The Lion King (Special Edition)

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Rating: G

Starring:
Rowan Atkinson as Zazu
Matthew Broderick as Adult Simba
Niketa Calame as Young Nala
Jim Cummings as Ed
Whoopi Goldberg as Shenzi
Robert Guillaume as Rafiki
Jeremy Irons as Scar
James Earl Jones as King Mufasa
Moira Kelly as Adult Nala
Nathan Lane as Timon
Zoe Leader as Sarafina
Cheech Marin as Banzai
Ernie Sabella as Pumbaa
Madge Sinclair as Queen Sarabi
Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Young Simba

Special Features:

Disc I

Special Edition of the Film

Original Theatrical Release

Commentary with Directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff and Producer Don Hahn

The Making Of “Morning Report”

Timon’s Grab A Grub

Pumbaa’s Sound Sensations

Personality Profile Game

Deleted Scenes

“Circle Of Life” Music Video

The Making Of The Music Video

Sing Along Track

Disc II

Music Journey

Music Inspiration
Landmark Songwriting
Orchestral Color
Scoring Emotion
Music: African Influence
Audio Sequel
Full Circle
“Can You Feel The Love Tonight” Music Video
“Hakuna Matata” Music Video
“Circle Of Life” Music Video

Stage Journey

Musical Origins
Screen To Stage
Musical Texture
Setting The Stage
Leaps Of Fantasy
Stage Musical Publicity Gallery

Animal Journey

Introduction
Lions
Meerkats
Warthogs
Hyenas
Disney & Animals

Film Journey

Origins
Production Research Trip
Art: African Influence
Reflections
Storyboard Process
Production Design
Character Design
Computer Animation
Film Character Design Galleries

Story Journey

Story Origins
Timless Themes
The Story Comes To Life

Timon & Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari

Boat Tour
Jeep Tour
Under Construction – Lion King ½ Trailer

Additional Extras

Abandoned Scene – Warthog Rhapsody
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Park
International Large Format Release
International Soundtrack Covers
DVD Sound Design
Early Concept – Simba’s Presentation
Early Concept – Timon & Pumbaa Find Simba
Early Presentation Reel
Storyboard To Film Comparison
Effects Animation Galleries
And more!

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.66:1) – Enhanced For 16×9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
All-New 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix
THX Certified
Running Time: 90 Minutes

Synopsis:
In the African wilderness, the lions rule from Pride Rock. Young Simba is the heir of his father King Mufasa. Young and reckless, Simba just can’t wait to be king. Little does he know that his uncle Scar has plans to become king himself. In league with the hyenas, Scar plots the murder of Mufasa. Using a stampede of wildebeests, he successfully kills Mufasa and then convinces Simba that the death was his fault. With overwhelming guilt, Simba runs away into the desert.

There, a flatulent warthog named Pumbaa and a smart-mouthed meerkat named Timon find him. They take him to a jungle paradise and raise him to adulthood without a care in the world. However, Simba’s past still haunts him. When his old friend Nala finds him in the jungle while hunting, she tells him how Scar has ruined the pride lands and the hyenas have taken over the kingdom. Simba must now decide whether to confront his past and resume his responsibilities as king or continue to hide in the jungle.

“The Lion King” is rated G.

The Movie:
The Lion King finally makes its long awaited debut on DVD. After being remastered for an IMAX release earlier this year, the movie looks absolutely fantastic on the home theater system. The colors are bright and the picture is sharp. The sound is also better than ever. If kids missed this film in the theater, this might actually be a better presentation than originally seen in theaters.

The DVD special edition has one thing the IMAX version did not – a new scene. It features a new song entitled “Morning Report” where Zazu sings a pun filled song about what’s going on that day among the animals. (If you saw the stage play of The Lion King then you have already heard this song.) The animation and music blend in seamlessly with the original movie. While it’s not on par with the other songs in the film, it’s still a nice treat for fans of the movie. And if you want the original version of the movie, it’s included on this DVD as well.

Seeing The Lion King again makes me realize what a rare thing it was to have such a wonderful combination of animation, voice talent, humor, music, and plot. It is a feat that has rarely been equaled since. The jokes in the film by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella are still just as funny, even after seeing it millions of times with the kiddies on the VHS player. The music is just as fantastic as it ever was and songs like “Hakuna Matata”, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, “Circle Of Life”, and “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” are practically classics now. Hans Zimmer’s score with Lebo M is also one of his best ever made. Overall it comes together to make a fun movie viewing experience for adults and children.

The Extras:
As you might expect, the Lion King DVD is jam packed with extras. Almost everything you could possibly ask for is here. The extras, as good as they are, have two glaring problems. The first is that there are no cast interviews. Every interview on this DVD is with the behind the scenes crew. As interesting as those conversations are, I was looking for more. There are no conversations with Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Cheech Marin, Whoopi Goldberg, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Jeremy Irons, or Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Were all these people so busy that they couldn’t come chat about the film or was Disney too cheap to pay them for interviews?

The second problem is the organization of the DVD. Part of it makes sense. You have documentaries organized by music, story, animals, etc. It’s pretty obvious what content is within them. However, there’s a secondary organization according to continents. You have North America, Asia, Africa, South America, etc. The content in these sections are not as obvious. All it is are the features from the previous section reshuffled and thrown together. You’ll find the exact same documentary on the international release of The Lion King in every single section. You’ll find documentaries you may have already watched repeatedly listed in other continent sections. You’ll find documentaries on the stage musical mysteriously added to every single section. However, deep within these alternate menus you’ll find some features that aren’t found anywhere else. Some deleted scenes and early concepts won’t be spotted unless you dig deep within the North America section. While I appreciate what they were trying to do, it ended up being confusing and unnecessary. Another bad side effect of this is that the documentaries on various topics end up horribly fragmented. What could have been a half hour documentary on, say, music ends up being broken up into seven smaller features. It ends up being rather tedious to view and excessively broken up considering the amount of material to view on the DVD.

Complaints aside, this is still a fantastic DVD with a lot of great features. Here’s a look at the highlights:

Commentary with Directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff and Producer Don Hahn – These guys provide a pretty interesting commentary. They discuss working with the cast, deleted scenes, controversial scenes, bloopers, and more. If you’ve seen the movie a million times, it’s fun to let these guys walk you through another viewing and point out everything you may have missed before.

The Making Of “Morning Report” – This is a rather interesting video on the making of the new scene for the DVD. They talk about animating the characters again, getting a new voice for young Simba, and the pun filled lyrics.

Timon’s Grab A Grub – In this game you use the arrow keys to grab bugs off the screen. You are then rated at the end according to your bug grabbing abilities. Kids will enjoy it.

Pumbaa’s Sound Sensations – In this feature you try to identify the animal noises on the screen. It’s a cool way to use your surround sound system and this DVD game makes the most of it.

Deleted Scenes – There are three deleted scenes on this DVD. The first is an extremely brief one entitled “Bug Football”. In this Timon and Pumbaa play football with a bug. The second one is an alternate version of “Hakuna Matata”. In this version there’s an alternate opening where Timon talks about how he was kicked out of his meerkat colony. (Again, if you’ve heard the Rythmn Of The Pride Lands CD, then you’ve heard a variation of this.) Finally, there’s an early version of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. In this one, Timon and Pumbaa sing the entire thing. In the intro to it, Elton John laughs about how horrible it is, and he’s quite right. It’s an amazing difference between this and the final version.

“Circle Of Life” Music Video – This music video features the Disney Channel’s teeny boppers singing the song from the film. They include Hilary Duff, Raven Simone, and a bunch of other kids I’ve never heard of. Unless you’re a teen fan of these kids, then you’ll get nothing out of this at all. It’s not a particularly good rendition of the movie music. And if the video isn’t enough, it is followed up with a “Making Of” video.

Music Journey – Kicking off the second disc, this section features all the documentaries on the music from the film. Featuring interviews with Tim Rice, Elton John, and Hans Zimmer, this is one of the best parts of the DVD. The music is one of the best things about the Lion King and these guys have a lot to say about it. They all praise African singer Lebo M for his work in the movie, but he’s barely seen on the DVD. I think his work is amazing, so I was hoping to see more of him. Also discussed is the audio sequel CD “Rhythm Of The Pride Lands”. Music videos for “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, “Hakuna Matata”, and “Circle Of Life” are included here.

Stage Journey – The documentaries in this section feature the award winning stage version of the film. I’ve seen the play myself and it’s an impressive interpretation of the film. From the music to the costumes, it’s really incredible. These videos show tons of behind the scenes footage of the making of the play. They go into great detail on how it was developed and how executive Michael Eisner championed it. We see the making of the costumes, the set design, the music writing, and more. If you haven’t seen the play, this will make you want to check it out.

Animal Journey – These are a series of videos on the real life animals the characters were based on. Introduced by Roy Disney, there are documentaries on lions, meerkats, warthogs, and hyenas. There’s also a short feature on the animals featured in Disney films over the years. Even those familiar with these creatures may find bits of new information here and there.

Film Journey – These features detail the pre-production process, character development, research, and the actual making of the film. They talk about how nobody at Disney thought the film was going to do that well. (Everyone was more interested in Pocahontas.) You also follow the animators as they tour Africa and study the environment and wildlife. The storyboarding process is also detailed along with character design, computer animation, and more. The feature on the animation of the computer animated wildebeests is quite interesting. Also in this section are the character design galleries that show how the characters changed through the development process.

Story Journey – In this section the creators discuss the origins of the story and how mythology and the story of Moses inspired them. You also discover that the film was originally called “King Of The Jungle”. It’s cool to hear how the movie developed from a National Geographic-type film to the comedy drama it ended up being.

Timon & Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari – Kids will love this feature on the DVD. You can choose either a boat tour or a jeep tour guided by Timon and Pumbaa. As they travel through the video environment, you can choose to take different paths. Along the way you’ll face the hazards of Africa like crocodiles, rhinos, and monkeys. Variations of this feature will be appearing on future Lion King spinoffs and a trailer for Lion King ½ can also be accessed here.

Abandoned Scenes and Early Concepts – Tucked deep in some of the sections are these early versions of scenes from the film. The first is “Warthog Rhapsody”, the earlier version of what Hakuna Matata eventually ended up being. If you’ve heard the Rythmn Of The Pride Lands CD, then you know this song. It talks about Pumbaa’s carefree life and how it’s a model lifestyle. The bug eating is even more heavily emphasized here. The sequence is fully storyboarded with a full song by the original cast. Then there’s an early version of “Simba’s Presentation” at the beginning. It has a lot more dialogue and without the Circle Of Life music, it’s a lot less impressive. Rafiki is also treated more like a psycho than a revered elder. The final scene is “Timon & Pumbaa Find Simba”. It’s a slightly different version of the one in the final film. Lion King fans will get a big kick out of these alternate versions.

Animal Kingdom Lodge & Park – The obligatory ads for Disneyworld are included. This one features the new Animal Kingdom park. Even though the park has a heavy Lion King theme, it still seems like a blatant ad for Disney.

International Large Format Release – This features shows how the dialogue from The Lion King was re-recorded for each country. It’s interesting to see how the songs sound different in all the various languages.

DVD Sound Design – This video gets into details about how the soundtrack was re-mastered for the IMAX version, then the home video version.

Early Presentation Reel – This presentation reel was made to show licensees what the movie was about in advance. It was called “King Of The Jungle” back then and this reel features a lot of early production art. It’s amazing how far from the original film this presentation reel is.

The Bottom Line:
If you have kids, The Lion King is a required addition to your collection. It’s easily one of the best Disney animated films ever made. Adult fans will also want to pick it up for the music, comedy, and interesting extra features.

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