PictureOk so the movie itself does not quite live up to the standard set by the original, that probably comes as no great surprise; but what about the image - does that fair any better? Actually, yes - it does. I saw no picture noise to speak of and colours are well saturated with the image looking detailed and sharp. If I had to nit pick I would say that I did notice a little edge enhancement, but I never found this distracting, whilst the actual animation looks at times a little too two dimensional and “samey”, for want of a better description.
Again, if I were to make a comparison with the original Lion King release, something I obviously cannot resist doing, then this latest offering loses out once more to its big budget cousin. The texturing and overall attention to detail is just a little lacking here, but it is by no means poor and for a straight to video release I think The Lion King 11/2 is probably about as good as it gets.
SoundWith Dolby Digital 5.1 448Kbps and DTS 768Kbps audio tracks one could be forgiven for thinking that Disney are doing their best to make The Lion King 11/2 as attractive a purchase as possible. Is there merit to such auditory extravagance? I did my best to compare the two formats, but was hindered slightly because of a further French Dolby Digital 5.1 384Kbps track that made switching between the two English versions a little cumbersome. Ultimately I thought the English Dolby track sounded a touch more cohesive than its DTS counterpart, with bass extension adding a little more weight at times. Which reminds me - as the final credits roll and after the “Dig A Tunnel” song ends switch to the French track and you'll hear “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” instead of Raven's “Grazing In The Grass”. Audio quality is as good as would be expected given the THX Certified seal of approval, and both formats do a commendable job of immersing the viewer into that filmic experience. Having said that it does flatter to deceive somewhat, this movie is very music oriented and there isn't a great deal of subtlety to the sound track. This brings me to another point - the front cover pronounces, “Featuring Original Cast - Music By Elton John & Tim Rice”. Indeed the voice talents of Nathan Lane (Timon), Ernie Sabella (Pumbaa), Whoopi Goldberg (Shenzi) and Mathew Broderick (Simba) are once again utilised. However, the input from Sirs John and Rice may not be quite so obvious and I wasn't sure until I watched the extra features whether there was anything new here by the famous duo.
ExtrasAs well as the movie disc one includes a couple of extras, namely a Hidden Mickey Hunt and some Deleted Scenes. The Hidden Mickey Hunt is an interactive game requiring you to hit the enter button on your remote every time you see a Mickey icon on screen. In all there are twenty to find, but what happens when you find them all? I won't spoil the surprise for you........(OK you got me, I didn't find them all!) Definitely one for the kids.
Next up are some early concept scenes which were not included in the movie, but for posterity's sake have been included here in unfinished storyboard fashion this section is hosted by the main characters from the movie Timon and Pumbaa............please forgive me, I do of course mean Producer George Mendoza and Director Bradley Raymond - I'm sure you'll understand my mistake when you watch this feature. There are some nice insights here into why some scenes were considered necessary, whilst others hindered the storytelling process and were deleted.
Disc 2 includes three featurettes beginning with Timon: Behind The Legend hosted by Peter Graves. Even the inclusion of the Mission Impossible TV star cannot drag this four minute piece from the depths of mediocrity, although I'm sure the kids will enjoy seeing a little more of Timon. Before The Beginning: The Making Of The Lion King 11/2 comes next and as soon as I heard the line, “We had to hit the incredible standards of the traditional Disney elegance” I feared the worst, but I quickly changed my mind and once I'd watched the whole featurette I found myself having a slightly fonder memory of the actual movie! Seeing the voice cast enjoying themselves as they reminisce about how the effluence emitting gags made their way into the film is the highlight of the extras for me. Again at just fifteen minutes it's simply way too short. Rounding off the featurettes side of things is a “Grazing In The Grass” music video performed by Raven and I feel I should make special mention of this - the way this has been mixed sounds fantastic and all your speakers will get a true workout, especially rears and subwoofer. It certainly woke me up!
Finally there are some Games & Activities of an interactive kind - Timon & Pumbaa's Virtual Safari 1.5, Who Wants To Be King Of The Jungle? and Find The Face will keep the kids amused for ages.
VerdictWhen I finished watching The Lion King 11/2 I felt a little disappointed - it simply does not live up to the all round excellence of the original which was enjoyed by young and old alike. This time round the movie, and indeed the whole DVD package, seems to be aimed pretty squarely at the younger set - with just enough adult humour to keep parents and older children at heart ticking along. If nose picking and breaking wind gags is your thing then you may find this release an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a quarter of your time. If you go into this hoping for adult entertainment and more of the magic from the original movie I think you may well be disappointed.
My biggest bugbear by far, though, is the fact that Monsieurs Timon and Pumbaa have a far better home cinema setup than I do, but now I know how the other half live, not for much longer. Hakuna Matata, my friend.
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