The Lion King (Blu-ray)
With the successes of THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY & THE BEAST and ALADDIN, audiences were excited to see what Disney Studios had in store next. Little did we know that among the expected coming of age moment, love connection and adorable yet quirky side kicks, Disney’s 1994 animated feature included tragedy, betrayal, death and an array of fart jokes. Clearly, THE LION KING was not your typical animated fairy tale.
From it’s powerful opening African lyrics and musical score, THE LION KING draws you into the story. Simba has been born and all the animals join together to hail their king at Pride Rock. His father Mufasa (James Earl Jones) takes great care in preparing the young cub for his future reign. Simba often brags to his Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) about his pre-king status. Annoyed that he has been overlooked, Scar concocts an evil plan that results in his brother’s death. Sadly, he somehow convinces Simba that it was his fault and encourages him to leave Pride Rock.
He finds friendship in wise-cracking meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane) and gas-passing warthog Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) who teach him to embrace a no nonsense lifestyle. As the years pass, adult Simba (Matthew Broderick) begins to feel that there is more to life than eating grub worms and sun bathing all day long. It isn’t until his childhood friend Nala (Moira Kelly) accidentally picks a fight with him in the jungle that his motives are put into check. She convinces him to return to Pride Rock, fight his Uncle Scar and reclaim his rightful place as King.
I think the film was perfectly cast. Broderick and Kelly have a tenderness in their voices that make you want to protect Simba and Nala. Lane and Sabella steal the show with their wacky sound affects and no holds barred commitment to Timon and Pumbaa’s back-and-forth dialog. Jones commands the screen each time Mufasa speaks or growls. But I have to say that Irons’ slick, controlled cadence absolutely empowers Scar and brings the character to life with true conviction.
Not only was the film beautifully animated, but the music behind the picture was phenomenal. I concur that Elton John and Tim Rice are brilliant musicians, but I feel the true glory goes to Hans Zimmer who added an African vibe to their music. It’s powerful, soulful and full of rich emotion. It ultimately completes the story.
Even with the comedic relief of Timon and Pumbaa, the story dives into some pretty dark realities. A tragic death and a vicious lion surrounded by a band of scary hyenas does not sound like the recipe for a touchy, feel good Disney flick. But it works. I absolutely love this story. What I love is that there is so much humanity behind these animals. The script, the music and the visual impact of the drawings all bring out an emotion in these characters that resonates through the television. It’s about understanding how to deal with disappointment and betrayal. It’s about figuring out who you are and holding on to that truth. It’s about learning to be strong and dedicated when it comes to your responsibilities. It’s about the circle of life.
To this day, THE LION KING is the number one hand drawn animated movie of all time.
Video: 1080p High Definition, The animation on THE LION KING is truly remarkable. Especially in the opening with the animals gathering at Pride Rock, as well as the stampede scene. The picture was crisp and clear and extremely vibrant.
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, I thought the audio was phenomenal. Hans Zimmer is a genius and did a remarkable job with the score. The laughing hyenas were simultaneously funny and creepy. James Earl Jones and Jeremy Irons sound ultra smooth and debonaire.
Bloopers & Outtakes (3:44): I love the fact that THE LION KING animators took three minutes and 44 seconds to poke fun at themselves. In this feature, the actual actors voicing the show were making mistakes in the sound booth. The animators decided to draw the mistakes as outtakes. We see Mufasa practicing his lower register with some growling exercises, Timon asking the “camera” to cut because of uncontrollable laughter and Simba having trouble saying Hakuna Matata. It was brilliant.
Pride of the Lion King (38.06): This was a behind the scenes feature on the making of THE LION KING commentated by the directors, producer, animators and actors. There were several things that I found interesting, including:
– No one thought THE LION KING would do well because all the “good” animators were working on POCAHONTAS.
– There was temptation to look at drawings from the JUNGLE BOOK but that was forbidden.
– Rafiki was originally a cheetah.
– Adult Simba’s mane was drawn to resemble Jon Bon Jovi’s hair in the 80s.
– Most of Nathan Lane’s lines were improvisations.
– ABBA was the first choice over Elton John.
– The opening chant singer was a man named Lebo M. who was from Africa. He did the entire song in one take.
– No one thought THE LION KING could believably be made into a Broadway show.
The Lion King: A Memoir by Don Hahn (19:40): This feature was actually original home videos from producer Don Hahn during the early 90s. It had footage from their Africa trip, big huge cats in the animation room and we discover that Elton John wrote “The Circle of Life” in one afternoon.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (14:33): Zazu Flatters Mufasa, King of the Wild, Scar Wants Nala as His Queen, Simba and Nala Reunited, Zazu Flatters Scar: None of these deleted scenes really stood out to me, other than Scar wanting Nala as his queen. This one made me pause because it’s actually a scene in the Broadway show.