A young lion prince, forced into exile by a treacherous uncle, summons the courage to return home and reclaim his rightful place as king. Featuring the voices of Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, and Rowan Atkinson.
Directed by Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers
If you're here, than you likely don't need to be convinced that The Lion King is one of the finest examples of animation ever put to film. Rather than reviewing this classic film ad nauseam, I would rather focus on how The Lion King became the most unlikely of Disney classics. It's something this new Signature Edition Blu-ray of the movie delves into, and knowing the details will only grow your appreciation
It’s hard to believe that over 20 years ago, while still under production, The Lion King was not a cornerstone project at Disney. The way the story goes, the studio had focused its efforts on Pocahontas, which they considered a sure bet. The team assigned to create The Lion King, led by directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers, was considered the studio’s “B” team.
Borrowing themes from "Hamlet," as well as the Biblical stories of Joseph and Moses, The Lion King was originally conceived as a much lighter film. In fact, Matthew Broderick was cast because adult Simba was supposed to be a Ferris Bueller-type, a loveable slacker rebel. At the time, it was certainly a risk to take a Disney animated film in a more serious direction, but the gamble by Minkoff and Allers paid off.
The Lion King also had a lot of luck on its side. The numerous rewrites made the film better, something most movies that face that same situation can rarely claim. The also found the perfect people for the key roles: James Earl Jones was reportedly not the only actor considered for Mufasa. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella were supposed to be hyenas, until a chance reading together led to their casting as Timon and Pumbaa. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” was originally cut from the film, and only restored after Elton John lobbied for it.
Everything fell into place for The Lion King, and a classic was born. There’s no need to give it yet another review after all these years. We just need to remind ourselves that great movies really aren’t that common, and we should take them in as often as we can. Thanks to the new Signature Edition of The Lion King, we can.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The high definition video transfer used for the Signature Edition appears to be the same one used for the Diamond Edition Blu-ray in 2011. That’s not a bad thing at all, as that transfer provided all the detail you could ask for in high definition, with striking color. There is no hint of foreign material from the original negative, and if there is some digital correction to the color and sharpness, it does not detract.
The audio is a deep, rich 7.1 DTS-HDMA track, which makes the symphonic score sound amazing. A 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is available in both French and Spanish.
The Signature Edition of The Lion King includes a handful of new features, and a few that have been included before. There are some solid offerings here, and well worth a watch.
I realize a lot of people will view the film digitally, often through the Disney Movies Anywhere app. I use it often myself, but it is an inconvenience not to include it on the disc itself. There is certainly plenty of room on the Blu-ray for it.
The special features included on the disc include:
“Inside The Story Room” Featurettes. Directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff introduce five featurettes delving into particular scenes and how the writers on the story team crafted them. Vintage footage from the original story meetings are shown. The featurettes included are: “Circle of Life” (Running Time: 4:58), “Simba and Nala” (Running Time: 3:40), “Simba Takes Nala Out To Play” (Running Time: 2:23), “Hakuna Matata” (Running Time: 5:43), and “Rafiki and the Reflecting Pool” (Running Time: 5:55).
“Bloopers and Outtakes” short. Audio outtakes from the film’s recording sessions get animated, in this fun spin on the standard blooper reel. Running Time: 3:44
“The Morning Report” Extended Scene. As part of a past DVD release, a new scene was added to The Lion King, using the song “The Morning Report,” which was written for the Broadway version of the film. Using the original artists and filmmakers, the scene has been included in subsequent releases only as a special feature, rather than part of the film. Running Time: 2:30
Song Selection. Entries include “Circle of Life,” “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” “Be Prepared,” “Hakuna Matata,” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” If you love the music, you can select just these scenes from a menu, or play them all together.
Audio Commentary. Co-directors Roger Allers Rob Minkoff and producer Don Hahn provide a lively, entertaining commentary. Allers and Minkoff are obviously close friends, and they have a great rapport that makes for a great listen. They provide lots of insight, and Hahn drops a number of stories himself, making it a solid commentary fans of the film will appreciate.
Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, compatible with Disney Movies Anywhere and Ultraviolet providers, is included.
Film Strip. A commemorative film strip from the film is included in a cardboard frame.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A Classic Gets a Solid Re-Release to Blu-ray
If you missed the 2011 Blu-ray release of The Lion King, here’s your chance to add it to your collection. The high-definition transfer of the film is fantastic, but not including many of the past classic bonus features on the disc is a real minus, even if they are all online. If you’re just interested in the film, however, you’re in luck.
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Running Time: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Special Features: “Visualizing a Villain” featurette; “The Recording Sessions” Featurette; “Inside The Story Room” Featurettes; “Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Lion King Conversation” featurette; “Bloopers and Outtakes” short; “The Morning Report” Extended Scene; Deleted and Alternate Scenes; Song Selection Feature; Classic Bonus Preview; Digital Copy; FIlm Strip Collectible.
Audio Commentary: Participants include co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff and producer Don Hahn
Label: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Click here to order The Lion King: Signature Edition on Blu-ray from Amazon!