The Lion King Review

Oct 04, 2011 | 9:32am EDT

Lion King Blu-rayIt’s a film that shaped generations. It taught us how to grow up how to deal with loss how to do the right thing…and how to dress in drag and do the hula. The Lion King remains to this day the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated feature film of all time – and with good reason. It’s simply timeless. If you’re watching it as a nostalgic adult who first experienced its sweeping beauty 16 years ago when it first hit theaters each iconic scene sends you back to the feeling you got the first time you witnessed it. If you’re watching with wonder for the first time you can still enjoy it with the same fresh feeling audiences loved in its initial run. It seems strange to say that an animated film is truly an important one but in this case it couldn’t be truer. That’s why the opportunity to see the gorgeous colorful film in 1080p high definition thanks to the new Disney Diamond Edition Blu-ray is a very very good thing.

From the sweeping scenes of the Savannah to the Elephant graveyard to Timon and Pumba’s desert oasis The Lion King was made for high definition. And with some of the most talented actors around lending their voices to these iconic characters and the various Elton John/Tim Rice new standards there’s no better reason for high definition audio. But of course with any Blu-ray it’s not just about the film itself – it’s about the extras.

For a Diamond Edition – and a recent one at that – the special features are bit thinner than I’d like but that may be due to the immense effort Disney put into the accompanying iPad app Second Screen for The Lion King which is free in the app store and syncs with the movie to deliver a sort of enhanced special features experience. It’s fantastic delivering games puzzles coloring books photos and concept art with Fun Facts and videos of the actual animals that inspired the film’s characters. There’s just one slight problem: you have to have an iPad. For those that don’t the modest – for a Diamond Edition – special features will have to suffice.

Though there aren’t too many the features included are fairly robust. The main event is Pride of The Lion King a lengthy documentary and conversation with the folks responsible for the film and the Broadway Show chronicling the events from the film’s inception up to its transition to the stage. As always this feature is thorough entertaining and delivers a few nuggets of information that even the most dedicated Disney fan may find surprising. Of course the Blu-ray offers more like deleted songs storyboards for deleted scenes sing-a-long mode and a weighty interactive HD gallery that includes sketches storyboards and concept art. Also included is a strange little Blooper Reel that may or may not be animation set to actual recording bloopers – either that or they convinced the whole cast to come back to record new bloopers for the Blu-ray (which seems pretty unlike considering the voice of Simba  Jonathan Taylor Thomas is 30 now). It’s a little weird but the kiddos will enjoy it.

While it could always use more extras the main event is the cinematic beauty of the film itself which looks more beautiful than ever – everything else is just icing on the grub.

The Lion King Blu-ray/DVD combo pack hits shelves Oct. 4.

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