It’s been well over a decade since Disney first unleashed “The Lion King” on audiences across the globe. With lasting catch phrases like “hakuna matata” and Oscar-winning music from Elton John, audiences today seem just as familiar with Simba and his crazy pal Timon as they were when the film premiered in 1994.
And to celebrate the lasting success — and also to promote the soon-to-be released Diamond Edition of the movie on Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray 3D — Disney is releasing a special 3D edition of the film in select theaters, starting Sept. 16, for a limited two-week engagement.
Radio Disney invited members of the press along with some very lucky families to see the 3D film at a sneak-peak screening event in Draper. After a few games with the audience and some generous give-aways, Radio Disney representatives wished the audience a happy screening and left everyone to enjoy the show.
“The Lion King” is an insightful coming-of-age story about a young lion cub named Simba. Initially excited about the day he will be king of Pride Rock, Simba’s life is turned upside down at the paws of his power-hungry Uncle Scar, who tricks the cub into believing he’s responsible for his father’s death and convinces him to run away forever.
After years of running from his past and trying to embrace a carefree life with his newfound friends, Timon and Pumbaa, fate brings Simba back to Pride Rock to confront his memories, his uncle and his responsibilities as king.
While the story is just as enjoyable now as it was in the ’90s, the 3D conversion process resulted in a mixed bag of experiences. As the flagship “Circle of Life” opening unfolds, it becomes clear just how epic Disney wanted the intro to “The Lion King” to feel. The beautifully painted African backdrops bleed off as thousands of animals gallop, thud and fly over the audience, just rows ahead of the observer.
But in some of the flashier, less-scenic scenes like the “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” sequence, the presentation feels more like a colorful popup book, or at its worst, those abstract pictures that present a 3D image if you cross your eyes long enough.
The distracting moments are definitely the exception, however, as the majority of the film comes off feeling like a classic Disneyland ride — filled with animated, life-sized cutouts layered into a scene of props and elaborately painted walls in the background.
The stampede sequence was perhaps the scene that felt most natural in the new 3D environment. The herd of wildebeests race in front of audience members, bringing a new intensity to the already dramatic scene and adding a new perspective to Simba’s desperate situation.
But overall, when not immersed in a sea of wildebeests, the new glasses-enriched look of “The Lion King” gives a feeling of fun to the now classic tale. The 3D is evident in every frame, which will be a selling point for most audience members. However, because the original animation was hand drawn, the storybook experience is enhanced and may be distracting to those expecting something from the team at Pixar.
A lazy ending and the world’s most unnecessary slow-motion scene knock the film from four stars to three, but don’t let that deter you from taking your favorite young person for an afternoon out with “The Lion King” in 3D.
The film is rated G but contains some scenes of cartoon action and violence.
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