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"The Lion King 3D": Better Than I Remembered, and I Ain't Lion

Gee, your hair smells terrific!The Lion King, originally referred to as “Bambi in Africa,” was considered the underdog of the Disney movies during its production. Most people in the company believed Pocahontas would be the big hit. Boy, were they wrong! The Lion King is the top-grossing hand drawn animated film of all time, and is also considered the high point of the Disney Renaissance. So it’s no surprise that when it came for Disney to re-release one of its animated classics in 3D in a wide, American release, they went with The Lion King. And what a good decision it was! Just look at the box office numbers!

In case you’re one of the three people who don’t already know, The Lion King is about a young lion named Simba, destined to be the future king. But when Simba is still just a child, his jealous uncle Scar murders Simba’s father Mufasa, and further deceives Simba into thinking he was responsible for his own father’s untimely demise. Simba runs away from home (and his guilt) and spends years hanging with his two new comedy-relief friends Timon and Pumbaa, while Scar assumes the throne in the absence of the rightful heir. Eventually, Simba must stop running away from his past and face his uncle to claim his rightful place as the Lion King.

The Lion King draws heavily from Hamlet, and at times has an almost biblical feel to it. Although this very easily could’ve become too heavy to be a kid’s film, Timon and Pumbaa appear at just the right time to lighten things up. It’s been years since I last saw this film, and not only does it hold up, but it was even better than I remembered it. The songs, the animation, the story, everything, is absolutely flawless. There isn’t anything I have to complain about, and there is nothing I can think of that could improve this movie. It truly is Disney’s crowning achievement.

Awww...little tyke just burped up a wet one all over my back.What is fantastic about a re-release like this is that tons of kids who had never seen this masterpiece before can see it, and on the big screen. I actually took my little sister with me, and practically the entire theater was full of adults who were taking the younger generation to share an experience they had some 17 years ago. Judging from the children’s reactions, the film is just as magical to them as it was to us in our generation.

I was really curious to see what a hand-drawn 3D film would look like, and I must say I was really impressed. The conversion was flawless. There were a number of standout scenes, like “The Circle of Life” opening and the final fight at the end. The 3D seems to fit naturally in the film, being used subtly for the most part, as in movies like Toy Story 3, for example. Does it add anything? No, not really. Like Beauty and the Beast‘s “Human Again” added song, it’s an enjoyable addition but ultimately unnecessary. I do think this can save hand-drawn films, though. The financial incentive of a 3D ticket surcharge tipped the scales in favor of 3D CGI, but now that hand drawn has proven it can be done in 3D and done well, studios may just jump in.

The Lion King was the high point of Disney animation, and years later it still holds up. This is a rare opportunity to see it on the big screen and introduce a new generation to this animated masterpiece. Judging by how well it’s doing in theaters, I think we may be seeing Disney, and perhaps other studios raiding their catalogues to convert other classics into 3D. If they do as good of a job as was done here, that may indeed be something to look forward to, if only to experience them on the big screen once again (and for those of you who really can’t stand 3D, The Lion King is playing in 2D in select theaters as well).

The Lion King will run in theaters until September 30, 2011; the Diamond Edition Blu-ray will be released on October 4. For more details, check out Toonzone’s earlier coverage here.

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