Blu-ray/DVD, Reviews

[REVIEW] ‘The Lion King’ Walt Disney Signature Collection Blu-ray

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For the third time, “the king has returned” from the Disney Vault. This time, as part of the Walt Disney Signature Collection  Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD release. It’s the first time the film is available on digital, since when it was released as part of the Diamond Collection back in 2011 digital releases were still in their infancy. Along with the release, we get a broad mix of old and new bonus features, which will satisfy any fan’s craving for more behind-the-scenes material.

The Film ✮✮✮✮✮

The Lion King is one of the most iconic and classic Disney films produced in the studio’s history. Based loosely on the story of Hamlet, we get the powerful tale of a pride of lions as one brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons), plots to usurp the throne from his brother Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Mufasa’s young son Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, later Matthew Broderick) gets caught in the middle of the feud, causing him to exile himself and escape the past.

It’s a fantastic film filled with drama, suspense, humor, and intrigue. The characters are well developed, the pacing is on pointe, the voice acting is top notch, and the animation is superb. One of the highlights is obviously the music. The score by Hans Zimmer is epic and weighty and is paired by songs by Tim Rice and Elton John.

All in all, this film captivates from the first scene (“Circle of Life”) to the final moments where it truly comes full circle and is worth of the “Walt Disney” seal of approval, stamped on the box.

Bonus Features ✮✮✮✮✮

The bonus features – new, semi-new, and old – are fantastic! The way they are arranged on the Blu-ray, however, is a bit of a head-scratcher, but we can look past that. The only other downside is that the Classic Bonus Features aren’t found on the discs, but can be viewed online as a digital exclusive.

Another bonus features included are limited edition film frames, featuring the opening scene on Pride Rock with Rafiki lifting up baby Simba. It’s not an original, rather a reproduction, but still is a fun little extra they threw in.

    • Visualizing a Villain (2:53): The very first bonus feature on the disk is a bit of a head-scratcher. Set to the song “Be Prepared”, artist David Garibaldi paints a “masterpiece of evil” and performs with a of dancers. Think of it as your typical music video bonus feature with a twist. It’s fine, but I feel it should have been placed at the end of the bonus features set.
    • The Recording Sessions (4:46): Now this is a bonus feature. Introduced by directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, we get a rare glimpse of the actors’ recording sessions paired with the final animation of those scenes. This feature is extensive and encompasses nearly all of the actors and main scenes of the film. It gave me chills and was such a treat to watch the actors perform these classic lines.

  • Inside the Story Room (23:42): By far one of the best, unique, and most fascinating bonus features I’ve seen in a while! Here we have recordings of different pitch presentations for five scenes in the film, giving us a fly-on-the-wall opportunity to hear masters discuss and debate about various aspects of the film. It’s also fascinating to look at the beautiful original storyboards for all these various sequences. Co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff set up each of these scenes before we dive into the recordings.
    • Circle of Life (4:58): One of the most iconic opening scenes in animation is found in “Circle of Life”. In this story session, we see a variety of key filmmakers – co-directors, Don Hahn, Lisa Keene to name a few – discuss the color palette in the scene (Is it too warm? How do we bring in cool elements to balance it out?) These are conversations that are so important to a film’s final product, but are hardly ever discussed or promoted.
    • Hakuna Matata (5:43): “Hakuna Matata” is a classic song from the film, but not everyone saw it that way originally. It had to be pitched and sold to the team to get everyone behind it. So co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff sing, act, and dance their hearts out while presenting these storyboards. And they aren’t half bad! They have great voices and are ridiculously toe-tapping entertainment!
    • Rafiki and Reflecting Pool (5:55): I learned in this one that it’s not commonplace for two people to pitch the same board, but that’s how co-directors Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff roll! Here we move away from the funny moments to hear them pitch to Producer Don Hahn a heartfelt sequence between Simba and Rafiki. This (and a few other of the pitches) appear to be the final versions of the storyboards staged and recorded for promotional materials (the sweeping camera gives it away). Nonetheless, it’s interesting to watch the scene pitched and to hear their commentary on it as they go along.
    • The other segments Simba & Nala (3:40) and Simba Takes Nala Out to Play (2:23) are great as well, but the ones above stand out above the rest.
  • Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Lion King Conversation (7:08): Nathan Lane (voice of Timon) and Matthew Broderick (voice Adult Simba) offer an oral history of their Lion King experiences. This was taken from a 2011 documentary called “Pride of the Lion King” and was recorded while they were both on Broadway performing in The Producers. They talk on a variety of topics such as their history with Disney animation, casting (did you know Matthew was cast because of his Ferris Bueller role and Simba was supposed to be a goof off? See video below.), and more!

  • Bloopers & Outtakes (3:44): These newly animated scenes were created for the Diamond Edition release. The animation is off and the content feels forced (it’s pretending that the actual characters from the film made these goofs). A few of these bloopers are actual recording session bloopers, but I think a more genuine way to present this would have been to include video (or audio) of the actor’s delivering the bloopers from the recording sessions. That would truly give us a behind-the-scenes, day-in-the-life view from the recording booth. What we have here feels a bit lame.
  • The Morning Report: Extended Scene (2:30): Much like with Beauty and the Beast, a catchy song from the Broadway play is animated and brought back into the original film. Originally created for the Platinum edition DVD (where it was inserted into the film), this instead takes the smart approach and features it only as a bonus feature for those who want it, instead of forcing the audience to view the new material.
  • Deleted & Alternate Scenes (12:42): Brought over from the Diamond Edition, we get a wide variety of cut scenes in storyboard form.
    • “Zazu Flatters Mufasa” (0:27)
    • “King of the Wild” (2:23)
    • “Scar Wants Nala as his Queen” (5:08)
    • “Simba and Nala Reunited” (3:19)
    • “Zazu Flatters Scar” (0:52)
  • Song Selection (16:49): Follow the bouncing ball, everyone! This bonus feature allows you to sing along with your favorite tunes in sing-along form.
    • “Circle of Life” (4:03)
    • “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” (2:35)
    • “Be Prepared” (3:01)
    • “Hakuna Matata” (4:08)
    • “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (3:02)
  • Audio Commentary (1:28:23): My favorite bonus features by far are audio commentaries and this one, hosted by Don Hahn, Roger Allers, and Rob Minkoff, delivers. Interesting enough, this was recorded in 1994 for the film’s Laserdisc release, so a lot of the names, stories, and production tidbits are fresh in their minds. It’s a treasure trove of new information and a must-watch for any Disney fan.
  • Classic Bonus Features: All of the above featurettes are available on the digital copy, but the “Classic” bonus features are only available digitally.There is so much content on here, it’s almost overwhelming and probably would have required another Blu-ray disc to house it all. I won’t list everything in detail here, but it includes “bloopers, audio commentary, deleted and alternate scenes, and in-depth journeys into the music, film, story, animals and stage show.” None of these are new stuff, obviously, but it still would have been nice to have them on the disc as well.

Final Thoughts

The Lion King is an iconic movie that offers something for audiences both old and young. It expertly balances the lighter, fun, comedic moments with the heavy, dark, and more thematic elements. The Lion King Walt Disney Signature Collection is jam packed with bonus features, despite a large majority of classic features being available only digitally. Nonetheless, if you have wanted the film on Blu-ray or digital, now’s your chance to snatch it up. If you already own the film’s previous Diamond Edition Blu-ray release, there really isn’t much here to entice you to purchase it again, unless you just want to collect them all.

Purchase The Lion King (Walt Disney Signature Collection)

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Morgan Stradling

Morgan is a native of Arizona and is a desert rat who loves the heat--she doesn’t even turn on the AC in her car in the middle of the summer! She loves big eyeliner, Survivor, Lady Gaga, and, of course, animated films. She has her MBA in Marketing from ASU and now works as a Product Manager for a tech company. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.