Blu Ray Film Reviews – The Lion King

Artwork from The Lion KingBlu ray film reviews – The Lion King.

You can buy The Lion King by clicking the highlighted text - The Lion King ( Blu-ray / DVD Combo )

The original opening to The Lion King was going to be a quiet dialogue driven sequence but Hans Zimmer,who composed the music for the film, made two versions of the opening scene, Disney were so impressed with his interpretation of the circle of life they changed the intended beginning to what you now see in the film.  The film was dubbed into Zulu for it's African release.

Many people thought they saw the letters sex in a scene where Simba collapses on the cliff after talking to Timon and Pumbaa about stars, the dust that flies off the cliff actually formed the letters SFX, an abbreviation of the special effects team that worked on that part of the film.

The Lion King was originally titled King Of The Jungle and was going to be about African lions living in the jungle, it then dawned on the production team that lions do not actually live in the jungle, the phrase King Of The Jungle is still used on certain t-shirts sold in Disney stores. The wildebeest stampede took Disney's computer graphics department almost three years to make. 

The Lion King is loosely based on William Shakespeare's Hamlet, that story is of a young Prince from Denmark whose uncle takes over the Kingdom and marries the Queen ( Hamlet's mother ) after killing the Prince's father who was King.

When Mufasa tells Simba about the great Kings of the past, if you look at the stars in the wide shot, you can see Mickey Mouse, also in that scene Mufasa explains to Simba that the stars are old Kings and you can see the constellation of Leo ( The Lion ) in the sky.  The team who worked on this film were supposedly Disney's Team "B" with Team "A" working on Pocahontas. 

Several characters names are based on Swahili words;
*Shenzi: Barbarous/Uncouth/Uncivilized/Savage
*Sarabi: Mirage
*Rafiki: Comrade/Friend
*Simba: Lion/Courageous Warrior
*Nala: Gift

The Lion King is the second film in which James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair perform together as an African King and Queen, they were King and Queen of a fictional African nation in the Eddie Murphy comedy film, Coming To America.  There is controversy about certain elements of the film bearing a resemblance to a 1960s Japanese anime tv show called Kimba the White Lion.

The Lion King was Gregory Peck's favourite animated film, he considered it as one of his top five favourite movies. More than one million drawings were created for the film, this includes 1,197 hand painted backgrounds and 119,058 individual coloured frames of film. The locations in the film are modelled after Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya.

When you take into account worldwide box office figures then The Lion King was the highest grossing film of 1994, it was the second highest grossing movie in the USA in 1994 after Forrest Gump. Nala's mother is called Sarafina but the name is not used in the film, it appears on merchandising, including trading cards originally issued at Burger King.


Film Plot

Scar seeks to dethrone Mufasa and kill Simba, the heir to the throne, using a pack of hyenas he plots and deceives until tragedy occurs and young Simba is tricked into thinking he killed his father, fleeing for his life, Simba is exiled, years later he encounters his one true love, Nala, they head back home to confront Scar and fight to end his reign as the lion king.


Positives

Simba and Mustafa watch the sunset in The Lion KingThe voice cast for The Lion King all did a wonderful job, i especially liked James Earl Jones who voiced Mufasa, although i will admit that having not that long ago watched the Star Wars films i kept expecting Mufasa to say something about Obi-Wan or tell Simba that the force is strong in him, just in case you don't get me i should add that Mr Jones also did the voice of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. 

I didn't realise that Matthew Broderick did the voice of the adult Simba, he did a good job here, of course everyone will recognize Whoopi Goldberg who voices Shenzi the hyena, you might be scratching your head about who is the voice of Scar and saying to yourself and those around you that you know who that is and the voice is strangely familiar but you can't quite get the name out, Scar is voiced by Jeremy Irons and he has some delicious dialogue, the bad guys ( lions ) always get the best lines, at least in good movies they do.

The action scenes in The Lion King are so well done, i can imagine it's all in the storyboarding and that's how they got this all down to perfection, but until you watch the movie, you will never understand just how good it comes together, i think its the pacing that makes the difference, knowing when to edit the scene and cut it down is where this film succeeds, the blend of music, dramatic storyline, a really good script with talented voice actors and Disney at the top of their game all combine to make this such an enjoyable viewing experience.

The scenes between Simba and Nala when they get to know each other again as adults is tender and i found myself enjoying it a lot, i guess it's the sentimental person in me, i find myself gettiing wrapped up in the story, i know not everyone sees it that way but to me a good story that is told well is worth my time no matter the medium, it could be a book, a tv show, a play or a film, if it grabs me then i'll watch ( or read ) it and enjoy it a lot.


 Negatives

You need to go online to access some of the extra content which was found on the last DVD edition release, i bought the 3D edition which also contains a normal 2D blu ray version, a digital copy and a DVD edition of the movie, my feeling is that they could have ditched the DVD and digital copy versions and put all the extra content on a third blu ray disc, oh and just in case you are wondering, nope i did not watch the 3D version, i will eventually watch the 3D version of The Lion King and may write a few extra words here sometime in the future.

I did wonder about a few scenes where the animation seemed a little harsh, for example about eight minutes and twenty seconds into the film we see a young Simba run to his sleeping parents, i thought the animation of Mufasa looked a little harsh, thats the exception rather than the rule and apart from a few other scenes i thought the image quality was superb.


Image Quality

From the opening moments of The Lion King i knew i was in for a treat, the image quality on this disc is superb, colours are especially strong, take a look at the scene near the beginning of the film as the antelope jump through the mist of the African plains and a young giraffe is seen stepping out into the glare of the blazing sun, colours come across so well on this release, from blue skies to red skies, it all looks so good, i have seen some online criticism about the colour of the lions, they look good to my eyes and certainly seem to me to be the intended look, i think sometimes people are comparing the colours of a DVD edition to a blu ray edition and you really shouldn't do that because more often than not the DVD edition will be the wrong look.

The elephant graveyard scene had some fabulous animation with smoky dust visible in the air as the young lions are pounced upon by the hyenas, obviously some of what you see in these scenes is computer animation mixed with traditional animation but it works so well.  The musical number, I just can't wait to be King, featured bright and psychedelic animation which reminded me a lot of a sequence seen in Dumbo, it wouldn't surprise me if that was the intention of the Disney animators who are aware of their prestigious history.

The black levels looked good and accurate, shadow detail was very good, overall i thought that detail levels looked fantastic and some of the shading seen throughout the film was truly impressive, i should mention that there are moments in this film which resemble the old multiplane camera look of some of the Disney classics, i thought that look as used in this film was most impressive and there was a real sense of depth to the image, i didn't see any real issues that bothered me, thankfully no edge enhancement was present, this film used the computer animation production system, usually abbreviated as CAPS, that system captured at 2K and digitized the process of using paints and inks in animated films.

Is that film grain i see at around the 67 minute mark when Simba talks to his ghostly father in the sky, it's likely been added to stop any banding issues, nevertheless i find it a welcome addition to a Disney animated film.


Sound Quality

Scar and Simba battle in a scene from The Lion KingThe start of The Lion King features a classic scene set to music as the animals all come to see the new lion cub and the circle of life song plays, there is some good rear speaker to front speakers sound directionality of birds as they fly high in the sky, a little while after this listen to the thunderous bass of the footsteps of the elephants, the whole opening song is reference quality and is sure to be used for demo purposes by some people for showing off their home cinema equipment.

The wildebeest stampede makes good use of all the speakers and has deep quality bass, it's an exciting moment, the sound mix during this scene aids the visuals and draws you further into the movie, the music score during this scene is important and it sounds excellent.  Dialogue was always easy to make out against the other sound elements in the mix and i consider this a reference quality soundtrack.

Hans Zimmer has composed some amazing music scores during his film career but i consider his score for The Lion King to be some of his best work, his music is powerful and it really brings the animation alive and gives emotional depth to the film, on this blu ray release the music sounds richly detailed, take a listen to the scene where Simba looks to the night sky and talks to his father, an emotional moment and Zimmer's music is just perfect and adds much, the film feels more epic in nature due to the score, a bad music score can bring down a good film, a good music score can enhance an average film, now if you combine a good music score with a good film then the end product can so often become great and i consider The Lion King to be a great film.


Final Thoughts

I used to consider Beauty And The Beast my favourite Disney animated film, but i like animals and i can't resist the storyline of The Lion King, it's now my favourite Disney film of all time, i think it has perfect pacing, likeable main characters, a good baddie and an astoundingly good music score and the songs are so memorable, i never tire of watching this movie and for those people who turn their noses up at animated films and call them cartoon's and refuse to watch them, well, thats their problem, they don't know what they are missing.

I enjoyed re-visiting The Lion King and watching it in high definition, i think Disney put in a decent amount of effort with this release but sometimes with other releases they edge a little into revisionism, especially with their older classic titles which have some scenes which suffer from degraining and a smooth undetailed look to the optical multiplane scenes, indeed sometimes subtle effects are destroyed, films that use the CAPS system do not suffer from these issues.