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While I feel that Disney’s modern animated films reached their artistic zenith with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE LION KING ($30) represents the studio reaching another apex, in terms of sheer entertainment value and commercial success. THE LION KING is another crowning achievement for Disney, a movie that is a wondrous joy to behold- full of drama, action, comedy and thrills. Featuring an original story, instead of an adaptation of a classic fairy tale or legend, THE LION KING proves to be a life-affirming movie, whose central theme is best expressed in the Elton John/Tim Rice song Circle of Life. The plot of THE LION KING follows a lion cub named Simba, sired by the regal Mufasa, who truly is the king of the jungle.

While Simba is destined to inherit his father’s kingdom, Mufasa’s envious brother Scar has his own plans for the throne. When tragedy strikes, Simba is driven off by Scar’s hyena henchmen and grows up in the carefree company of a meerkat named Timon and warthog named Pumbaa. However, Simba eventually learns that there is no escaping one’s destiny and even he must take his place in the circle of life. THE LION KING features the delightful vocal talent of Matthew Broderick, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Ernie Sabella, Nathan Lane, Robert Guillaume, Rowan Atkinson, Madge Sinclair, Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin.

Walt Disney Home Entertainment has made THE LION KING available on DVD in a superb looking 1.66:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Offering both the original theatrical cut and the Special Edition version of THE LION KING on the same disc, the presentations are virtually identical except for the addition of a new song that was added to the film for its IMAX showings last year. The image on the DVD is absolutely stellar; delivering one of the most richly defined 2D animated films to ever make its way to video. Colors are absolutely spectacular, full of lush hues representing the jungles of Africa and the noble beasts that inhabit them. The palette that the animators used for this film is incredibly vibrant and the DVD is able to recreate every last nuance without noise or smearing. Blacks are perfectly inky and the whites are beautifully crisp. Digital compression artifacts are never a concern on this cleanly authored DVD.

THE LION KING features a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack, the original theatrical mix, as well as a new mix designed for the home theater environment. The latter mix proves to be the more enjoyable of the two, since it was specifically created for the home theater environment. This is an aggressive and enveloping mix that takes full advantage of the multi-channel nature of the digital format. Sounds tend to wash over the viewer from all sides, with effects that pull one into the center of the action, as well as drawing them into the musical numbers and even in to Hans Zimmer’s musical score. The surround channels are beautifully implemented in the mix, while the forward soundstage has a terrific sweep. Dialogue reproduction is excellent, with every voice coming across with crystal clarity and beautiful musicality for the film’s songs. The bass channel is full, authoritative and when required, completely ground shaking. A French 5.1 channel tracks are also provided, as are English subtitles.

Animation and sound serves to enhance the interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements that have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one includes a running audio commentary for the theatrical versions of the film that features producer Don Hahn and directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers. Also included on disc one is The Making of The Morning Report, which offers a brief look at a song from the Broadway show that was added to the Special Edition version of the movie. The Disney Channel Circle of Stars are on hand for a new music video version of Circle Of Life, with making of featurette. Three deleted scenes are represented on the disc by concept drawings and rough animation. Disc one also includes a sing-along track, with subtitled lyrics popping up during the songs.

On disc two one will find a nice array of supplements geared towards the various age groups. In the Story section, one will find Story Origins, Timeless Themes and The Story Comes to Life are three brief programs that examine the film’s screen story. The Film section contains Origins, Production Research Trip, Art: African Influence, Reflections and Storyboard Process, five programs which examine how the concepts for the film’s eventual look came together. In The Stage section, Musical Origins, Screen to Stage, Musical Texture, Setting the Stage and Leaps of Fantasy are five programs that look at the movie’s transition to a different medium. A Stage Musical Publicity Gallery is also included in the Stage section. The Virtual Safari offers an interactive jungle tour with Timon and Pumbaa serving as guides. The Music section includes seven programs Music Inspirations, Landmark Songwriting, Orchestral Color, Scoring Emotion, Music: African Influence, Audio Sequel and Full Circle. Introduction, Lions, Meerkats, Warthogs, Hyenas and Disney & Animals are the six programs that make up the Animal section. Disc two also features additional programming in the continent sections, including music videos with Elton John performing Can You Feel the Love Tonight and Circle Of Life, as well as trailers, the Imax version and other erata.

THE LION KING was an animated motion picture triumph for Disney and is now a triumph of a DVD. Without question, THE LION KING looks and sounds incredible on disc. That, along with a nice supplemental package, makes this a must own DVD for the entire family. Absolutely recommended.



The Lion King (Special Platinum Edition) (1994)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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