The Lion King Comes Roaring Into Homes (Digital HD / Blu-Ray Review)

Disney’s The Lion King is back!

Joining other Disney animated features in the newly minted Signature Collection, this edition includes some fun, creative, and detailed features that will make you enjoy and appreciate the film even more.  Released for the fourth time and nearing the 25th anniversary of the original film’s debut in theaters, how much more original stuff could they find?  Turns out plenty.  The Lion King continues to make an impact and through the new home release even more about the film can be discovered.

Perhaps the apex of the 2nd wave of Disney animated classics, it was the last film created before Pixar began to dominate the animation market.  Following the hits The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, The Lion King was widely hailed as a triumph and won two Academy Awards – for Best Score and Best Original Song.  The opening scene still gets me every time.  The most iconic opening in Disney animated history, it has such flair and drama without one word being spoken.  And of course, the song is amazing.

The Blu-Ray and Digital HD release have some unique bonus material added to it just for the Signature Collection.  Perhaps my favorite is the extended conversation between Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick about their roles in the film.  Not only do viewers get insight into how these two stars found their way to star in the movie but also viewers find out some of the original concepts for the story – like the idea that Scar had planned to kill Simba along with his father Mufasa and then is hailed as a hero for saving the young lion.  Or that Nathan Lane was actually originally cast in the role of Zazu instead of Timon!

One of the other features included was a short montage of side-by-side recordings from the main character actors portraying their part and the finished product at the end.  Watching it was amazing.  Not only do you see these actors as much younger people in different parts of their career, but it’s intriguing to witness what the animators do with the vocal performance to make it come alive on screen.  New sing-a-long versions of the famous soundtrack, more behind-the-scenes features, galleries of artwork including storyboards, and many other segments are part of this release, including classic bonus features from previous releases (the bloopers reel is a must see).  Some of the new “Inside the Story Room” features were long-winded (but something die-hard fans are sure to love), but it was worth it to see Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff perform an early version of “Hakuna Matata” with a set of lyrics written specifically for Timon that was cut from the film!

When you add all of that up and then include with the Blu-Ray version a film strip of scenes from the movie, you get quite a worthwhile package.  It’s been a long time since I’ve watched the film and it still holds up for it’s story, songs, and impact.  I can’t wait until 2019 when Jon Favreau’s “live action” version makes it to the big screen!

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