The Lion King: Special Edition (1994)

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Released 21-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
THX Optimizer
THX Trailer
Alternative Version-Original Theatrical Release
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers (Original Version Only)
Featurette-The Making Of "The Morning Report"
Game-The Lion King Personality Profile Game
Deleted Scenes-3
Music Video-Circle Of Life Performed by Disney Channel 'Circle Of Stars'
Song Lyrics-Sing Along Track
Game-Timon's Grab-A-Grub, Pumbaa's Sound Sensations
Trailer-Disc 2 Preview
Booklet
Featurette-Story (3), Film (5), Stage (6)
Featurette-Music (7), Animals (6)
Featurette-Virtual Safari
Music Video-Can You Feel The Love Tonight?, Circle Of Life by Elton John
Featurette-Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe,North America, South America
Trailer-The Lion King 3
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 85:16
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Roger Allers
Rob Minkoff
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Matthew Broderick
Jason Weaver
Joseph Williams
Jeremy Irons
James Earl Jones
Moira Kelly
Sally Dworsky
Niketa Calame
Laura Williams
Nathan Lane
Ernie Sabella
Robert Guillaume
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music Elton John
Lebo M.
Joseph Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Hebrew Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.70:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Hebrew
English Song Lyrics
Hebrew Song Lyrics
Hebrew Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Lion King is rated amongst the most loved animated feature films of all time, and is one of a group of films that signalled the rebirth of great Disney animation. I believe this great period in modern Disney animation began with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and continued with the likes of Beauty And The Beast and Aladdin. Since The Lion King, however, Disney have created good feature films such as Pocohontas and Mulan, but I just don't think the standard has reached the level obtained by The Lion King and those that preceded it.

    When you think about it, the story behind The Lion King is simple, and has been told in other contexts before. Stories with themes about death, murder, redemption, and responsibility are common. So all that I can think of that makes The Lion King stand out among these is the incredible combination of great animation, perfect voice casting, and inspirational music and song.

    For those of you that aren't aware of the story, it effectively tells the coming-of-age tale of Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick), the heir to the kingdom ruled by his brave and wise father Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones). When Simba's father dies in an incident that I will not spoil for new viewers, Simba takes flight and forms an unlikely friendship with Timon the meerkat (voiced by Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa the warthog (voiced by Ernie Sabella). As one would expect from a movie that follows mythical themes and those described above, Simba's past comes back to lead him to his destiny as the rightful king.

    As I said, such a simple story that works so well. The animation is indeed incredible, with excellent use of both traditional hand-painted cel animation and modern computer animation. The music and songs are the stand-out though, with the opening sequence a highlight in animation history. With the likes of Elton John, Tim Rice and Hans Zimmer collaborating to produce the music, songs, and score, how could you go wrong?

    This DVD presents the film to its full potential in this format, with stunning video and audio transfers. I am sure this will be played numerous times in many households upon its release. I still recall watching it at home on the original VHS release. At last we can throw away the old, worn tapes and replace it with the DVD that presents the movie the way the creators always intended. There is slight disappointment in the extras department (not quantity wise, just the content), but of course the main feature is why we buy the DVD in the first place. For Disney animation fans, this is a must-have.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video presented for The Lion King is sensational, and is difficult to fault.

    The movie is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, which is slightly squarer than its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is not clear what drove the decision to present it at this ratio, but this should not be noticeable on widescreen display devices. The transfer is of course 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer throughout is beautifully sharp and clear. The usual dark outline around the 2-D character animation may seem a little large at times, but this is not a fault of the transfer. To my eyes, grain is undetectable in this transfer, and black levels are rock solid. Shadow detail is as one would expect, and I would assume is as the animators intended. There is not a hint of low level noise.

    Colours are of course essential in an animated film, and the colours are rendered faultlessly in this transfer. They are vibrant, deep, and clear with no trace of colour bleed or over-saturation. Edge enhancement is also absent from this great transfer. Film artefacts were not detectable. With the high sharpness of the transfer, I was expecting to find instances of aliasing, but could not detect any.

    This is a RSDL-formatted disc, with a layer change that is indiscernible.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    ADDENDUM 3 March 2004: I have been mistaken in my review in stating that the Dolby Digital track is alos from the Disney Enhaned Home Theatra mix. The DD track is actually the original soundtrack mix, not the DEHT mix. The DEHT mix is exclusive to the DTS track. I made this error when reviewing the DD track my changing to it on the fly from the DTS selection. In any case, I will update the review in the coming days. I apologise to all readers for providing this incorrect information.

Accompanying the incredible video transfer are two sensational audio soundtracks. An English DTS 5.1 track (768 Kb/s) and Dolby Digital 5.1 track (448 Kb/s) are provided. The DTS track is the new Disney Enhanced Home Theatre Mix of the original soundtrack, whereas the Dolby Digital track is the original 5.1 theatrical mix. I can with confidence say that most will find the DTS track to be far superior to its Dolby Digital counterpart.

    Dialogue throughout the movie is crystal clear in both normal and singing sequences. Audio synchronisation is usually a problem with animation, but scrubs up amazingly well with The Lion King due to the great animation. Voice acting is excellent and is on par with the fantastic feature films from Pixar.

    The musical score by Hans Zimmer is again sensational, capturing the emotion of each scene perfectly when required. It is both subtle and grand as called for. Of course, the stand-out is the music and songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, and these really do make The Lion King stand out from the bunch. There are so many memorable melodies in this movie it is no wonder they adapted this for the stage musical.

    Surround activity is certainly aggressive, and promised by the Disney Enhanced Home Theatre Mix. All speakers are active throughout the duration of the movie, with the listener placed firmly in the middle of the action right from the opening scene with insect sounds coming alive all around. The first cry from Lebo M as the sun rises is truly a great moment in animation history, and is enhanced by the African singers chanting from all speakers. There are numerous other instances in the movie that provide demonstration material for immersive 5.1 channel usage. Stereo separation is also excellent, with a good example at 8:04.

    The subwoofer also has its work cut out for it, and is used extremely well, with both subtle and in-your-face uses. For instance, the bass used in the opening sequence for the waterfall and elephant footsteps is subtle and refined, while the deep clap at the conclusion of the sequence is most definitely in-your-face.

    I listened to both the DTS and Dolby Digital tracks in full. The DTS Disney Enhanced Home Theatre track wins hands-down, and I am sure there will be no arguments here. The DTS track is definitely recorded at a much higher level (I'm not sure why this is the norm for DTS tracks). But even taking into account the decibel level, the DTS track exhibits greater clarity in its soundstage and immersiveness. This is to be expected considering that they deliberately created this enhanced mix to be more agressive in every respect. The DTS tracks steps all over the Dolby Digital track when it comes to the low-end of things. Bass is so much more prominent, but not to the extent that it becomes over-powering or obtrusive. It is refined and powerful. Just simply compare the opening sequence between the DTS and Dolby Digital tracks. This sequence alone will demonstrate clearly why the DTS track is superior.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Extra material is provided on both discs. I have mixed feelings about the extras presented here, which appears to be a sentiment felt across the regional releases of this DVD. Disc 1 is definite for the kids, while Disc 2 is more for the adults. The extras are numerous, but are not so much about the movie itself as they are about The Lion King phenomenon across the world from stage to music to theme parks. I also very much dislike the way in which the extras on Disc 2 are presented, with many repeated links to the same featurette. I am not sure why they couldn't simply present these in an index form without splitting them into the categories that they did. In any case, the details of all the extras are as follows:

Disc 1:

The extras are broken up into the sub-menus below, or can be found together in an Index menu.

Audio Commentary - Don Hahn, Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff

    This is a fairly interesting commentary presented by Producer Don Hahn and Directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, with all of them obviously very enthusiastic. They have clear affection for the movie, and of the cast and crew that brought the movie to life. Their enthusiasm sometimes results in interruptions to what each other is saying. This is an audio commentary in which it would have been really helpful to have the name of the speaker displayed on the screen in a similar way to the Lord of the Rings commentaries. In any case, they discuss all aspects of the development process of the movie, making a particular point of paying tribute to each animator of the main characters. Candid stories about the cast and "back-stage" activities is interspersed with interesting technical aspects of animating such a movie. I quite enjoyed this commentary.

Grasslands

Elephant Graveyard

Tree of Life

Jungle

Disc 2 Preview - 0:55

    Gives a brief introduction to the extras presented on Disc 2 that tempts you with images of the Virtual Safari and footage of stage production. I'm not sure why they needed to include this at all.

Disc 2:

    The extras on this disc are presented in the menus indicated below, with numerous links that are repeated. I will list all menu options, but will indicate where the repeated links appear if I have already described it. For a DVD release, there seem to be a lot of extras related to the phenomenon of The Lion King (eg. stage musical, theme parks, animal documentaries, soundtrack albums) rather than just the movie itself. Still, it looks like a lot of effort has gone into the collection of extras, and they will certainly keep you busy.

Asia

Africa

Australia

Europe

North America

South America

Story

Film

Stage

    This entire section is as per the New York selection.

Music

Animals

Virtual Safari

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From what I can gather, the Region 4 release misses out on:

    It also appears the Region 4 release misses out on some of the extras found on the laserdisc release including:

    The Region 1 DVD release misses out on:

    Overall, I would recommend the Region 4 release purely based on the video and audio quality alone. I am a little disturbed that the making-of documentary on the laserdisc did not make it to this Special Edition DVD release, and would hope that it was not moved aside to make room for all the featurettes on The Lion King phenomenon.

Summary

    The Lion King is a simple story, made great by an incredible combination of stunning animation, perfect voice casting, and inspirational music and song. This DVD presents the movie perfectly, and would be a proud inclusion in anyone's DVD collection.

    The video quality is superb, and is faultless to my eyes.

    The audio quality is equally superb, with the DTS option being the soundtrack of choice.

    The extras are numerous, but their enjoyment is definitely tainted by the awful use of repeated links throughout the menu structure.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Chanh-Khai Ly (My biodegradable bio)
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP500, using Component output
DisplayRK-32HDP81 HDTV. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD/DD-EX/DTS/DTS-ES matrix and discrete. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600
SpeakersKef KHT 2005 5.1 Home Theatre System

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Comments (Add)
Why "The Making of The Lion King" Feature is missing on DVD - Ray Ruggaurs
DTS/DEHM - michelle
Re: DTS/DEHM, and 1:66 explanation -
Extras on a second disc -
Yawn... -
From film? - MickJT (Have a look at my biography)
Simba vs Kimba - the raging debacle! - REPLY POSTED
Kimba site - MickJT (Have a look at my biography) REPLY POSTED
Theatrical version -
Dolby Digital track is not enhanced mix (update) - MickJT (Have a look at my biography) REPLY POSTED
Is the Lion King over rated? -
MPEG artifacts galore! -
re: MPEG artifacts galore! - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
re: MPEG artifacts galore! -
re: MPEG artifacts galore! - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
re: MPEG artifacts galore! - REPLY POSTED
re: MPEG artifacts galore! -
Re: MPEG artifacts galore! -
Seriously, HOW do I access the THEATRICAL CUT??? - Christopher REPLY POSTED