Blu-ray Review The Lion King 3D: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Sep 28, 2011.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    The Lion King is still the highest grossing hand-drawn animated movie in film history. Even more than fifteen years after its original release and now converted into a 3D film which adds depth to the already awesome visuals, it is a beautifully rendered and wonderfully entertaining story of good versus evil set in one particular animal kingdom in Africa. A family film which like Bambi doesn’t shy away from death as a part of existence and one with a decidedly modern slant (fart jokes, modern vernacular, allusions to film classics like Taxi Driver and In the Heat of the Night), the film may be among the highest grossing of Disney's vaunted titles, and it may have sold the most home video units in history, but it's not the apex of Disney's art. A fine film loaded with great music, inventive comedy, and a retooling of a plot that Shakespeare found useful for Hamlet, The Lion King is a fine, fun film.



    The Lion King 3D: Diamond Edition (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
    Directed by Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 1994

    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 88 minutes
    Rating: G
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
    Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish

    Region: A-B-C

    MSRP: $49.99


    Release Date: October 4, 2011

    Review Date: September 28, 2011



    The Film

    4.5/5


    Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a youth, Matthew Broderick in maturity) is the newly born son of lion king Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and thus is next in line for the throne. Ambitious and moody Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) wants the throne for himself so he engineers the massacre of Mufasa and self-imposed banishment of Simba clearing the way for his usurpation of the throne. While growing into young adulthood and facing his born responsibility to his father and himself, Simba is instructed by two of Disney’s most memorable creations: Timon the meerkat (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa the wart hog (Ernie Sabella). Meanwhile, Uncle Scar has pillaged the kingdom and left the inhabitants at the mercy of wild hyenas. It’s up to Simba to rid the kingdom of these enemies and restore grace and beauty to the land.


    The story of Simba’s journey toward maturity (screenplay by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, Linda Woolverton) is rendered impressively through the crack Disney animators and accompanied by a bouncy song score by Elton John and Tim Rice and starkly ominous and gloriously rich underscoring by Hans Zimmer. It’s a song score that contains only one dud (the time wasting “Be Prepared”) and four real winners. It’s no coincidence that one of those songs “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” won the Best Song Oscar and Hans Zimmer’s natively stylish and grand underscore won the Best Original Score Oscar. The score and songs are among the movie’s most vivid accomplishments.


    The voice actors employed to give life to the Disney artists’ creations are real artists themselves, and the characters here are as real and memorable as any flesh and blood movie characters. Jeremy Irons gives real menace to Uncle Scar, an oily, oozing kind of sneakiness that is perfect for his underhanded tactics. James Earl Jones, on the other hand, imbues Mufasa with the nobility and grace that bespeaks his greatness. Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick respectively voice Simba in his youthful and more mature personas while Robert Guillaume and Rowan Atkinson do wonderfully funny and authentic work as Rafiki and Zazu respectively, both allies to Simba.


    The keys to the movie’s most hilarious and memorable characters, though, come from four actors. The arguing hyenas provide the wicked comic relief, and as voiced by Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin, they are very funny indeed. Even more unforgettably hysterical, though, are Ernie Sabella and (supremely!) Nathan Lane as Simba’s jungle buddies. Their comic timing is razor sharp, and the animators have used the actors’ distinctive voices to build characters that jump right off the screen and into your heart. And it’s nice to see the humor spread around to many hands rather than burdening one actor (for example, Robin Williams in Aladdin) with the overwhelming comic responsibilities.


    Dazzling animation abounds in The Lion King. The combination of the multiplane camera and advanced (for the time) computer animation techniques make for a mesmerizing look to the film, both in simple overhead shots which stress the vastness of Pride Rock and its environs and in complex stampedes (the storm of wildebeests is still an awesome set piece), frenetic production numbers (“Just Can’t Wait to Be King” is this movie’s “Be Our Guest” Busby Berkeley-style production number), and entire sequences (the elephant graveyard sequence, the film’s most atmospheric single scene and one of the film’s real highlights).



    Video Quality

    4.5/5

    3D implementation – 3.5/5


    The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is explicit throughout with every animated line solid and impressive, and colors are richly saturated and often mesmerizing. The transfer has some trouble with noisy blues in the sky during the “Hakuna Matata” number, and banding can be glimpsed in the backgrounds occasionally. Black levels, however, are impressively dark, and the many greens, reds, and oranges are rendered with surety. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.


    Because the film was not originally animated with 3D in mind and has simply been converted to 3D for a brief theatrical run and this home video 3D release, the use of 3D here is rather understated. There’s certainly plenty of depth in the image, and when the camera goes high and we see vast expanses of land, the enormity of the landscapes can be truly impressive. So, too, is a later scene when Simba is running through the wasted jungle brush which offers enormous pleasure to watch in 3D. There’s an adequate amount of multiple plane placements that give the 3D images some complexity (Beauty and the Beast in 3D seemed to have more of this). And, of course, there are no outward projections apart from Zazu’s tail feathers momentarily seeming to approach the edge of the frame when the camera moves behind him. With all of the tusks available on various jungle inhabitants, the artists could have had a 3D field day if the film had been originally drawn with this in mind.



    Audio Quality

    5/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix is impressive from the first moment of the film until the last moment. Hans Zimmer’s score soars all around us constantly, and the orchestrations have been laid out to permit multiple channels to complement the singing of the principals. Dialogue has been masterfully recorded and while mostly residing in the center channel occasionally finds itself in other channels for an effective directionalized experience. The ambient effects, from crickets chirping in the high grass to the thundering hooves of the wildebeests, have been expertly placed around the soundfield for utmost aural intensity. The LFE channel certainly is kept busy in the sound mix as well with lots of deep bass in the mix.



    Special Features

    4.5/5


    The 3D disc in the set contains a 3D trailer for Cars 2.


    The 2D Blu-ray disc contains the following bonus features:


    The audio commentary is contributed by producer Don Hahn and directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. It’s a lively reminiscence by the three men and offers many anecdotes related to the making of the movie (many of which turn up in other bonus features).


    The Blu-ray is Second Screen ready.


    A funny blooper reel runs 3 ¾ minutes in 1080p.


    “Pride of The Lion King is a 38-minute remembrance of the project by the film’s two directors, its producer, actors Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, lyricist Tim Rice, composer Hans Zimmer, plus various other Disney mainstays (both past and present) and director Julie Taymor who conceived and mounted the show on Broadway about both the screen and stage versions of The Lion King. This retrospective look at the coming together of important industry artists in presented in 1080i.


    The Lion King: A Memoir” has producer Don Hahn offering his own memories and some home movies shot at the time of the film’s two year production as he talks about what making the film meant to him. It runs 19 ¾ minutes in 1080i.


    There are five deleted/extended scenes (with voice tracks and rough drawings) with introductions by directors Roger Allers and  Rob Minkoff which may be watched individually or in a 14 ½-minute grouping. They’re in 1080p.


    The movie can be played with sing-along mode activated which places highlighted song lyrics on the screen.


    “The Morning Report” animated song is offered separately and runs for 2 ½ minutes in 1080p.


    The interactive art gallery offers the viewer a step-through experience with hundreds of drawings divided into four sections: Character Design, Visual Development, Storyboards, and Layouts and Backgrounds.


    Disney’s Virtual Vault (powered via BD-Live) was another menu selection under the special features, but it was not operational during the review period. One day after filing this review, I attempted to access this section on a PS3 and was successful. As with the Blu-ray of Fantasia, the original DVD features have been housed on-line and must be accessed via BD-Live. Once one or more of these featurettes have been selected, they download from the net and then appear in a reduced-size window on your screen. Here are the contents:


    “Making of “The Morning Report” (3 ¼ minutes)


    3 additional deleted scenes: “Bug Football” ((1 minute), “Hakuna Matata” (2 ½ minutes), “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” (1 ¾ minutes).


    Musical Journey section contains the following:


    • Musical Inspiration (3 ¾ minutes)
    • Landmark Songwriting (3 ¼ minutes)
    • Orchestral Color (4 ¼ minutes)
    • Scoring Emotion (3 minutes)
    • African Influence (3 ¾ minutes)
    • Full Circle (1 ¾ minutes)
    • “Circle of Life” music video (5 minutes)

    Stage Journey section contains the following:


    • Musical Origins (4 minutes)
    • Screen to Stage (3 ¾ minutes)
    • Musical Texture (3 ½ minutes)
    • Setting the Stage (2 ½ minutes)
    • Leaps of Fantasy (3 ¾ minutes)

    Film Journey section contains the following:


    • Origins (6 minutes)
    • Production Research Trip (2 ¼ minutes)
    • Art: African Influence (4 minutes)
    • Reflections (5 ¼ minutes)
    • Storyboards (2 minutes)
    • Character Design (7 character discussions in all)
    • Computer Animation (4 ½ minutes)

    Story Journey section contains the following:


    • Story Origins (4 ½ minutes)
    • Timeless Themes (4 minutes)
    • Story Comes to Life (3 ¼ minutes)

    A storyboard to film comparison lasts 4 minutes


    Early Concepts: Timon and Pumbaa (4 minutes), Find Simba (3 minutes), Simba’s Preservation (4 minutes)


    Abandoned Scene: “Warthog Rhapsody” (4 minutes)


    The disc has 1080p trailers for Cars 2, Lady and the Tramp, The Muppets, Tinker Bell and the Pixie Hollow Games, Treasure Buddies, The Lion King, and African Cats.


    The third disc in the set is the DVD edition of the movie.


    The fourth disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices.


    Also enclosed in the set is a booklet offering a table of contents for the discs in the set.



    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)


    The Lion King isn’t Disney’s greatest artistic achievement, but it’s provided much entertainment for millions of people for many, many years. Looking and sounding mostly sensational in both 3D and 2D, the set may not have the complexity of bonus features found on other Disney milestones, but fans will enjoy what’s offered here. Recommended!



    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. cafink

    cafink Producer

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    The Lion King was re-issued in IMAX a few years ago, and included a new musical number--"Morning Report"--in the IMAX version. I see that "Morning Report" is offered as a stand-alone bonus feature on the Blu-ray. Does that mean that neither the 2D nor the 3D Blu-ray includes the option to watch the movie with that song re-incorporated into it? (I know that the recent theatrical re-release does NOT include "Morning Report.") What about the included DVD? As far as I know, there was only ever one DVD release of The Lion King, and it included both versions. Has it just been re-purposed here?
     
  3. Bryan Tuck

    Bryan Tuck Screenwriter

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    Actually, I don't think "Morning Report" was included in the IMAX theatrical version; it was only in the "Special Edition" on the DVD. Although I'm all for having all the alternate released versions of a film available, this song was even more pointless than "Human Again" in Beauty in the Beast, so I'm not too disappointed that it's been relegated to the extras. Thanks for the review, Matt!
     
  4. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    Thanks Matt. My wife and I caught this in 3D the Monday after it opened and thoroughly enjoyed it. Still a terrific film and I was impressed with the 3D conversion.
     
  5. Brisby

    Brisby Second Unit

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    Is there anything significant missing from the 2003 DVD release in terms of extras?
     
  6. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Since I couldn't get the "Virtual Vault" to open, I can't answer that question. I assume some of those games from the last DVD edition are in there (the liner notes on the case state the vintage DVD features are there), but I can't be sure.


    I'll try to open it using the PS3 tomorrow. Maybe it'll have better success than the Panasonic 310 I was using this afternoon;.
     
  7. ChildEducation

    ChildEducation Auditioning

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    Childeducationtips.com is # 1 source for child education and early educations tips.
     
  8. cafink

    cafink Producer

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    I never saw the IMAX release, so I don't have any first-hand knowledge, but Wikipedia says of "Morning Report" that "it was later added, with an accompanying animated sequence, to the 2002 IMAX rerelease." I'm still curious to know how this was handled for Blu-ray. It sounds like it was included only as an extra and not re-incorporated back into the film. Probably the most disappointing aspect of this change is that the Blu-ray apparently STILL includes the alternate crocodile and waterfall animation (and, less importantly, the new opening Disney logo) that was created for the IMAX version. I'd like to have seen those reverted to their original versions, as well.
     
  9. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    "Morning Report" is not a part of the either the 3D or 2D versions of the film in this set.
     
  10. cafink

    cafink Producer

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    Thank you. If there's only one version of the film included, I'm glad it's the original (well, minus the aforementioned animation changes, which are unfortunate but not a dealbreaker).
     
  11. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I was able to access the Disney Virtual Vault on the Blu-ray disc tonight using a PS3. I have amended the review above to reflect these findings.
     
  12. Brisby

    Brisby Second Unit

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    More BD-Live bullshit means I have to hold onto the old DVD instead of being able to sell it off. :f
     
  13. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I feel your pain and empathize. I had hoped Disney learned its lesson after the outcry over this when Fantasia came out on Blu-ray. This is exactly the same situation. It's obvious that they just didn't want to include a second Blu-ray with the vintage bonus features on it, but I think it's a mistake, particularly since this is a "Diamond Edition" and likely the last time we'll see the film on a disc-based format..
     
  14. Adam Gregorich

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    We have three copies if the two disc BD/DVD Diamond Edition to give away. To make sure that everyone can take advantage of Week one pricing in case they don't win the contest will end Friday October 7th at midnight PT. Usual exclusions apply: must be alive, over 18, and in the US or Canada to win. To enter just post in this thread. Winners will be drawn at random.
     
  15. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    You mean, like this?
     
  16. Patrick_S

    Patrick_S Producer
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    Thanks for the review. I saw this for the first time during its recent 3D release and really enjoyed. I'll be picking up the disc during the holiday season.
     
  17. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    You forgot Kimba the White Lion. :P
     
  18. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
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    I have to say I'm disappointed that they're using the terrible "Virtual Vault" again. Having to wait for a video to download and then watching it in reduced resolution is a waste of time. Boo! Hiss!
     
  19. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Can't say this is my favorite Disney animated film, but the studio always treats their properties with a white glove.
     
  20. dmiller68

    dmiller68 Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review... Looks like it is going to be a great release.
     

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