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The Lion King (1994)

The King has returned

Directed by:

Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 89 minutes

UK Certificate: U

On DVD

Country: United States

Looking at Disney’s sudden decision to release a special edition of ‘The Lion King’ on DVD without even a smidgeon of cynicism proves a little difficult. In a year that’s seen them inflict the below-par Treasure Planet and toe-curlingly bad Jungle Book 2 upon big screen audiences, this swift re-packaging of one of their considerably more reliable productions smacks ever so slightly of desperation.

Nine years after first roaring into cinemas worldwide, this double-Oscar winner now comes with the inclusion of a new song – ‘Morning Report’ – which you can choose to leave out in favour of the original version if you prefer. And, after hearing it, you probably will.

But there’s no denying that viewed from start to finish this is a wonderful movie experience, and certainly one of Disney’s finest hour-and-a-halves. The jaw-dropping backdrops would completely steal the show were it not for the engrossing, charming and often funny adventure story bounding along in the foreground.

It tells the story of Simba, a lion cub who flees the family home when his dad – King Mufasa – snuffs it and wicked Uncle Scar tricks him into thinking it was his fault. He grows up tucked away in a jungle hiding place, alongside newfound buddies Timon and Pumbaa (a meerkat and a wart-hog, in case you’re wondering), before eventually plucking up the courage to return to the Pride Lands and take back what’s rightfully his.

Some great work from the casting department means we get the right celebrity voices to match the right characters, including Jeremy Irons as Scar, Whoopi Goldberg as a cackling hyena, Matthew Broderick as the adult Simba and James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair as the King and Queen (incidentally, that same pair previously teamed up in 1988 to play similar roles in Coming to America).

If you’re one of the many folks who bought this first time around on VHS, you may well be loath to splash out again just to see an updated version which is basically inferior. But the rest of the extras on offer are good, and if you haven’t seen this for a while (or at all) then this’ll be a worthwhile addition to your collection. And kids will love it.

It's Got: A string of hit numbers provided by Tim Rice and Elton John, and an upbeat African-style score from Hans Zimmer.

It Needs: Perhaps to ditch the goose-stepping hyena scene. Hardly going to help stop the spread of all those nasty rumours, are they Walt?

DVD Extras Two different versions of the film (the original and the pointless update, which is worth a look only for the sake of curiosity), extensive behind-the-scenes footage and commentary, deleted scenes, abandoned concepts, some interactive games, and a few music vids. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Summary

Regardless of Disney’s reasons for choosing to release this now, it’s a fantastic example of just how good the pre-Pixar generation toons could be. A real “mane” attraction (arf!).

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