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THE LION KING DVD REVIEW

Page 1: Movie Notes & DVD Introduction
Page 2: A Note on the Film's "Original Theatrical Cut"
Page 3: Audio and Video & Disc 1
Page 4: Disc 2 & Closing Thoughts

Simba excitedly tells Zazu about his big plans as future king of Pride Rock.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Last year's Platinum Edition Beauty and the Beast was unfortunately matted to 1.85:1 for DVD presentation. Disney's animated films have been animated in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio for well over a decade now, and DVD has become the only medium to see the entire animated frame;
both matting to 1.85:1 for theaters (or DVD, as in the case of Beauty and the Beast) and cropping to 1.33:1 for video offer small but noticeable compromises in composition.

The good news is that The Lion King is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.66:1...almost. The actual ratio is 1.71:1, but it's close enough and undoubtedly favorable to both matting or cropping. The film has always looked great, but the digital transfer makes that visual greatness shine through with nary a distraction. This is a most impressive video presentation that displays the array of nature's colors flawlessly. Think of any term used negatively in DVD reviews and throw it out the window, because it doesn't apply here. Undoubtedly, the film was in terrific shape to begin with, and as it is less than a decade old and surely kept in optimal condition. Not to mention the fact that it comes from computer files, and quality was overseen for last December's IMAX re-release.

There are two primary choices for audio - the film's original 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, and a new "Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix" intended to raise potency and widen the soundfield of the film's sounds. The EHT track attempts to duplicate the audio format the film was converted to for exhibition in the high-tech IMAX speaker system. It's not DTS, and that may disappoint the devoted followers of the format, but the remix serves its purpose, and the original 5.1 mix is sufficient for its purposes, and wisely provides the film's original audio (well, mostly)...certainly more so than the video of the "original theatrical cut."

There really is nothing but praise for the audio presentation. The EHT remix makes full use of directionality and soundfield to create a more interactive sound experience. The musical sequences burst with life, which makes the dialogue and calmer scenes stick out with their quietness - but while there are noticeable differences in volume, it's not to the point where you have to adjust the volume from scene-to-scene.

Simba's evil uncle Scar sings "Be Prepared" among ominous green smoke.

EXTRAS

Onto supplements, the area where a studio really decides to sink or swim with a DVD release. Unfortunately, as stated earlier, the supplements on The Lion King DVD are disappointing both for their lack of depth ("immersive" - the word to describe Snow White's extras is rightfully nowhere to be found here) and their terrible method of presentation - through repetitive, unorganized menus, and split into segments that never run beyond 6 minutes.

Disc 1's main menu complicates content access with its overlapping layout.

DISC 1

As can be deduced from the praise I've given to the audio and video quality, there were no compression issues as with the content-heavy first disc of Beauty and the Beast. Surely, both cuts of The Lion King could have been included and interweaved, with applicable, running under 3 hours between them and maintaining a high level of quality as seen from the first disc of A Bug's Life: Collector's Edition, which mixes an incredible digital presentation with a number of supplements and offers two viewing formats.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be - but Disc 1 is still pretty skimpy on the supplemental features. The menus open with a shot of Rafiki's outline of the lion and proceed with an incredibly pointless 3-dimensional flyaround tour of the film's locations with an awkward-looking computer-animated Zazu. There's about a minute of this, which can fortunately be skipped. Once we get to the actual menus, which are quite plain and free of recognizable characters or images from the movie, you can either access the enigmatically-titled various sections or skip it all and go to the "Index" which lists all the features on Disc 1 over a couple of screens.

First and foremost, though given only passing, non-specific mention on the Press Release, buried placement in the menus, and nary a listing on the back of the DVD case is the Audio Commentary ported over from the 1995 laserdisc. This commentary features producer Don Hahn and directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers. The trio of filmmakers are inspired and easy-to-listen to as they discuss the film's design, its influences, the cast, and various changes made over the course of production. Even if it is not a new feature, it is an excellent commentary and one of the highlights of the set.

There is a truly insidious remix of "Circle of Life" performed by what Disney has shamelessly called the "Circle of Stars" - a bunch of rich teenagers who star in a Disney Channel original series - or in the case of Tahj Mowry, starred on a WB show that has been syndicated on Disney. I don't know what is going through the minds of these kids as they perform - none of them save for Christy Romano and Hilary Duff have really anything like a singing career. The real reason it's here is that airing bits of this on the Disney Channel encourages its audience to buy the DVD. Likewise, those who bought the DVD are subliminally encouraged to watch the Disney Channel. It's a terrible pop rendition of a song put to excellent use in the opening of the film. But Hilary Duff seems to share the Disney exec mode of thinking, "We're pretty much staying true to the original song but just adding a little bit of flavor of each of our voices to it."

The 2003 edition of Disney Channel Circle of Stars, which includes Hilary Duff, Raven-Symone, Christy Carlson Romano and Tahj Mowry, performs a remix of "Circle of Life" in this music video. Join the mostly forgotten Disney teen actor/singers in this behind-the-scenes look at the remix video's creation.

Incredibly, the 4-minute music video is accompanied by a 4-minute "making-of the music video" featurette - at this point, a supplement is constituted as a behind-the-scenes look at a thing that has little to do with The Lion King.

The Sing-Along Track provides subtitles for the film's musical numbers.

Then there are the games. You won't find "Rafiki's Three-Gourd Monty" here; although it was in retailer's material for some time, it was ditched, surely because Disney maintains a high level of quality in their games. Actually, there are three set-top games here:
- Timon's Grab-a-Grub, in which you use the direction arrows to grab grubs (it's a poor man's version of the fun bonus rounds from the old Genesis video game and you have to wait a few seconds after every grab)
- Pumbaa's Sound Sensations, an animal sound identification game, which is moderately fun
- The Lion King Personality Profile Game, which is short and interesting. You answer questions based on your behavior and they tell you what character from the movie you're most like.

Take The Lion King Personality Profile Game to find out which TLK character you're most like.

The Making of "The Morning Report" is a 3-minute featurette which explains and attempts to justify the addition of a new musical number as something other than a blatant effort to increase revenue on DVD sales. The number adds nothing to the film, but producer Don Hahn and others, including the president of the home video division, throw acclaim onto it, and we see the falsetto-voiced young boy who replaces Jason Weaver as the singing voice of Simba for this new sequence.

Neither JTT nor Jason Weaver, Evan Saucedo sings for Simba in added song "The Morning Report." The Making of "The Morning Report" looks at the short scene created for this DVD.

There is actually something besides the Commentary (and the movie) of substance on Disc 1 - the section of deleted scenes & abandoned concepts. "Bug Football" is 20 seconds of Timon and Pumaa plays football with a bug, and 20 seconds of Don Hahn explaining it. "Hakuna Matata" has a 25-second introduction from Hahn, then provides some of the beginning of the film's Hakuna Matata sequence in storyboard film and progresses to a verse by Timon (in the style of Pumbaa's "When I was a young warthog" verse that tells the meerkat's story; the scene itself runs for 2 minutes and is a neat addition. Finally, there is an alternate rendition of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" in which Timon and Pumbaa sing most of the song, in addition to the parts they take in the actual movie. It runs 1 minute and 44 seconds, 40 seconds of which is archive footage of Tim Rice and Elton John explaining the number's progression.

A number of sneak previews play at the start of the disc - The Lion King 1 1/2, Brother Bear, George of the Jungle 2, Finding Nemo, The Santa Clause 2, and a nauseating spot for Walt Disney World. In addition, previews for Sleeping Beauty: Special Edition, and Mary Poppins: Special Edition (coming next August) are accessible from the Sneaks menu.

Finally, there is a 54-second preview of Disc 2's contents, which emphasizes the Virtual Safari feature, which underlines the priorities this DVD has.

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THE LION KING DVD REVIEW

Page 1: Movie Notes & DVD Introduction
Page 2: A Note on the Film's "Original Theatrical Cut"
Page 3: Audio and Video & Disc 1
Page 4: Disc 2 & Closing Thoughts

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UltimateDisney.com | More on The Lion King | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Disney's Animated Classics Page | DVDizzy.com: DVD & Blu-ray Release Schedule | Search This Site