I don't need 3D or any other gimmick to appreciate classic animated Disney films, but if you want to call Disney's high-definition sound and audio on their new Blu-ray presentation of The Lion King a gimmick then I guess I'll have to take that statement back because this film has never looked or sounded better. Lush with brilliant colors already, this pristine presentation of the now 17-year-old film is simply marvelous and its rewatchability (that's a word right?) factor remains at an all-time high.
The film pretty much sells itself in this case and it's not like I need to familiarize you with the story and I would go as far as to assume many of you may even own the DVD edition already and it isn't as if Disney skimped on their 2003 Platinum Edition, which was loaded to the gills with special features, but we'll get to the old stuff in a second. First for the new treats.
To begin with, as happy as I am having the film in a definitive high-definition edition I am disappointed in the fact it doesn't come with a feature-length Blu-ray exclusive supplement as included on both Bambi and Alice in Wonderland. Those two Blu-rays, as far as I'm concerned, included some of the very best use of the Blu-ray technology I've seen to date but it seems with The Lion King, Disney is resorting to their "Second Screen" feature, which means downloading an app onto your laptop or iPad that will play in-time with the feature giving you a look at storyboards, concept art, interactive games and the like that you can mess around with as the film plays. It just doesn't compare to an in-depth feature length feature and considering The Lion King is one of the studio's classic features I would have thought they would go all out... they didn't... at least not in this department.
I was, however, impressed with the brand new HD features "Pride of The Lion King" (39 minutes) and "The Lion King: A Memoir" (21 minutes). These two retrospective looks traversing the film's trajectory from inception to a hit Broadway play are well worth the watch. I also got a kick out of the newly produced gag reel which takes outtakes from the voice actors work and puts them to brand new animation. Solid, and I'm sure, time consuming work. Was it worth creating for a one-time watch? Eh, I still think time spent on a feature length supplement that wasn't a gimmicky iPad app would've been more worth their while. Finally, there are a collection of five deleted and alternate scenes.
Otherwise, everything else is carried over from the 2003 Platinum DVD release, but I am unimpressed with their presentation. Instead of offering a second disc with the DVD features Disney has decided the "Disney's Virtual Vault" is the way to go, forcing viewers to connect to the Internet and navigate a clunky menu system to watch old school features. Considering I already own the DVD edition and I wouldn't necessarily revisit these features anyway, it still seems like such a lazy way to "include" these features that I would rather they left them off completely rather than pretend they are part of the package.
The copy I received also came with a DVD edition, but not a digital copy. I used to say how stupid I thought the digital copy was, but now that I do more traveling and have an iPad I have started to enjoy having the ability to add a couple movies to my larger-screened portable devices and would have loved to add this to the collection. Oh well.
Overall, while I certainly do have my share of nitpicks and frustrations with this release the film itself remains a standout as Disney continues to treat their catalog classics with the utmost of respect. I can't remember the last time (or if it has ever happened for that matter) I put in a Disney DVD or Blu-ray release and was disappointed with the presentation of the film itself and once again the studio impresses. You have my full recommendation when it comes to this title and you can either buy it on the two-disc edition I've reviewed here, the four-disc edition with the 3D version, DVD and digital copy or the eight-disc version with the complete trilogy as well as the 3D edition of The Lion King. It's up to you, but I would suggest adding it to your collection whatever version you choose.