Blu-ray Review: The Lion King - The Signature Collection

By , Contributor
Great news for Disney animation fans who missed the 2011 Blu-ray release of The Lion King, which has been long out of print. The Oscar-winning classic has emerged from the Disney vault and is currently available as part of the Signature Collection. The film is one of the studios final traditional, hand-drawn animation masterpieces and was in fact selected for preservation by the Library of Congress as part of the United States National Film Registry in 2016. The film was a runaway success at the box office upon its initially release in 2004 (number two for the year with $312 million, just behind Forest Gump, back when $300-plus was a very rare benchmark). As recently as 2012, the film (in its newly-struck 3D enhancement) was raking in dough hand-over-fist all over again. 

rsz_lkd_0885_vd_21_aria.jpg The story about a young lion cub's coming of age as he ascends to jungle king bristles with humor and emotion. It all plays just as well today as it did 23 years ago. From the outstanding voice work by a cast that includes James Earl Jones (and the patriarchal lion Mufasa), Matthew Broderick (as Mufasa's young son Simba), Jeremy Irons (as the villainous Scar), and—unforgettably—Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella (as the scene-stealing Timon and Pumbaa, respectively), to the Elton John songs, to the bursting-at-the-seams color scheme, all the elements combine to make a true classic. 
 
rsz_lkd_0885_ck_67_arl.jpg The brand new Blu-ray does feature a mix of old and new bonus materials (without carrying over every supplement, something that is common practice for these reissues and also frustrating for those looking to permanently retire the older edition). One of Disney's regular methods of rounding up older featurettes and various supplements (in this case from the 2003 DVD as well as the 2011 Blu-ray) is making them part of the "Digital Vault." You'll have to boot up the included Digital Copy to enjoy a number of previously-issued bonus features.



A word on the audio/visual presentation: without having access to the out-of-print "Diamond Edition," I can only go by my research to reach the conclusion that the excellent 1080p transfer and DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround mix are the same on both releases. That seems to be the consensus, and having screened the new "Signature Collection" it's an easily acceptable repeat. Those who haven't previously experienced The Lion King in high definition will be wowed by the sterling clarity of this transfer. Likewise, the lossless mix is every bit as active in all channels as anyone could expect. Stellar presentation.



Newly-added features are headlined by "Inside the Story Room," a five-part series of behind-the-scenes featurettes that runs a total of about 24 minutes. Here the film's co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff take us through five short section: "Circle of Life," "Simba and Nala," "Simba Takes Nala Out to Play," "Hakuna Matata," and "Rafiki and Reflecting Pool"—each one spends a few minutes looking at the story development process. There are also a few new short featurettes: "Visualizing a Villain," "Recording Sessions," and "Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Lion King Conversation" (apparently, as the title suggests, a longer version of a previously available featurette). There's a sing-along version, too, for those inclined to join in.



Older features that made the cut are an audio commentary by producer Don Hahn and co-directors Allers and Minkoff, "Bloopers/Outtakes," "Deleted/Alternate Scenes," a bunch of stills galleries, and of course the "Classic Bonus Features" accessible via the Digital Copy.

Missed it six years ago? Grab The Lion King - The Signature Collection before Disney locks it away again in the vault.
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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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