Film Review – The Lion King 3D

Hummmmmmm….Seminyaaaaaa, felicammmmmmmmm….wenya, hummmmmmmm….It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all. From despair and hope, to faith and love. Til we find our way….

Oh, sorry, got lost there for a moment.

To promote their upcoming Blu-ray release, Disney is re-releasing The Lion King in 3D for a limited time in theaters across the country. At this point there aren’t many who are unfamiliar with this film.

Sometimes referred to as “Bamblet” for its obvious influences, this animated classic tells the story of the young lion prince Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick) whose scheming Uncle Scar (deliciously voiced by Jeremy Irons) plots to take over the throne of Pride Rock. With help from three comedic sidekicks in the guise of giggling hyenas Shenzi (Whoopi Goldberg), Banzai (Cheech Marin), and the silent slobbery tongued Ed (I can’t tell you how many times people have referenced this character when referring to me), Scar successfully assassinates Mufasa (James Earl Jones) while forcing Simba to go into hiding. Simba eventually matures, and with help looks inside himself to see the leader he needs to become.

Most everyone knows this movie by heart at this point. The songs, written by Elton John and Tim Rice, all went on to become beloved classics. “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” became a staple of radio stations and one of John’s biggest hits. The phrase “Hakuna Matata” became part of our shared pop culture heritage. And the stunningly animated opening sequence where Simba is initially christened as a child while the sweeping “Circle of Life” is sung has become one of the great opening scenes to an animated film. Timon and Pumbaa, the meerkat and warthog that help Simba while he’s in exile, are massively beloved characters. Rafiki, as voiced by the dearly departed Robert Guillame, is both funny and wise. On its initial release ,when trying to underscore the majesty of the animated vistas, the film was referred to as Out of Africa for children. Truly, The Lion King is one of the great Disney films.

Given all of that, then, the real question becomes: is the 3D worth it? The short answer is kind of not. I think I liked the idea of a 3D Lion King better than the reality. For example, I was hoping that the already awe-inducing wildebeest stampede would result in the herd literally popping out of the screen at you. Instead, it seemed like maybe a little bit of depth was added. But since that sequence was already so well animated, you could barely tell that any 3D enhancement had happened. The same complaint applies to most of the other shots of the African savannah. The original 2D version already had scope and depth to it. Very little of the 3D effect works on those settings. There are a few times where Zazu, for instance, seems to pop out of the screen. But for the most part the 3D just made what should be a bright, colorful movie look a little more dank and dark.

Should you go see this re-release? The positives are that it’s often worth it to see a genuine classic movie with a real live audience. The crowded matinee screening I saw this in was filled with small children who were genuinely invested in the onscreen goings-on. When Mufasa died, there were kids tearing up. One little girl even echoed Simba’s meek cries for help by repeating what he was saying: “Help…anyone?” It was sweet. So, on that note, the big screen experience is worth it.

However, worth it to the point of the extra 3D add-on charge? Probably not. I’m convinced that this will look stunning on Blu-ray. All of the colors should pop and the major large scope animated sequences will end up looking great. Also, I’m betting that uncompressed surround sound will help what was already a fairly impressive sound mix on standard definition DVD. I’m guessing with a quality home theater setup, this will be a reference quality disc. Given that, it’s hard to encourage a family of four to spend approximately 15 bucks a piece to see a movie dimly projected that they’ll be able to watch at home if they wait two weeks. Since that is the case, just to be helpful, I thought I would break with tradition and give this review three different ratings.

Film Grade: A+
3D Grade: C
Probable Blu-ray Grade: A


I'm a family man who got his Drama degree back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and now works at a desk. I love movies of all kinds, and I am still working my way through the list of 1001 movies you must see before you die.

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