beyond 99 (not that anyone has yet, but the potential is there).

Three effects animation featurettes follow for The Fight, The Stampede and Circle of Life. Fascinating stuff in all this.

Finally, South America, however this is all repeat links.

Now we progress to four subheadings of Story (11:51), Film (18:42), Stage (16:16) and Music (24:21) where we get to see all that previous stuff rearranged and placed back to back with Play All features. I wish I’d known this first.

Finally (for the fifth time), there is the Virtual Safari. This is a boat or Jeep trip in which we follow our hosts Pumbaa and Timon as we trek into the wilds and come face to face with some nasty critters. All in a 3D animated world, there are some 2D elements dropped in. This is made to fun-scare little kids and comes complete with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Cool, but young.

  Overall  
Contract

For any of the minority of people who didn’t like this film, I wouldn’t recommend it. But for the rest of us who love the colour and excellent animation, there’s two versions (albeit very similar) to enjoy and a huge array of featurettes and extras to claw through in good time. This film is rightly called a Disney ‘Masterpiece’ on the cover and I can’t help but agree. It’s warm, it’s wise and it’s relevant. The overall treatment is spectacular and the film is still great ten years on (and counting).

They will sell these by the truckload, without doubt. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Perfect.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3750
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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "Finally, the Disney masterpiece arrives on DVD with a continent’s worth of extras and a fully remastered transfer. It’s pretty much perfect."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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