Out of all of the movies from Disney’s golden era, there are a few that stand out over the rest, even when all of the movies done during that era (Except, perhaps, for A Bug’s Life) can be deemed to be excellent. The Lion King is one of said movies that simply showcase just how much Disney can (or could) do when their hearts were set to it and when their movies were more about expressing a story and less about chasing cliché after cliché.
Through its simple premise, which I’ll try not to bore you much with considering you most likely have already watched the movie if you’re reading this, The Lion King shows us a story about courage but, more importantly, about friendship in times of need. This is one of those movies where the folks at Disney actually produced something that can be called art, with a story and a style that was done sticking to an artistic thought rather than money, and back in an era when movies weren’t produced thinking on whether children would be scared or saddened by the movies – Stories were told as they were without any parents council thinking children had to be protected from simple realities as death or betrayal and children, like I did, generally ended up loving said films anyway even when they were hard to take. The Lion King is actually a movie that’s remembered mainly because of its roughness and, more importantly, it is largely loved and remembered because of it: Take it as a 90s version of Bambi where Bambi’s mother doesn’t just die trying to save her child, but where she is also tricked into doing so by a third party who’s backstabbing her.
However, comparing it with Bambi is actually saying little about The Lion King, for it is a movie that actually goes beyond your usual animated feature and, in the most pure 90’s Disney style, actually borrows more than a few pages from classical literature (Shakespeare’s Hamlet in this case) by presenting a story that not just strongly resembles it, but a story that’s clearly based upon it. This is, in fact, probably one of the reasons why the movie’s aged so well and one of the reasons why it remains so highly regarded nearly twenty years later: Being based on Shakespeare, the story The Lion King presents is a timeless one, just as Shakespeare’s writings were. Rather than a story based on a very specific era or a weak fairytale that doesn’t really say much in the end, The Lion King touches more than just a few dilemmas most people face over the time, mainly having to do with dealing with death and finding oneself through adversity. Masked as a children’s story, this is the kind of movie that made Disney movies must-watch movies during half the 80’s and the 90’s, and a style to which I wouldn’t mind seeing them go back.
The big draw of this release, however, is the HD presentation of the video (Or the 3D presentation if you’re into it – But in this case we’re reviewing the plain HD one), and thankfully the delivery comes up as flawless as possible for such a movie, with every single frame of animation being clear-cut and with the movie overall flowing with exuberant colors and beautiful sights that manage to make the audience wonder if the movie to 3D animation for movies that happened during the first few years of the 2000’s was really necessary. The answer to that, of course, is that it wasn’t really: The Lion King, just as many of Disney’s older animated movies is a movie that, through its drawn, traditionally animated beauty, can beat most of the more modern releases in looks and beauty – That’s not to say 3D animation isn’t a good thing, for it is a terrific one, but older animated films have a beauty that newer ones don’t have: Drawings don’t become less appealing with time or as technology advances, whereas 3D models do (For example, try comparing the animation in Shrek to that in Shrek 4).
Even more interesting, though, is the sound mix for this release: The Blu-ray release for The Lion King boasts a master 7.1 Surround mix that not only sounds beautiful but is actually one of the best mixes I’ve heard for any film, with clear distinctions between the sound that’s coming out from each speaker and a background music track that keeps the environment surrounding the viewer at virtually any minute of the film. If we add to that that, unlike some of the previous Disney Blu-ray releases (Sleeping Beauty, for example), The Lion King has a flawless vocal track where every single detail of what’s being said can be perfectly understood, I can say with certainty that it is the best animated feature I own on Blu-ray to date.
When it comes to special features, The Lion King delivers quite a few – Perhaps not as many as it could, but at least the blooper reels and deleted scenes are worth watching and, as usual with these releases, there’s a commentary track and a few documental features that should keep hardcore fans busy for a while. While not the most amazing extras, they’re good enough for the release, making this one an extremely solid one and one that, even with the few small changes that were made and that are sure to annoy the purists, is one of the best animated features to be had on Blu-ray and the best version of The Lion King that’s ever been available.
Final review rating: 5/5
Availability: Currently available from Amazon.com
|Buy Two-Disc DVD/BR package
|Buy Four-Disc 3D BR/BR/DVD/DD Package
|Buy Special Edition Trilogy