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The Lion King’… in 3D?

Ross Finney | Tuesday, September 20, 2011


It’s hard to believe that “The Lion King” is already 17 years old. And in the 17 years since its original release, we’ve gotten a sequel, a retelling of the same story from Timon and Pumbaa’s perspective, a Broadway musical, multiple home video and DVD releases and an IMAX re-release. Now we get another re-release, this time in 3D.

We all know the story. It’s a classic that echoes “Hamlet” and Biblical epics. The impeccable talent of the cast, including Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones and Nathan Lane, still shines, and the humor, surprisingly, still works most of the time. 

The movie has great tunes from Elton John, is superbly animated and, almost two decades later, is as entertaining as any other Disney movie from the period — though let’s be honest, Disney could do no wrong in the early ‘90s.  Disney might describe the film as “timeless.”

It’s hard to say you can get too much “Lion King.” You probably can’t.

But the 3D release does raise some important questions. Chief among them is the deceptively simple question, “Why does a 2D animated movie need to be in 3D?”

Making a computer animated movie in 3D is a pretty logical step. It makes instinctive sense. Making a live action movie in 3D is still pretty logical. Taking 2D animation and turning it into something 3D, however, seems like a little much. 

We all know “The Lion King” works as it is. It is quite visually impressive, actually, and there seems to be very little reason to mess with it.

It’s not really even a question about 3D technology itself. Many people are divided over the technology’s merits and both sides have valid points. When you get right down to it, though, it’s about whether “The Lion King” in 3D is worth it for fans of the film. 

Luckily, early reviewers tend to agree that the 3D employed is not too distracting. While there has been some suggestion that 3D affects the vibrancy of the color, which for “The Lion King” is certainly a loss, most reviewers agree it is not the kind of haphazard 3D nightmare that makes the film unwatchable or leaves the audience with headaches.

That being said, the next logical question would be, “Is 3D worth the money?”

The cynics know Disney is just trying to make some cash off one of their most valuable commodities. They’ve pulled this kind of stuff for the last 20 years, and clearly we keep paying for it. 

This is where Disney really has us. The experience of “The Lion King” on the big screen is always a treat. For kids seeing it the first time and for parents introducing it to their children, it is probably well worth the money.

The nostalgia factor for kids of our age group is a different story.  To some extent, nostalgia is certainly something on which Disney is betting. However, when it comes right down to how to blow $10, “The Lion King” in 3D probably doesn’t top the list. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Ross Finney at [email protected].