The Lion King, a review, Rich Paschall
In the world of the Disney movie magic, what goes around will go around again. This is especially true for the beloved animated classics. You may have noticed this by their calculated re-release program.
Disney has employed what is known as the Vault program. When they released a movie for video sales, first by VHS and then DVD and BluRay, it was limited in nature. The very fact that it was limited created an instant demand. When it was gone, it was gone forever. OK, it was not really gone. Every 7 to 10 years they would bring it out of the vault, so to speak, for another limited release. There could be Gold editions, anniversary editions, Platinum editions. There might be interviews and other bonus material included. Each would be different and therefore the Disney fanatic would need the next version of something they already owned.
Consider Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, one of Disney’s oldest and most endearing classics. It was released in 1937 and re-released in 1944. The success of the re-release set the precedent for what would be crafted into the Disney Vault Program. Snow White came around for a visit in theaters again in 1952, 1958, 1967, 1975, 1983, 1987, and 1993. In this time period, something wonderful happened for Mouseland. The VHS player became standard home equipment.
In October 1994 Snow White appeared in homes on VHS. She was also released on the short-lived LaserDisc format. Seven years later it was the Platinum edition on VHS and also on DVD. In 2009 it was the Diamond Edition with two discs on DVD and BluRay. What could be better than a Diamond Edition? The Signature Edition!
The Signature Edition came out on BluRay in 2016. Disney must have felt that they were missing out on a big piece of the audience and released a different Signature Edition on standard DVD in 2017. In between all of these you can find some foreign language releases for other countries. Is a live version coming soon? What do you think?
Among the many Disney animated classics is The Lion King. The 1994 release is the 11th highest-grossing animated film of all time. What’s number 1? Hang on by your claws for a moment. We’ll get there.
Lion King was released on VHS and laserdisc in 1995 in various editions after its spectacular run in the theaters. Those editions were gone in a few years and into the vault went the King. Before he could come back to the home video market, The Lion King returned to the theater in standard and IMAX release in 2002. The following year saw various editions for VHS and DVD.
In 2011 the King came to life in a 3D theatrical release followed a few weeks later by BluRay release including 3D. The Signature Collection release came out in 2017 on HD Digital, DVD, and BluRay. If you thought all bases were covered, think again. The Lion King was so popular, he came out again in 2018 in Ultra HD Blu-ray and 4K digital download.
You may think you don’t need any of these various Lion King media presentations. You can stream it on Hulu or Netflix. But the Mouse King has a surprise for you. Disney bought a controlling interest in Hulu and has bought its way out of the Netflix agreement. Why end the Lion King’s reign in the streaming world? Did you really think the King was going to run away to another land? Just like Simba, the film will return because Disney will soon have their own streaming service, Disney+.
The Lion King also rules over the Broadway stage. He made it there in 1997 and never left, but I digress. We were talking about movies, weren’t we?
This year we received the live-action version. OK, it’s live-action if you believe those animals are really singing and dancing. Disney has employed CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) to make a realistic-looking version of The Lion King. This sort of thing was inevitable. Movies have been using CGI for years. Video games get their realistic look from this remarkable computer wizardry.
The 2019 version of The Lion King is actually an animated remake of the original. The story is the same. Much of the dialogue is the same. The songs are the same, except they added one more to the mix. Some things are added or lengthened for effect, but you are getting the same story with a new kind of animation.
The Lion King, Mufasa, from the beginning of the story is the same. Let’s face it, James Earl Jones is so memorable in the role, why get another actor? He is King of the story. All of the other parts have been recast. Some are just as good or at least equal to their 1994 counterparts. Others are not.
Holding up their parts as the Warthog, Pumbaa, and his little friend meerkat, Timon, are Seth Rogan and Billy Eichner. They are the comic relief, which is absolutely needed in light of the darker, more realistic looking, death, and fight scenes. While the original performers were great, these guys do quite well.
The villain lion Scar was Jeremy Irons the first time around. This time it is Chiwetel Ejiofor as the scary one. Ejiofor sounds to me at times like Alan Rickman at his evil best.
Donald Glover does not match Matthew Broderick as Simba. Others fall short of the original all-star cast as well. Critics have not been kind to Beyonce as Nala. We know she is there both to add star power and to sing a song. The part is lengthened to explain exactly how it is Nala found Simba, but the voice work lacks the energy and passion of Moira Kelly as the original.
When you compare the casts, you may wonder why more than James Earl Jones was not retained from the original. In many places, they did not do better. The Circle of Life opening is performed by different singers in the two movies, and the 2019 version fails to add the Elton John version to the soundtrack at the end. I think they missed the mark there too.
Still, this is a version worth the time, if only for the stunning visuals. By the way, I promised to mention the number one animated box office hit and here it is The Lion King 2019.
Sources include: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (video),” disney.fandom.com