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

August 30, 2017

By John Corrado

The latest addition to Disney’s Signature Collection is their iconic 1994 classic The Lion King, which has just gotten a shiny new Blu-ray release.  Released a few years into the fabled Disney Renaissance, the film remains one of the studio’s finest and most acclaimed achievements, and it still holds up beautifully over two decades later.

To call it beloved would be an understatement, and there’s not much more to be said about it at this point.  The film tells a deceptively simple story that is rich with classic themes of fathers and sons, as well as death and rebirth, brought to life through stunning hand-drawn animation that is often breathtaking to watch.

It’s all pulled off with one of Disney’s best balancing acts between darkness and light, from the grand narrative of Simba, who is robbed of his place on the throne and sent to live in exile when his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones) is killed by his vengeful uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons), to the well timed comic relief of Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella).  It’s populated by a wonderful cast of characters, including memorable supporting players like the put-upon bird Zazu (Rowan Atkinson), the wise old mandrill Rafiki (Robert Guillaume), and a gang of crazed hyenas.

The film continues to enchant, from the magnificent “Circle of Life” opening sequence, to the charming romance between Simba and Nala that culminates in a montage set to Elton John and Tim Rice’s lovely Oscar-winning ballad “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”  The soundtrack remains among the film’s most iconic elements, and the classic songs are complimented perfectly by Hans Zimmer’s eclectic and stage-setting score, which took home the second of the film’s two Oscars.

While many of those who bought the Diamond Edition release six years ago might be reluctant to double dip, many completists will still want to add this new version to their collections.  The film is also getting a hyperrealistic “live action” remake to coincide with its 25th anniversary in 2019, but the original film continues to and always will be its own special thing.  Because now, just as it was before, The Lion King is an entertaining and emotionally resonant triumph of both animation and storytelling.

Dubbed The Circle of Life Edition, the Blu-ray also includes several new featurettes; Visualizing a Villain is a short performance piece with artist David Garibaldi, The Recording Sessions features co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff talking about the recording process and sharing archival footage of the actors in the booth, Inside The Story Room is an extended piece that presents old footage of the story artists discussing some classic scenes, and Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Conversation presents a portion of an interview with actors Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

Along with a brand new sing-along function, the Blu-ray also imports over the bloopers and outtakes, deleted and extended scenes, and audio commentary from the Diamond Edition release.  Last but not least, the package comes with a set of limited edition 35mm film frames that were reproduced from a digital file of the film, and provide a pretty nice little keepsake item for collectors.

The Lion King: The Signature Collection is a Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment release.  It’s 88 minutes and rated G.

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