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The Lion King’ roars onto DVD

Tim Masterton | Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Since 1994, The Lion King has been released theatrically, on VHS, on IMAX screens, and now on DVD. For those of you who have never seen The Lion King, this DVD will show you all that you have been missing and much more. And for those of you who think you have seen The Lion King, think again. Disney just released its masterpiece, The Lion King, in a “Platinum Edition” two-DVD set.

First and foremost, The Lion King is not only a solid children’s movie; it is also an outstanding animated film and a phenomenal film of any type or genre. For first-time viewers and fans alike, included on disc one is the original widescreen 1994 release of the film. Disney animators have restored the film frame by frame, and now the film’s brilliant use of colors and contrast is beautifully evident again. The sound quality is consistently excellent, featuring a “Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix.” Unfortunately, this feature is hard to test on a dorm room TV and DVD player, but I’m sure that this, and any film, would sound excellent on a home theater system.

Also included is a special edition presentation of The Lion King that adds in a new scene featuring the song “Morning Report,” originally written for the Lion King Broadway musical. This is an interesting addition and will likely please children and first-time viewers. Most long-time fans and purists will probably want to steer clear of this 90-second clip. Whatever your reaction, the scene is seamlessly added into the film, so credit must be given to Disney animators.

Already-established Lion King fans will find more material on this DVD release than they will know what to do with. Parents and children will love the two interactive games, music videos and the option to sing along with the entire film. Older viewers will favor three deleted scenes, one featuring an entire verse of “Hakuna Matata” originally performed by Timon preceding Pumbaa’s memorable verse detailing his hardships with his own stench. The only downsides to disc one are the multiple previews and an 80-second 3-D animation before even giving the viewer access to what the disc holds.

Disc two will keep Lion King fans old and new busy on first viewing. Viewers are able to trace the development of the film and its music and story from beginning to end. In addition to these behind-the-scenes extras is the “Stage Journey” feature, showing clips of rehearsals and performances, as well as interviews with those involved with the Broadway staging of The Lion King.

Another journey combines animated clips from the film with actual footage of animals. It is clearly intended as educational content, but I particularly enjoyed the “Lion” sequence because it first shows Simba saying, “I’m so hungry I could eat a lion.” Then it proceeds to show an actual lion pouncing and taking down a zebra and then dragging a zebra carcass away, as “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” merrily plays in the background. Weird, yet hilarious – but more importantly, educational. The navigation on disc two can seem confusing at first, but Disney conveniently includes a fold-out map inside. The majority of the material is great on first viewing, but only a minority of devoted fans will ever view it more than once.

The Lion King DVD release is a must-own for DVD and Disney enthusiasts alike. The film deserves the clarity of picture and sound that DVD provides, and it surely takes advantage of the technology. This two-disc proves that The Lion King truly is a modern masterpiece of animation, computing and film-making.

Contact Tim Masterton at tmastert@nd.edu