‘The Lion King’ leaps on to American Region free Blu-ray with a superb 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image is of a quality we’ve come to expect from Disney. It’s pristine, colourful and detailed. There’s not a speck of dirt to be seen. The colours are rich and strong. Detail is so good that you could almost imagine the hand of the Cel animator drawing the pin sharp lines. For a 2D movie, it has real depth to the image. It’s a real treat for the eyes, whether shown on a 50 inch Plasma panel or projected on a 7 foot screen.
The High Def transfer doesn’t make the early CGI used amid the mostly hand drawn animation stand out like a sore thumb. It all looks wonderful. We’ll be seeing this in Demos throughout the land, very soon.
The audio on ‘The Lion King’ comes in a very well balanced DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround track which faithfully reproduces the intention of the original mix. All effects are very well steered and placed in the soundstage, with dialogue being particularly clear. The musical numbers come alive with great clarity too and set your toes tapping. Thankfully, the dubbing mixer didn’t attempt to make the bass kick you in the forehead. Instead, we have a mix that’s pleasant to listen to but with enough oomph to convey the heavy footfall of an Elephant or the thunder of a stampede effectively. This is a mix with excellent dynamics, ensuring that quieter scenes are clearly audible and the loud ones don’t damage your ear drums. It does everything a good mix should.
The version of ‘The Lion King’ reviewed here is the 2D (not 3D) American Region free 2 disc Diamond Edition. Disc 1 is the Blu-ray while Disc 2 is the DVD of the movie.
Audio Commentary - Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff and Don Hahn go out of their way to describe the work behind the animation of ‘The Lion King’. We hear about the complexity of some shots and what it took to bring them to the screen. They also tell us about the voice casting which led to some script changes due to their style of delivery and ethnicity. It’s also amusing to discover some gags that didn’t quite make it to the final film. This is a very informative and mostly lively comm. track.
Disney’s Virtual Vault - Here’s a whole host of interesting little featurettes that have previously seen light of day on DVD. They’re integrated into a rinky dinky, little media player – so play quite small on screen. The titles are self explanatory but they’re fun to watch and include: The Making of The Morning Report (SD, 3 mins), Deleted scenes (SD, 6 mins), Musical Journey (SD, 25 mins), Stage Journey (SD, 18 mins), Storyboard Film Comparison (SD, 4 mins), Early concepts (SD, 11 mins)
I found the load times a bit frustrating and getting out of this feature took some head scratching.
Singalong Mode - Your chance to be the Karaoke star of the year with on screen lyrics for the musical numbers.
The Morning Report: Extended scene (HD, 2 mins) - This scene is made somewhat strange by the addition of music. It makes you glad they didn’t use it all in the end.
Interactive Blu-ray Gallery - Here we get a look at character designs, visual development, storyboards, backgrounds and layouts. We get some idea of what the film might have looked like, had certain tasteful creative decisions not been taken.
Pride of ‘The Lion King' (HD, 38 mins) - This is basically a reunion of the people who made the film. We hear of the internal politics and they talk about the first drafts which were very different to the final version. It’s full of fascinating behind the scenes information.
The Lion King: A Memoir: Don Hahn (HD, 20 mins) - As it says on the tin, this is a memoir where we again see the people involved but back in 1994. Another chance to look behind the scenes.
Deleted/Alternate scenes (HD, 14 mins) - Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff introduce a collection of 5 scenes that don’t quite work – including a Mufasa song and most disturbing of all, Scar discussing reproduction. Best left on the cutting room floor.
Bloopers and Out-takes (HD, 4 mins) - Some new (pretty rough) animation has been produced to match up with original fluffed voice tracks. They’re really fake bloopers but some are amusing while others seem quite desperate to get a laugh. Seems like a lot of effort for little reward.
Disney Second Screen - I’m a bit old fashioned. I like to watch a movie without distractions. Here we’re supposed to download an ‘App’ for Ipad or computer and watch the movie together with extra content like storyboards. I guess they figure that since we have two eyes...
Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ roars on to American Region free Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The pristine HD image quality is beautiful, with strong colours, excellent contrast and not a speck of dirt or dust to be seen.
The DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround track is wonderfully balanced, making the most of the musical numbers and surround effects equally. Dialogue is clear as a bell too.
A fascinating audio commentary from the production team and several featurettes are the highlights of the bonus material.
A fantastic piece of animation that tells the tale of Simba the lion cub who grows to adulthood, makes new friends, falls in love and finds out that his uncle isn’t such a nice guy after all.
One for every film collection.
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