Blu-ray
Must Own
5 stars
List Price
$49.99
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$47.04 (6%)
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Overall Grade
5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
5 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
3.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
2 Stars
Bottom Line
Must Own

The Lion King - 3D

Street Date:
October 4th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Nate Boss
Review Date: 1
September 22nd, 2011
Movie Release Year:
1994
Studio:
Disney/Buena Vista
Length:
88 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated G
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Borrowing elements from several notable works, (predominantly 'Hamlet'), 'The Lion King' remains one of Disney's most beloved animated films. The film was the winner of two Academy Awards (both for music) and three Golden Globes (two for music and one for Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical), and it even inspired a Tony Award winning Broadway musical.

In my opinion, 'The Lion King' is the best film Disney has ever made, live action or otherwise. It has everything a viewer could hope for. There's love and loss, betrayal and redemption, friendship, innocence, the clash of good and evil. The story is expertly paced, with the heavier, more emotional sequences always given the proper build up, while maintaining a tone that makes even the toughest of moments appropriate and accessible for all ages.

We all know the story of Simba, the African lion born to one day be king, his birth the must see event for the jungle. We all know that his path wasn't destined to be an easy one, as the greed and cunning of his evil uncle Scar costs the kingdom its very identity. As the hour and a half runtime whizzes by, it's an experience to once again relive the adventure along with the innocent young prince as he realizes his true place in life, accepts that he must abandon the carefree lifestyle he's adopted, and fulfill his destiny and end Scar's tyrannical reign.

After the reemergence of the studio from what was considered one of their dark periods, Disney released such modern classics as 'The Little Mermaid,' 'Aladdin,' and 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'The Lion King' would ultimately prove to be the studio's highpoint before again falling into another period of lackluster films.

A box office champion, 'The Lion King' remains the highest-grossing classically animated title in film history, and stands as the most recent Disney title to be released in the prestigious Diamond and Platinum lines.

This is a film in which there's nothing to complain about, not a single theme, scene, casting choice, or song seems out of place. Everything fits, be it for a first time viewer marveling at what is unfolding, or longtime fans who know every line, lyric, and beat by heart. This is the perfect family film, with colorful (literally and figuratively) nuanced characters, heroes you cheer for, villains that inspires audience-wide hissing. And did I mention the catchy music from Elton John and Hans Zimmer?

The voice casting is another triumph. Who better to play a wise, authoritative leader than James Earl Jones? Who else's booming voice could strike fear into the hearts of lions? When (beside 'Ferris Bueller') has Matthew Broderick ever been more accessible than as a young lion questioning his role in life? Can anyone top Nathan Lane as the shrill sidekick? What about Ernie Sabella as the boisterous, lovable brute of a warthog? Is Jeremy Irons the most deliciously evil voiced villain in Disney animated feature history? Throw in Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Cummings, and Moira Kelly for good measure, and you have a mix of modern Disney - heavy on celebrity, and vintage Disney - focused on the unique vocal talents, that brings characters to life in the most believable fashion.

I know, I know. I'm praising this film without leaving open the door for any complaints. To be fair, I really could go the rest of my days without hearing anyone criticize this epic feature. This is one of those times when a film is so great that it becomes fact rather than personal opinion. I'd trade in the last ten years of Disney releases to get another film of this caliber. It's hard to top perfection.

The Disc: Vital Stats

'The Lion King' comes to Blu-ray in a number of different releases, with a traditional 2D release, this 3D iteration, the Spanish dub that is quite popular, or a mega box set including the two sequels. Each and every disc found in this 3D four disc set is included in the three film pack, so readers, the choice is yours on what level of commitment you want to give to Disney's masterpiece.

The 3D disc in this release is a Region A/B/C BD50. The 2D disc shares these specifications. Both discs have their sets of pre-menu trailers and content, while both also feature the same video/audio looping menu that is simply classy and spectacular. The set also includes a DVD and Digital Copy disc, along with an advertisement for other Disney films coming soon to Blu-ray (titles not previously announced officially include 'The Lion King 1-1/2' and 'The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride' in 2012 as Blu-ray/DVD combo packs, 'The Lady and the Tramp' in Spring of 2012, and 'Cinderella' in Fall of 2012), as well as the Disney Movie Rewards code which doubles as the activation code for the digital copy. As for the packaging, this set comes in a fat pack four disc case with a double spindle, along with a lenticular slipcover. With or without the slip, the spine on this set looks fantastic. Bravo, Disney. Bravo.

Language options, both spoken and subtitled, are the same between the 2D and 3D discs.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

While it bowed in theaters a few weeks prior to the release of this Blu-ray, it's unlikely what's seen here is any different than what was seen on the big screen for a limited time.

'The Lion King' is a revelation in 3D. In fact, revelation may not be a strong enough word. One of, if not the, first hand drawn animation titles to hit Blu-ray 3D, 'The Lion King' proves there is a place in the market for conversions. For 88 minutes, this disc stuns. Critics will be silenced. Reviewers, like myself will be stunned into a mute state by the simply amazing work found here.

The opening moments of the film, with the animals gathering for the unveiling of the future king, my goodness are they superb, informing viewers what they're in for. Depth is almost infinite. Grass layers perfectly between animals, in front and behind, with fantastic clarity. Backgrounds have superb detail and clarity, while brightness levels have to be the highest, most capable of bringing jaws agape that I've ever seen on this format. The colors on display, their complete lack of banding in any sort, their clarity and boldness, it's a sight to behold. And just wait, there's still a whole film to go!

Textures on painted background/foreground objects are wonderful, never failing to impress. The stray/odd lines that sometimes move as cels don't match up perfectly, the way even they have a 3D pop as they shift a tad, it's a miracle, as the film hasn't been tampered with in such a way that ruins its little quirks and imperfections. Even in the darkest of scenes, like the elephant graveyard sequence, the 3D is still always visible, always discernible, as this isn't just a subtle corner of depth here and there. The entire picture has been masterfully layered to create one of the most impressive 3D discs to date. The shots of the wild bugs in the second act of the film? Brilliance. Beautiful, beautiful brilliance.

Pay very, very close attention to the stampede sequence to see how perfectly the 3D work is performed. The way the somewhat brainless beasts roar from the higher, deeper layers towards you and those in their path, it easily usurps any sequence as the go-to for 3D brilliance.

Now, yes, there are a few odd issues here and there. The pan on the zebras in the opening creates some light aliasing (an effect that is not repeated in any future appearance of the creatures), while some outlines have a tiny jagged feel to them, particularly rocks. Ghosting also popped up on a few occasions, but it was all minimal. The moon was probably the worst effect, while a single rock here and there would have the error. The darker moments don't bring a giant leap in ghosting, though, thankfully, as there are a few very minor, very brief, insignificant "blink and you'll miss them" type ghosts in these sequences.

This film is one of the best looking on the format. The small issues are never overly distracting, never too in your face, and never enough for me to even consider dropping the score down.

'The Lion King' deserves its title as the alpha in the pack of Blu-ray 3Ds released to date. 3DTV owners, this is the disc you've been waiting for.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The audio for 'The Lion King' comes by way of a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, while the two dubs are given "Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mixes," whatever that means. This film doesn't pack one of those excessively powerful punches that tries to redefine audio by showing how loud a film can get. This track, is about balance, a balance that is here in spades.

The dialogue and atmospheric effects are placed perfectly throughout the soundstage, with absolutely wonderful dynamics, not a second of distortion, not a single off or odd line or sound. Distinction, directionality, localization effects, they're all top notch. Echoes put you right in the middle of a number of scenes. Bass levels are a bit subdued, with a nice thump on the stomp of elephant hooves, or the constant rumble in the stampede, but there's never any real roaring moment, and especially in a scene filled with hundreds of rampaging beasts filling a room, you bet I would have loved to have that added depth.

Ah well. I really have no complaints. This track can't measure up to some of the other animated titles, of its era, before or after, with its obviously subdued intentions. There are times listening to the film where you want there to be a thunderous roar, a tremendous thump or rumble, and it just isn't there. This presentation is still very, very faithful to the original source.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The inclusion of the film on DVD is a great, great bonus feature. Gotta stress the sacrificial disc, the one the kids can destroy so they don't grub up the Blu-rays!

Blu-ray 3D disc:
The only extra to be found on the 3D disc, aside from a 'Cars 2' pre-menu trailer (and "sneak peeks" inclusion, which is a load of bull considering the use of the word peeks, as in plural, yet the lone trailer again playing) is an introduction by Don Hahn. At the end, he puts on a pair of rechargeable Panasonic glasses, just like the ones I used for this review. That Hahn guy and I just have so much in common!

Blu-ray disc:
Any extras not found on the 2003 Platinum Series DVD release are being counted in the High Def Exclusives section of this review, as the DVD re-release of the film has been delayed as a part of Disney's staggered release schedule to emphasize the 3D product. Not everything from the Platinum DVD made its way here, sadly, tough most did.

  • The Morning Report: Extended Scene (HD, 2 min) - An alternate take on a scene in the film that is somewhat important to the film is shown, adding music to the sequence. It's an odd mix.
  • Disney's Virtual Vault - Yikes! More, more, more extras, presumably those from the 2003 DVD. The videos here are letterboxed and very small on screen with a unique player mode (that can go bigger, though only in 480p), presumably to save disc space. It's really innovative. Numerous features have their own little sub-features. The big problem? Buffering... Included are The Making of The Morning Report (3 min), Deleted Scenes (6 min), Musical Journey (25 min), Stage Journey (18 min), Film Journey (23 min), Story Journey (12 min), Storyboard Film Comparison (4 min), Early Concepts: Timon & Pumbaa Find Simba and Simba's Presentation (7 min), and Abandoned Scene: Warthog Rhapsody (4 min). The concept for this feature is great, but it's a pain to get out of unless you use the Top Menu cop out.
  • Sing-Along Mode - A subtitle track for the songs, and songs alone.
  • Audio Commentary - With Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff, and Don Hahn. This track can be found after pressing the play button as an extra set of play options for the film, not in the setup tab. You learn a lot about how the animation was made for some of the complex shots, learn about the actors (how young Simba was cast due to the covers of Tiger Beat...that sounds about right...), some jokes that should have made the film, the peculiar casting and changes due to voices and ethnic plans for the characters, ad-libbing and alternate lines, themes, and special effects that integrate in the film that most won't recognize or notice. A superb track that is highly technical and informative, not just descriptive.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

The Digital Copy included in this set is only available here and in the eight disc edition!

  • Interactive Blu-ray Gallery - Cutting edge! The wealth of information in these galleries is nuts! Check out character designs, visual development, storyboards, backgrounds and layouts here, but be sure you have a good hour or so to do it! Be sure to check out an alternate take on Simba that is straight creepy...no other word works to define it. The alternate Scar? Goodness is it hardcore! Some of the drawings here represent what would have been the film if it were the battle story one of the extras in this set makes it out to be. It would have been great if the details on how to exit this feature would have been included, though. Press the home menu (that operates differently on various screens) to get back to the main menu.
  • Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition (HD) - This extra has three sections. Pride of The Lion King (38 min) reassembles the crew for the creation of the film, to reminisce. We find out the politics behind the film, the competing films that were drawing manpower away, the original drafts and themes that are dramatically different from the final version. We then move on to a reunion for Lane and Broderick, though they've worked together many times since 'The Lion King.' This one runs a little long, but it is full of great information, great comments, a ton to learn about behind the scenes of this epic film. The Lion King: A Memoir: Don Hahn (20 min) is a great compilation of 1994 video footage to bring the audience into the room for the creation of the film, to meet the people involved, a behind the scenes memoir. Deleted/Alternate Scenes (14 min, with introductions by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff) compiles five scenes that didn't make the cut. They're interesting, but really are wise exclusions, as they really don't fit the atmosphere and mood of the finished film. The Mufasa song is really offputting, while Scar discussing reproducing is...creepy, creepier than normal talk from the character.
  • Bloopers & Outtakes (HD, 4 min) - Outtakes from the voice recordings now given animations to match. I have never been a fan of these types of artificial bloopers. The animation, especially on Simba, can be pretty poor. Jeremy Irons' failures are pretty funny, but the rest seem forced. Of course, the most obvious, most needed alternate take for the film is included. Let's just say they save the best for last, and that monkey has some butter fingers!
  • Second Screen - Watch the film in different ways with connected devices. I hate the idea of this feature as much as purists hate the idea of 'The Lion King' in 3D.

Final Thoughts

In my eyes, 'The Lion King' is Disney's greatest gem, their most wonderful cinematic achievement. It has everything in spades, with perfect balance and a runtime that flies by in a minute. It's perfection. The Blu-ray 3D release? Almost perfection, enough so that it earns the rarified five star video score. This set is just awesome. For the price, with both the 2D and 3D editions, and a load of extras (and two bonus ways to view the film), there is no reason to not buy this film. None. Anything short of a day one buy is blasphemy.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack
  • 4 disc set
  • 2- BD50 discs
  • Region A/B/C

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, English, French, Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio commentary
  • Virtual Vault- Classic DVD features
  • Sing-Along mode
  • Morning Report: extended scene

Exclusive HD Content

  • Interactive gallery
  • Backstage Disney features
  • Bloopers & Outtakes
  • Second Screen

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

List Price
$49.99
Amazon
$47.04 (6%)
3rd Party
$47.04
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»