PictureThe long wait for The Lion King's debut on DVD has certainly been worth it, because what we have here is almost reference quality visuals. The video transfer - in anamorphic widescreen 1.66:1 and THX approved - is as crisp and clean as can be, with lines sharp and solid. The large swathes of open blue sky remain free of artefacts or noise, and there's not a scratch in sight.
Colours in particular shine through and show the strengths of this transfer. Containing a wide array of tones - from the primary colours of the Pride Lands, to the dankness of the Elephant Graveyard, to the lushness of the forest where Timon and Pumbaa live, everything is rendered cleanly and with a suitable richness. Blacks contain a good level of detail, too, and again flaws in the transfer are pleasingly absent.
This is reference quality video, and certainly worthy of presentation under the THX banner.
SoundIn keeping with the Region 1 edition of The Lion King, Disney have done a remarkable job of overhauling the sound to give us an all new Enhanced Home Theatre mix, and on the Region 2 version we are treated to this in full DTS 5.1 sound (Region 1 enthusiasts, eat your heart out). The last time I listened to this movie was when I owned the original NTSC laserdisc; back then I thought that whilst good, the Dolby Digital soundtrack was surprisingly bettered by the Pro-Logic mix. So how does our new DTS mix sound?
In a word, great. The movie opens with a sweeping song, accompanied by much ambient noise of elephants stomping, flocks of birds flying, and a waterfall crashing amongst other things. The soundtrack conveys a real openness, with the surrounds effortlessly wrapping the viewer up into the experience. The vocals are crystal clear, with sonic depth and a wonderful clarity, and the tune itself is rounded off with a thunderous deep-bass crash as the words “The Lion King” thunder onto the screen.
This first scene sets the standard for the rest of the movie, and I'm happy to say things continue in this vein. Steering across the front soundstage is excellent, with good use made of the centre channel - dialogue is always clear, and where suitable it's deep and layered. The rears, too are made much more prominent in this enhanced mix, with good spot-effects and particularly during the songs where they serve to envelope the viewer.
Bass is rich and deep, though perhaps not as forward as some more recent movies; the stampede scene commences with a superb low bass rumble, though I must admit I was expecting this tone to continue throughout the scene. Overall though, we have a solid LFE presentation that does what it needs to do.
Overall this is a competent and pleasing sound presentation. Disney have done an excellent job updating this in line with the soundtracks that we know and love today. And to get it out of the way, doing an A - B comparison between this and the Region 1 edition reveals little in the way of differences between Dolby Digital and DTS. There may be some minor ones, but the only way you'd be able to tell is to switch soundtracks on the fly: in short with either Dolby or DTS, you can expect an audio treat.
ExtrasDisney have really gone to town here, with a wealth of extras which will likely take you hours to get through. Suffice the say, there's plenty of content here for the kids, with Timon and Pumbaa's Interactive Safari being the main highlight (though annoyingly whilst Pumbaa sounds like it's the original voice actor, Timon does not). There are numerous other things to delight the kids on here, but the main highlight for DVD collectors will be the selection of featurettes which cover everything from the initial concepts, storyboarding, music composition, and ending up with a look at the transition from the screen to the stage show. It's all interesting stuff (thankfully little in the way of PR pieces), and I'd particularly recommend the music sections, which - especially if you enjoy the music in the movie - is unmissable.
Also of note is the Director and Producer's commentary which - refreshingly for a commentary - is funny and entertaining, as well as being informative. Well worth a look.
Overall there is plenty here to keep the kids occupied, and a wealth of interesting featurettes for the adults. Good work, Disney.
VerdictWhat can one say that hasn't already been said? An excellent animated adventure that's up there with the best, given superlative DVD treatment for the first time. Buy it.
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