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HTF REVIEW: The Lion King (TOTALLY RECOMMENDED!!!)



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#1 of 344 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

DaViD Boulet

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Posted September 26 2003 - 11:11 AM



Posted Image
The
LION KING
Studio:Disney
Year:1994
Film Length:90 minutes
Aspect Ratio:16X9 encoded 1.66:1
Audio:5.1 DD English, 5.1 French
Subtitles:English
Extras:Disc 1: Theatrical and SE versions of the feature film, Feature Commentary for theatrical version, Deleted Scenes (in story board form), Making of “Morning Report” song, “Circle of Life” music video, children’s game
Disc 2: A plethora of documentary shorts and galleries covering all aspects of the film’s inspiration and production process.
Release Date:October 7, 2003



Story...


The Lion King is one of the top-regarded Disney animated films of the past century and in my opinion rightfully so. Comparisons have been made by its creators and film critics to literary classics like Hamlet and even Biblical allegory, and I don’t find those assertions to be pretentious or self-aggrandizing. Because aside from great animation, scripting, talented voice actors and musical composition, Disney’s The Lion King has something very special: a powerful story.

The story's framework is simple. It starts with a young “prince” lion who possess all the usual traits of a carefree and rebellious youth. When he loses his father, the difficulty with dealing with his father’s death (and the circumstances leading to it) lead him down a spiritual journey that is paralleled with the physical path that his life follows. His attempt to run away and forget his past ultimately proves impossible as his true identity rises to the surface and forces him to confront his personal demons that have so long been pushed into the shadows. When his inner conflict can no longer be contained, he experiences an epiphany in being reunited with the love and directive of his father and emerges redeemed--ready to set forth on the task he is given: Being true to the person who he is called to be and living that purpose out to touch the lives of those around him.

Bambi dealt with death, but the Lion King deals with murder and the guilt of holding one’s self accountable for a reprehensible action that cannot be undone. In some of the special features of this disc the creative team talks candidly about how they feel about the spiritual, almost religious nature of this film. There are many hinted-at parallels to Biblical stories: Joseph and the coat of many colors (a son who is outcast from his family later returns as an adult to become their ultimate salvation), Moses (starts life out as a member of the royal family and then seeks asylum in the desert after committing murder. After wandering in the desert for 40 years he comes upon a burning bush where God speaks to him plainly and charges him with his life’s mission...to return and bring freedom to an enslaved people). The connections with the parable of the Prodigal Son should be obvious too. I’m certain that other religious and moral traditions beyond those that draw from the old and/or new Testaments have stories that reflect these principles that form the basis for the story of The Lion King as well.

Sound cheesy? Think I’m way off balance here? Dramatics have taken me over? If you think so that’s a credit to how well the team of artists and talented voice-actors craftfully delivered this story so that it doesn’t stand out as a cliché. That’s what makes the Lion King such a special film—beneath the surface of the usual Disney humor, fun, and song, there is a depth-of-heart to this story that is truly spiritual and gives the story a majestic and epic quality (the same could be said for what make the Star Wars films or Lord of the Rings stories so enduring). This film is able to resonate clearly with people who have had difficult struggles of identity or action in their life and communicate a powerful message of hope and redemption, yet it does so without coming across heavy to child-viewers or folks just intending to enjoy “another Disney movie”. The Lion King delivers a spiritual message without trespassing on anyone’s faith or religious beliefs or calling attention to itself. That, my friends, is what places this movie among the very best of films—Disney animated or otherwise.

What’s New?

Ok, as most of you know by now, there are two ways to watch this film on DVD...one is the original theatrical “cut” and the other replaces Zazu's spoken morning-report with a new animated sequence that incorporates the “morning report” song that performed in The Lion King stage production. Personally, I don’t like the song very much (though I can see why in the stage production it may have helped propel that portion of the story forward a bit but this isn’t necessary in the animated film) and I prefer the original sequence because several of the film’s wittiest and laugh-inducing lines take place in the Zazu’s spoken-morning report (the “I told the elephants to forget it...but they can’t” and “cheetahs never prosper” lines always manage to at least elicit a chuckle whenever I watch it.) Be prepared for what behaves like a layer-break transition pause right after the morning report where the two alternate versions of the movie “meet up”. Those of you more familiar with branching or who know exactly how the dual-version option is accomplished technically please fill us in. I’m assuming it is *not* via multi-angle because compression is so exemplary (more on that in Picture quality section).

Oh yes, might as well say it...both versions, be they original theatrical cut or “SE” with the morning report, are the same basic video stream. So all the new brushed-up animation that was commissioned for the IMAX presentation is present no matter which version you watch. Wanna shock? I don’t care. I’ve seen the laserdisc about a zillion times and honestly nothing stood out once during the film to contradict my memory and make me do a “hey, that looks different!” in the middle of film. No Gredo-shoots-first crapola here my friends. Posted Image


Packaging and Presentation...


For the screener I got the “regular” 2-disc version. The packging is beautiful IMO and comes in that same neat slide-off cardboard sleeve like Sleeping Beauty. The 2-disc set is contained in a single-disc-sized clamshell case with a “flip out” holder for Disc 1. There is a wonderful printed booklet in the clamshell that has everything from a listing of chapter stops to comprehensive “map” of the special features on Disc 2—making navigating to the extra you want much less challenging that sifting through a serious of nested menus to hunt for it. Oh, and you’ll love this: the second to last page in the booklet shows a little diagram illustrating the difference between widescreen and pan-and-scan and says “On standard TVs there will be black horizontal bars on the top and bottom of the TV allowing you to see the expansiveness of the full picture from side to side.” BRAVO Disney! Posted Image

The only real gripe that I have is that on Disc 1 the voice of Zazu emerges uninvited to help us with our menu navigation. You know that sensation of dread you get whenever that little paper-clip office assistant splashes up on your PC monitor to offer some advice? You got it. I couldn’t help but think of that Zazu voice as the Jar-Jar of The Lion King DVD menu...something thrown in to try to make the whole thing more kid-friendly (when will they learn that it’s usually the kids who are explaining to their *parents* how to navigate the DVD menus?). However, if you press the skip button to head straight to the main menu and make your selection quickly...you can almost escape him.

Picture...


Fasten your sealt-belts folks. Disney has delivered what is possibly the best (non-computer) animated DVD to date. Colors are more vibrant than they have a right to be...saturated and glowing without any hint of bleed or noise. NONE. Not only excelling in richness and vibrancy, the color pallet is natural and varied with a limitless range of hues that are spell-binding to behold. Color gradations are natural and smooth...absolutely no “banding” issues even in darker, hard-to-compress scenes.

Detail is spot-on in the 1.66:1 (pillarboxed) 16x9 encoded image. Resolution is so good with this DVD that watching it upconverted on my friend’s Sony 10HT projector...it looked almost like hi-definition. For a reference, the other animated DVD in my collection that looks this detailed and produces the same "looks almost like hi-def!" response is Toy Story--which was a direct-from-digital computer generated image. Viewing The Lion King DVD is the first time I’ve seen hand-drawn animation come across with that same level of clarity. One thing that really caught my eye--there are several scenes where the “camera” pulls back or a character runs off and recedes into the distance. As they shrink smaller and smaller on the screen they maintain definition and clarity just like you see in *real* projected film. Even on a 100” screen you find yourself staring into the background images discovering details you never knew existed (maybe they didn’t before IMAX Posted Image )...the opening scene when you’re looking down from above as the baboon carries Simba to the edge of pride rock...you can discern minute details in the array of animals amassed on the grass plains below. Very few DVDs preserve enough fine-level detail to accomplish this level of fidelity...and if you’re experience is like mine you’ll find yourself constantly amazed at how much a difference that last level of detail really makes. Those of you with projectors or large-screen displays will be astonished at how much apparent resolution this 720 x 480 DVD manages to deliver.

Black level is solid and the image seems to have an outstanding dynamic-range (dark to light) which makes for a rich, brilliant, and 3-dimensional-looking picture. On a much smaller scale the image communicates all these same characteristics on my 34” 16x9 480P direct-view monitor.

There is absolutely no edge enhancement on this disc.

Let me say that again:

There is absolutely no edge enhancement on this disc.

If you see any ringing it’s likely some HF emphasis happening in your DVD player or display signal-chain. Compression artifacting or indeed digital artifacting of any kind is invisible from 1.5 screen-widths away when viewed on my buddy's calibrated hi-definition front projection system. It is MPEG2 after all, and so getting closer to the screen (like 1/2 screen-widths away) will betray some slight mosquito noise around a few hard-animation-lines, but I challenge you to find an animated film that looks any better. Besides, a 35mm film print would look like crap from 1/2 screen-widths even in a professional theater, so I can hardly fault the compressionist on this point; The Lion King looks smooth as silk from any real-world viewing distance even when projected large-scale with one possible exception: the ONLY time during the film that I saw anything that I could detect as “digital” artifacting was in a handful of dark scenes and it was visible in one curious thing--the dark-orange of the lion's mane. One such scene is when Simba and his father are having their “teach my son a lesson” talk. When the scene gets dark and we see some close-ups of Mufasa, there is a slight bit of pixelization evident in the dark-orange color of his mane. I was rather perplexed as every other area of the scene appeared unaffected by any such digital noise. This slight artifacting (I’m assuming MPEG noise, but maybe not?) was more evident on my direct-view and I wouldn’t have noticed it on the Sony projector except that I was intentionally looking for it, so bear this caveat in mind and take heart (I'm willing to believe that my direct-view display may be contributing to the noise here...it's got some non-defeatable DNR controls and at times had tricked me into seeing artifacts that weren't actually on the DVD. Once you get the DVD in your hand please look at this scene and tell me what you find).

Laserdisc (CLV) / DVD Picture Comparison:

Can you guess? The DVD utterly, shamelessly, RUTHLESSLY smokes the laserdisc. Ahhhhhh, “we’ve come along way baby”. Many of you youngin’s don’t remember those bygone days of laserdisc, but for those of us who are old enough to remember (creak-creak of the rockin’ chair), The Lion King THX-certified laserdisc (both CAV and CLV versions) set the reference standard for the format and produced about the best picture a consumer could watch on their TV or CRT projector. Every high-end home-theater shop had a copy to pull out when needed (it was usually sitting next to the Top Gun laserdisc) for a whiz-bang surround sound and picture-quality demo. When I went to the 1996 stereophile convention in NY, every $$$ home-theater demo had the Lion King intro looping like clock-work. Now, less than 10 years later, I’m able to watch an image from a 5” disc that makes that laserdisc look like VHS. Times are good for those of you who didn’t already know it.

One thing worth mentioning is that when I did some back-and-forth switching on the Sony projector I was *SHOCKED* to find out just how much more picture information is on the 1.66:1 DVD in comparison to the laserdisc. The DVD appears to offer substantially more picture information both horizontally and vertically (and I know this isn’t a case of my equipment cropping/overscanning the LD signal because with my Hello Dolly comparison the framing went the other-way round...the LD had more left/right info than the DVD). While I might have expected a bit more vertical info given the 1.66:1 framing vs the 1.85:1 on the LD, I was amazed at how much more left-right picture information exists and to find how MUCH more comfortable the framing is on the DVD. In fact, after viewing the DVD, watching the laserdisc made everything feel “cramped” and “zoomed” by contrast. OAR zealots out there waiting to criticize the DVD for opening the frame up to 1.66:1 rather than cropping to 1.85:1 as was done in the theater, take a moment and reflect, because I can assure you that the image composition and framing of the DVD are far superior and serve the artistry of this film to its best effect.

Picture Wrap-up:

Yes, folks, move that Super-Bit Fifth Element DVD over on the shelf...a new demo disc has arrived! Posted Image

Picture: 6 / 5 (6 out of 5? is it possible? Ummm......yes)
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Sound...


Yes the other reviewers are telling the truth. The sound really is that good. Both 5.1 English tracks are excellent, and I think the only thing that could improve upon it (in my personal opinion) would be a DTS option, though I'm sure the Disney team considered it and felt that it would have compromised picture quality too much given any possible benefits and I trust their judgement (but if the disc shows up on any other continental shore with DTS I’d love to hear about it). Before I get into the detailed description of the sound let me get the logistics out of the way for those who aren’t already familiar: This disc contains two primary 5.1 English Dolby Digital options. Soundtrack 2, which the player defaults to when you start the movie, is the theatrical mix. I’ll get into this later on, but for the curious yes, the theatrical mix on the DVD sounds much better than the 5.1 AC-3 on the laserdisc. But the real prize is Soundtrack 1, where Disney has done something that sounds like a marketing gimmick on paper but packs a genuine real-world punch—they’ve engineered a custom “home theater” 5.1 mix where they’ve pulled out all the stops and made absolutely no concessions to compromise 5.1 performance for 2.0 playback or inferior systems lacking in dynamic-range (like television speakers). This mix is designed to take full advantage of a high-performance 5.1 audio system, and nothing less. In fact, when you select this audio option from the main menu, a disclaimer comes up warning you to only listen to this soundtrack if you have full 5.1 playback capability." The result? Success.

Enhanced for Home Theater 5.1 DD mix:

Let’s talk about the new “Enhanced for Home Theater” soundtrack shall we? First of all, it takes conventional ideas about front/rear speakers and throws them out the window. In fact, the best way describe this mix is to get rid of the concept of “surround speakers” vs. “front speakers” entirely and just think of your system as having 5 speakers plus a subwoofer. If you can’t quite understand what I mean, you will when you get this DVD on October 7th. The sound mix follows the on-screen action aggressively wherever it leads regardless of which speaker channel lands in the way. The EFHT soundtrack has a take-no-prisoners brutality and kicks some serious multichannel butt; The sound mix doesn’t ask permission, worry about being polite, feel embarrassed or second-guess itself. It’s BOLD and intentional and it says in no uncertain terms “Hey bud, you picked me, and now you’re gonna listen to me!” And if you’re smart you’ll just say “Yes Sir!” and not ask any questions.

Sounds pan around the room boldly and forcibly when appropriate. Bass thunders and shakes the room and dynamics are as unrestrained as water streaming out a fire-hose. Musical sequences envelop the listener and aren’t timid about making you part of the action. Much like my experience with the “Holes” 5.1 soundtrack mix, the EFHT audio mix on this DVD isn’t satisfied with you just passively *watching* the movie like a voyeur from the outside...it sweeps you up and carries you *into* the movie as an active participating member. You don’t like it? You’ve got the excellent-in-its-own-right theatrical mix to keep you happy. Everyone else, toggle to audio-option number 1 on your remote and enjoy the magic carpet ride. Hey, isn’t that the reason *why* we watch movies like The Lion King?

After having shell-shocked all the tube-loving audiophiles with my description of the multi-channel surround and convinced them that this mix is exactly what they *don’t* want to hear, let me round it out a little... The EFHT mix also excels on the refined-side of sound quality. Vocals and musical tones are clear and realistic. The midrange is smooth though a tad bright (the recording, not the mix) and highs are open and airy. The unrestrained dynamics present a very “live” presence to the sound at times which is especially involving with the musical sequences...it feels almost like you’re listening to the undoctored session recordings before all the usual adjustments with compression and equalization are applied. And yes, there is a lot of activity coming from the rear channels, and at first I found it a bit distracting (hey, you can always turn down those rear speakers if you want to...this is your world...happy trees). But I soon realized that my initial knee-jerk reaction was really a based on how *different* this mix is from the normal 5.1 entrée, and *not* that the mix was derived out of a gimmicky use of 5 channels intended to impress novice listeners by dizzying them into subjection. On the contrary, the mix is carefully crafted with a great deal of integrity, and once you “settle in” to it and become a part of the new experience of 5.1 immersion, you’ll find yourself seduced and with good reason—this is the way more DVDs should sound. Posted Image

I’ll venture to say (flame suite on) that many of the things we often praise about DTS tracks are characteristics present in this EFHT mix. The only thing that I think (think=opinion, BTW) DTS can do better is provide that slightly improved sense of tonal realism and help define a soundstage with better image depth that helps the speakers to disappear. More on that in my “compare to LD audio” section.

Theatrical 5.1 DD mix:

The Theatrical mix (sounding several db lower in volume compared to the EFHT mix...dialog normalization?) is also stellar and takes the more traditional approach. Here we have a more front-heavy mix with surrounds used to accent the occasional “surround effect” or provide some ambient fill for atmosphere. All in all it’s quite a nice mix and well presented here. Had it been the only English 5.1 option, rest assured we’d all be singing its praises—with perhaps the minor caveat that it sounds a tad thin in the midrange at times (but overall a very nicely balanced sound). Yawn.

Laserdisc (PCM/AC-3) / DVD Audio Comparison:

Given how generally awful (just being honest here) the 5.1 AC-3 on the laserdisc sounded--which I assumed was mastered from the “theatrical” mix when that project was produced, I was very curious to discover just how the theatrical mix option would sound on this DVD in comparison. I did some careful back-forth comparison between the LD and the DVD on this soundtrack and here’s what I discovered: The mix sounds the same in terms of the composition of the sounds in each channel to my ears, and the recording level seems very close between the LD AC-3 and DVD 5.1 theatrical mix as well. However, the DVD audio is *clearly* superior in that it conveys a much purer sense of musical texture and atmosphere and seems more “colorful” with better tonal quality. The LD sounds “dead” and “thin” next to it. Bass also seems a bit more extended on the theatrical mix on the DVD than on the LD AC-3 soundtrack. Obviously, given all this, the LD AC-3 doesn’t hold a candle to the EFHT DVD mix.

But the *real* question I wanted to answer was the one that you audiophiles out there clutching your 12” platter are probably wondering too: “How does the PCM on the laserdisc compare to the audio on the new DVD...both the theatrical mix *and* the EFHT mix. Even if the new EFHT “mix” is all that we hope it can be...will the PCM on the laserdisc still sound “better” in terms of audio *quality* due to the lack of Dolby Digital compression?” Ok so maybe you didn’t ask yourself that question. So who’s making you read this anyway? Well assuming that you’re at least interested in the answer I’ll proceed. Posted Image

The PCM on the laserdisc does some things oh-so-right, although it’s not perfect. Firstly, it presents tones and musical textures that are richer and more colorful (realistic) than any of the Dolby Digital compressed soundtracks IMO. Don’t get discouraged...this is nothing new...almost all PCM soundtracks on laserdisc sound better than the 5.1 on DD (and LD) in this regard. What really impressed me was the way that low-level acoustic detail seems so much more real on the PCM audio and it gives the sound good image depth. Sounds appear “rounder”...voices on the DD soundtracks (even on the new EFHT) sound a little “flat” in comparison. There’s much more acoustic decay around sounds as well making them sound like they are in a “space” that seems slightly lacking on the DD soundtracks. Dare I say (tightening the collar of my suite) that the PCM sounds “DTSish” in these regards. Now, I’ll concede that one can’t draw hard and fast conclusions from these differences because, after all, we’re talking about a different mix entirely (and one that is being processed for ProLogic playback). However, the general greater “realism” and sense of image depth and roundness (even when played back without ProLogic processing) is one that is consistent with most DD-PCM comparisons I’ve made which leads me to suspect, with my flame-suite fitted desert fashion, that I’m hearing some of the subtle detail that gets lost in the 10:1 data-reduction to DD on DVD.

But that 2.0 PCM track isn’t perfect! Oh no...it’s got some uglies, one of which a rather restricted dynamic range that’s made very apparent after experiencing the EFHT mix. Also when musical passages get complex the PCM ProLogic soundtrack seems to get a little muddy/congested which is something that the 5.1 DD tracks on the DVD *never* do. And when there is dialog that most likely (judging from the discrete 5.1 mixes) is intended to stay “locked” in the center channel, there’s a bit of channel-bleed to other speakers that I found distracting at times. These are things I never really noticed at all with the PCM track—which I’ve listened to dozens of times—until I had a chance to experience the very nicely rendered 5.1 mixes on the DVD (I could never listen to the AC-3 on the LD for more than a few minutes before I had to switch to the PCM to save myself!).

So where does this leave me? Well, the real answer is for the home-theater gods to grant us a transparent multi-channel audio codec for our future HD-DVD format so we can buy the Lion King all over again in 1080 24P and live in AV bliss for all eternity. Posted Image But coming back to earth now, the final audio prize falls to two of the audio options: the EFHT 5.1 DD mix on the DVD and the 2.0 PCM on the LD and overall, if I had to live with just one (drum-roll pum pum pum pum...), I’d choose the EFHT mix.

Audio Wrap-up:

WOW. That Enhanced for Home Theater mix really shakes that sub and offers a refined sense of fidelity all in one fell-swoop. It does so many things amazingly right and sounds absolutely fantastic on all counts that in my humble opinion it sets a new standard for home-theater multi-channel mixes everywhere. I hope (ok I’m ASKING) Disney chooses to provide such a mix for ALL their future high-profile titles (EFHT for Aladdin...PLEEAASE!!!) If you’ve been waiting for the right time to finally get a matched center channel, get a 5.1 receiver or upgrade to a new subwoofer...folks...justification is just a few days away...

Sound: 5/ 5
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Special Features...


Lots.

Disc 1:

Commentary (theatrical version only) with Producer Don Hahn and Directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers is fun, informative, fast-paced, and comprehensive. Not sure if this is the same commentary on the CAV LD but will I suspect that it is (will confirm later).

Disc one has a host of other extras too. First on my list were the deleted scenes of which there are 3. These are story-boarded (some with still-frame and audio) but are nice to see and I personally think the movie is best in its final form. You’ve got your choice between the theatrical and the new SE version with the “morning report” song if you consider this a special feature (having both options...I certainly do). BTW, just pressing "play" will start the SE version...you'll have to select "setup" from the main menu to root-out the theatrical cut option (would have preferred a prompt splash screen that asks me which version I'd like to view after pressing "play"...ala the WS/PS selection on Sleeping Beauty). There is a nice 4x3 documentary (all the extras are 4x3, in case you’re wondering) about the making of the morning report.

We’ve got a *really* cheesy bran-new “Circle of Life” music video performed by a bunch of adolescent-star pop singers which I couldn’t bring myself to watch all the way through (but I’m sure someone out there will love it). It’s recorded in 5.1 DD but as with many “music oriented” 5.1 mixes the center channel is hardly used and the lead vocals are mixed left/right to compensate for folks with crappy center channels that aren’t timbre-matched to their front L/R mains. Audio engineers...please don’t do this...use that center channel...the consumers who care about sound quality will get a good one. But I digress...Oh, and there’s a “making of” *about* the new music video which you can watch at your own risk. There’s a sing-along track which purportedly displays song-lyrics during the film (didn’t try it) and we’ve got some games that will honestly entertain young children. Hey...they’re gonna make you play this disc over and over anyway...might as well give’em a couple of games to enjoy...

Disc 2:

Extras on the second disc are too numerous to mention individually, so let me suffice by saying for the most part there is a large collection of documentary shorts that are categorized by “country” or by topic...like “Music” or “The film” or “The Story” etc. I watched a good number of these documentaries and I found them very interesting...however I will say that the self-praise by the artistic team starts to get old after about the tenth documentary where you hear “And we never knew it would be such a success...everyone thought Pocahontas was going to be the big blockbuster...but when you get a film like this that has such magic...” Not that I disagree with them because I *do* feel the movie is all this and more...but you may want to visit the entirety of these documentaries over the course of a week so you don’t get “The Lion King is magical” overloaded in any one day.

In addition to the documentaries, there are other extras like “Virtual Safari”, Multilanguage reels, galleries, character design studies and more. Please don’t let my brevity here fool you (did I say someone say “brevity...is he kidding?! I had to get reading glasses to finish this!”??), extras abound and when I get more time I’ll update my review with some more detail. Disc two is FULL of goodies to keep you pressing your remote arrow keys for hours.

Laserdisc / DVD Extras Comparison:

Contributed by RAPHAEL on Oct 6, 2003:

Quote:
As I promised DaViD, Here's my comparison between the Laserdisc Box Set and the Special Edition DVD (it's kinda long):
Lion King DVD vs. Special Edition Laserdisc

First things first, the Commentary has been ported over from the laserdisc. I sampled, for approximately four minutes, two various scenes and the dialogue didn’t vary one bit.

“The Making of The Lion King” Special hosted by Robert Guillame
A very insightful 25-minute featurette that, if I recall correctly had been broadcast on network television and the Disney Channel, provides some fun behind the scenes information and interviews. This was famously re-edited for the laserdisc as there was interview footage of Jeffrey Katzenberg on the broadcast version but was replaced with Roy Disney snippets due to the fallout (although there is footage of him elsewhere in the feature).

The rest of the special features include:
A presentation reel that highlights some very nice concept art made for “King of the Jungle” (as it was known in preproduction).
Another presentation reel used at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1991
Some texts detailing the animal research the animators studied and text descriptions of early treatments and characters (Nala had a little brother and was friends with a bat-eared fox?). This is followed with some concept art detailing what was described.
The next areas contain sequence breakdowns and have video introductions by the directors and contain various storyboard pitches, describing the following scene of The Reflecting Pool/Mufasa’s Ghost

Then we have Storyboard Sequences featuring the storyboards for the following scenes:
Circle of Life
I Just Can’t Wait To Be King
The Stampede/Mufasa’s Death
The Reflecting Pool/Mufasa’s Ghost
The Fight

Next up is a storyboard to film comparison of the Circle of Life scene

Interviews with producer Don Hahn, Tim Rice, Elton John, directors Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff, and Hans Zimmer talking about the music (some really good insightful stuff here).

Then we have character designs for Mufasa, Simba, Scar, Rafiki, Timon and Pumbaa, Zazu, the hyenas, Nala, Sarabi, and miscellaneous other characters. These also contain interviews with the supervising animator of each character up to the Hyenas, and then we’re treated to many illustrations.

But wait, there’s more!
We have preliminary designs and concepts, early video concepts (by which I mean storyboards or rough animation with temporary dialogue used for timing) of:
Simba’s presentation
Timon and Pumbaa Finding Simba
“Warthog Rhapsody” with an intro by lyricist Tim Rice
“Hakuna Matata”- Timon’s verse (included on DVD)
Bug Football (Included on DVD)
Be Prepared (reprise)
“Can You Feel The Love Tonight” (Included on DVD) with an intro by lyricist Tim Rice
Simba Decides to Return
The fight (an interesting alternate ending where Scar is victorious but is consumed by flames)

A discussion with Art Director Andy Gaskill about the art design, layouts, and backgrounds followed with more drawings and artwork detailing different scenes in the film

We then follow with several examples of segments from a work-in-progress rough cut dated from 11/93 with commentary by Artistic Coordinator Randy Fullmer or you can listen to dialogue and effects without music. The scenes are:
The Hyena chase
The Stampede
The Reflecting Pool

This is followed by explanation of computer animation and effects animation and a discussion with CG Supervisor Scott Johnston talking about the wildebeast stampede
And we get more examples of using computers in animation.

Finally the set is rounded out with publicity posters, a multi-language version of “Hakuna Matata”(I think this was one of the first instances of this kind of thing), The first theatrical trailer, which was the entire “Circle of Life” number (which also gives you a multi-language option), and the second trailer.

DVD Extras

On Disc 1

The first two deleted scenes have a new explanatory into by Don Hahn, producer, while the third scene has the same intro with Tim Rice and Elton John from the laserdisc.
As I stated before, the commentary is the same as the laser commentary.

On Disc 2

“There is more to be seen than has ever been seen” is what the introduction to the disc menu states. Let’s take a look to see how much more there is than the laserdisc.

The Story (12 min. total) contains new interviews with the creators and is similar to the same area of the featurette on the laserdisc.

The Film (17 min. total) is slightly more in depth than what we have on the laserdisc, incorporating the new interviews with some original behind the scenes footage from the making of.
The Production and Character Design sections contain the same animator interviews as the laserdisc, as does the Computer animation section. The Film Character Design Galleries contain most, if not all, the character conceptual designs as the laserdisc.

Stage (16 min. total)- this is all new material since the laserdisc set preceded the stage show by 3-4 years.

Music (25 min. total) contains music demo material that the laserdisc has incorporated with more new interviews basically saying the same things although it appears that the DVD goes slightly more in depth with this aspect of the production.

Reflections:

While the DVD has some really good, more recent, information, it really doesn’t go into the details that the Laserdisc Box Set does in terms of deleted scenes, abandoned concepts, and publicity materials. I’d definitely recommend the DVD to anyone who asks, but I’d also recommend that, if you already have the Laserdisc Box Set, to keep it in your grasp.

Whew.


In Closing...


The Lion King is one of those wonderful films that anyone can enjoy no matter what age, race, or cultural background. A truly spiritual story touches your heart without preaching at you or drowning in its own self-consciousness. Talented actors combine to deliver both depth and delight all in one ninety minute ride colored with a reference picture and scored with a reference 5.1 soundtrack. What else is there to say?


TOTALLY RECOMMENDED




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#2 of 344 OFFLINE   Dave H

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Posted September 26 2003 - 11:19 AM

Now, that's what I call a review! Very nice job - I wish more reviewers would discuss video and audio quality details as you did. (Although I disagree with you about DTS making it sound any better Posted Image)

#3 of 344 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted September 26 2003 - 11:19 AM

Great review, David. Thanks for taking the time to go into such detail via the comparisons to the LD.

This sounds like a winner all the way.
"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"

 


#4 of 344 OFFLINE   Xenia Stathakopoulou

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Posted September 26 2003 - 11:30 AM

Wow David ! This review is even better than your Chicago dvd review ! How do you manage to top yourself each time a major hit movie comes to dvd ? Posted Image Also 1 question directed to anybody that knows, my cheap cyberhome 300 player decodes dts sound, so will it be able to play the enhanced disney home theatre sound ?
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#5 of 344 OFFLINE   Larry Sutliff

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Posted September 26 2003 - 11:41 AM

Super review, David! Your best yet!

I also remember how the laserdisc was considered "state of the art" when it was released. I would pop that disc in the player, fire up my 32" Pro-Scan and say "High Definition?Pffft! Who needs it? It can't get any better than this!".

Wow, how things have changed indeed. I can't wait to get my hands on this DVD!

#6 of 344 OFFLINE   Felix Martinez

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Posted September 26 2003 - 11:51 AM

Review: 6 out of 5!!

Looking forward to this title!

Cheers,

#7 of 344 OFFLINE   ChrisMatson

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Posted September 26 2003 - 11:54 AM

Great review that has me even more excited! Now I don't if I should get the Collector's Gift Set or the plain 2-Disc set...

#8 of 344 OFFLINE   Kami

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Posted September 26 2003 - 12:12 PM

Very enthusiastic! And a fun read to boot...nice review. I had already planned on picking it up, this just gets me more excited!

#9 of 344 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted September 26 2003 - 12:25 PM

Quote:
Also 1 question directed to anybody that knows, my cheap cyberhome 300 player decodes dts sound, so will it be able to play the enhanced disney home theatre sound?

Hey Tony thanks for the kind words!

To answer your question, any system capable of 5.1 dolby digital decoding is compatible with the "enhanced for home theater" mix.

The only thing to worry about is playing it in 2.0 down-mix mode to feed the speakers on your TV set...you just might blow those woofer cones... Posted Image
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#10 of 344 OFFLINE   JakeLip

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Posted September 26 2003 - 12:33 PM

Thanks for the review David! A couple of comments.

It's a real shame to hear that the extras are fluffy, and I still don't know why they didn't bother to port over the 1994 doc, which I know was on the laserdisc. But ah well - what is there sounds decent enough, even if this isn't the end-all miracle set I was hoping for. Also, it's a shame to hear you confirm that the IMAX edits are present in the quote-quote "theatrical version" -- I saw this presented on IMAX (awesome, let me tell you), and no, nothing caught me off guard, but still, I'dve liked the honest-to-God theatrical version, especially if they say it's going to be that.

Still, this baby is going to be mine. Or, more precisely, it will be mine as a part of the Collector's DVD Gift Set. Posted Image

Also a shame that I don't have a full 5.1 setup so I can't fully enjoy the DEHT mix. In response to your question in the review, the DEHT soundtrack is being presented in DTS on the Region 2 version. If you've got a multiregion player, I'd love a comparison, even though I can't appriciate the DEHT mix yet. You will be pleased to know that in a feature I recently read about TLK on another website it mentioned that Terry Porter had expressed intrest in doing a DEHT mix for Aladdin, too.

I completely agree with you regarding The Morning Report. I understand that a Broadway musical cannot be done with just five songs and that the morning report sequence was one of several natural choices of sequences to "flesh out" for the musical with a song. I've also heard the Broadway cast recording numerous times (and will be seeing the musical in March, finally!) I think the song really works well in that context, much beetter than dialogue would on stage. I actulally really do like the song and find it very humerous. But there's absolutely no need for it in the feature film, since the dialog is not broken and works very well there with many funny lines, and the point of the scene is served well with the original version.

Also, having seen the song animated when it leaked online a few months back, I think that the replacement vocalists for Young Simba and Zazu don't sound like the original actors and will likely throw off aa lot of people. I'd like to find someone who hasn't seen the movie before and show them the special edition cut without their knowlege of what was added and ask them if they can pinpoint the new number. Mom did this with Beauty and the Beast, and she couldn't tell, but with Lion King I'm betting most people would pinpoint Morning Report as being the addition almost immidately.

On that note, if you wouldn't mind answering a quick question. When I get the DVD and put it in my player and load the menu and all that, if I just press play on the main menu, what will happen? On the Beauty and the Beast DVD (which has three cuts of the film) if I do that it automatically defaults to the special edition. Since with Beauty and the Beast I prefer the special edition, it doesn't really matter to me there, but I still wish they had had a second menu that pops up upon pressing play asking to select a version (kind of like selecting WS or P&S for Sleeping Beauty) instead of me having to go to the setup menu and pick. Is this done on The Lion King? If not, which cut does it default to? I'm hoping you'll say it defaults to the theatrical version but I have an awful lurking suspicion that it's the other way around -- be honest! Which one is it?

Oh, yeah, one more question. Don Hahn said a while back that the audio commentary would be ported over from the laserdisc, but one of the other reviews I read mentioned something about the perticipants discussing the IMAX release, which obviously would not hsve been discussed on the 1995 track. Can you clear this up please? Is this new, or old, or a editing together of both? The fact that it's only available on the "theatrical cut" makes me think it's a port (as opposed to the Beauty and the Beast commentary track, which was new and only available via the special edition cut of that movie.) But all the same, could you confirm or deny this? Thanks!

Thanks for the answers in advance and thanks for the review!
 

 


#11 of 344 OFFLINE   Xenia Stathakopoulou

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Posted September 26 2003 - 12:33 PM

Thanks David, i wont put the volume up all the way then, lol !Posted Image
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#12 of 344 OFFLINE   Steve K.H.

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Posted September 26 2003 - 12:52 PM

Dammit David... I can't ignore the "underlying" message that this "might" be a good film to buy... you're costing me way too much money... Posted Image

"6 out of 5"... is it me or is that destined to be a classic line?Posted Image

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#13 of 344 OFFLINE   Jonathan Dagmar

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Posted September 26 2003 - 01:38 PM

I don't have a problem with Disney opening up the framing, I trust your opinion that it really does look better, since you are so adament about it. I do wish however that thy had chosen 1.78:1 rather than 1.66:1.

#14 of 344 OFFLINE   Adam_S

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Posted September 26 2003 - 01:46 PM

Sleeping Beauty, very Highly recommended
Holes, Highly Recommended
Lion King, Totally REcommended

Either Disney needs to begin releasing more subpar product or David needs more adjectives! Otherwise what'll he do when he gets to Finding Nemo and the Disney Treasures later this year!!! Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

OF course I'm delighted that There is so much hgih quality procduct coming forth from the mouse house, they do represent the vast majority of all my DVD purchases (it seems lately it's been just Disney and Warner on an alternating basis!

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#15 of 344 OFFLINE   JakeLip

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Posted September 26 2003 - 02:41 PM

"I do wish however that thy had chosen 1.78:1 rather than 1.66:1." - Jonathan Dagmar

FYI Jonathan: In recent years Disney has been using the CAPS system for animated production and it creates all of their animation for the 1.66:1 ratio (with the exception of the 2.35:1 Atlantis and Brother Bear.) It is then cropped in theaters to 1.85:1 and to 1.33:1 for video release. It is my understanding that the laserdisc of The Lion King is also 1.85:1, but that too is a cropped version. 1.66:1 is the proper aspect ratio for The Lion King, so it really is the only way it should be presented on DVD, and if I'm not mistaken the DVD will be the first time it has ever been made available to the public its proper ratio. Compared to what Disney did with Beauty and the Beast last year (which was cropped to 1.85:1 on DVD per the request of the directors, although previously available in 1.66:1 on laserdisc), I'm pleasntly suprised that it is 1.66:1. Good work Disney.
 

 


#16 of 344 OFFLINE   Bill>Moore

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Posted September 26 2003 - 02:48 PM

Wow! Great review! I was planning on picking this one up, but now I'm even more excited to get it ASAP!! Posted Image

#17 of 344 OFFLINE   Jonathan Dagmar

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Posted September 26 2003 - 03:42 PM

I don't doubt what you are saying Jake, it's just that I don't necessarilly agree. There is hardly any difference between 1.78 and 1.66, and so for DVD I think 1.78:1 would be better. Also, I would tend towards considering 1.85:1 being the Lion King's OAR considering that that was the way it was shown in theatres, regardless of what system Disney used to create the film.

#18 of 344 OFFLINE   Greg*go

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Posted September 26 2003 - 03:44 PM

Why did I read this thread 11 days before the movie is released? Looks like I'll be bouncing off the walls til then now... THANKS A LOT DAVE! Posted Image
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#19 of 344 OFFLINE   Tony-B

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Posted September 26 2003 - 04:33 PM

GREAT review Dave! That was one of the best reviews that I have read! Posted Image

Imagine what Jeff Kleist would be saying right now if he didn't get banned... Posted Image
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#20 of 344 OFFLINE   Joshua Clinard

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Posted September 26 2003 - 04:50 PM

Oh My Gosh! I can't wait! I was already going to pick it up, but wow, now I'm just so excited! I agree with David. It was presented in it's proper OAR. I don't want any overscan whatsoever, and putting it in 1.77:1 would result in cropping.

Jeff Kliest got banned? You are kidding me, right? He's a staple of this forum. I'm sad to see him go. (I won't ask why he got banned, in case it's a forbidden subject.)