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Movie Review: The Lion King 3D

September 16, 2011

The Lion King 3D – A Walt Disney Pictures’ Release

3D Release Date: September 16th, 2011

Original Release Date: June 24th, 1994

Rated G for some scary scenes

Running time: 89 minutes

Roger Allers (dir.)

Rob Minkoff (dir.)

Irene Mecchi (screenplay)

Jonathan Roberts (screenplay)

Linda Woolverton (screenplay)

Hans Zimmer (music)

Matthew Broderick as Adult Simba (voice)

Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Young Simba (voice)

Moira Kelly as Adult Nala (voice)

Niketa Calame as Young Nala (voice)

James Earl Jones as Mufasa (voice)

Nathan Lane as Timon (voice)

Ernie Sabella as Pumbaa (voice)

Jeremy Irons as Scar (voice)

Robert Guillaume as Rafiki (voice)

Rowan Atkinson as Zazu (voice)

©Walt Disney Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) holds up baby Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) to his mother and father Mufasa (James Earl Jones) in Disney’s classic The Lion King.

Our reviews below:


The Lion King 3D Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

Since 1994, Disney’s The Lion King has been beloved by both critics and audiences alike.  Seventeen years later, the animated classic has gotten a 3D makeover, and for the next two weeks audiences can see the film in all of its glory on the big screen.  On October 4th, the film will make its stunning debut on Blu-ray.  The third dimension is arguably needless for a traditionally animated film, and at certain points does noticeably dim some of the brightly lit scenes.  But purely as a film, The Lion King deserves my highest rating on every level.

Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Lion King is a classic story of royalty, forgiveness and finding your place in the world.  When Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a cub, Matthew Broderick as an adult) is born next in line to Mufasa’s (James Earl Jones) throne, his uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) plots to kill the king and take over the land.  Raised to believe he was responsible for his father being trampled to death by a herd of wildebeasts, Simba escapes to the wilderness and comes of age with meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane) and warthog Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella).  Only as an adult can he find the courage to take back the kingdom.

From the sprawling vistas in the opening “Circle of Life” sequences to the grand intimacy of the scenes set against the backdrop of the night sky, the animation here is breathtaking and beautifully rendred.  The Lion King tells an emotionally complex and often moving story, yet like all great Disney films, still delivers scenes of humour that are often naturally born out of the genuinely endearing and appealing characters. Hearing the excellent songs of Elton John and Tim Rice in a theatre is another one of the most memorable parts of this expereince.  Regardless of your feelings on the 3D, this is an enduring animated classic that deserves to be seen on the big screen.


The Lion King 3D Review by Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

Based loosely on elements of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (without being an all out tragedy), Disney’s 1994 film The Lion King went on to become the highest grossing animated film at that time.  The classic coming-of-age and father-son story, felt universal to many, and the darker parts allowed adults to find enjoyment in what could have easily been made just for kids.  On that note, some young kids ultimately would find parts too dark.  The second act of the film is very heavy on comic relief, with characters akin to the often jester types used to break up heavier stage plays.  I found it worked fine, although the darkest elements are where the film really excels and is memorable.  Personally, to me it is not a flawless film, although I do like it and it is one worth revisiting having many clear elements that make it a classic.

An interesting thing looking back on this film – now 17 years old – is how different it feels from many animated films released today.  For one thing, the dialogue and delivery seem a direct throwback to the stage, with a lot more talking than action getting its points across at times – in particular when contrasted to most films these days.  Another thing that makes this film a classic is the memorable soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (score), and Elton John & Tim Rice (songs), that has stood the test of time along with the film.  The songs Circle of Life and Can You Feel the Love Tonight? are probably my two favourites here.

In terms of filmmaking, I definitely think I appreciate this film way more now than when I first saw it (considering I was quite a bit younger 17 years ago).  In particular, I noticed how much cinematography and lighting were used to convey moods.  At times (like the climactic showdown) the sets become pushed almost into the background, allowing the focus on the characters, using various colours of lighting to set the mood – much like how things are presented on stage.  It is easy to see why this film made such an easy transition onto the stage, with its script, sets, and musical numbers seemingly made for that style.

I love the animation here – with the stunning backgrounds and lions at times (in particular young adult Nala) often having a very soft oil painterly look.  The waterfall scene is gorgeous to have back on the big screen.  But although it is stunning to see this film back for a limited run in theatres, I must say that I would have loved for it to have been in 2D as well.  I found the 3D – while it worked quite well for depth in several instances – to ultimately just dim the picture and distract from the film.  I look forward to another revisit to this film once I can watch it off of a crisp, bright, Blu-Ray.

A note I’d like to mention, is that in the book The Writer’s Journey by Chris Vogler (who was a consultant on the film), there is a very good breakdown of the story.  Interestingly, some of the minor issues he mentions are the same parts that I found the weaker areas.  In the 3rd ed. of the book, you can find The Lion King analysis from pages 258-267.  His analysis also mentions a bit more about the Hamlet references.  It is a very good read, made all the more interesting after revisiting the film.


The Lion King 3D Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

The last time I saw The Lion King, I was about six years old.  At the time, I thought the film was dark and violent, as I was too young to grasp the storyline.  Seeing it as an adult, I realized just how good the film really is.  The 2D animation is breathtakingly beautiful, still holding up to today’s computer generated animation.  The opening sequence with the African style song “Circle of Life” is particularly good.

Throughout the film, the lion animation captures just the right feline qualities, while the other animals although more stylized, are still quite recognizable.  The songs throughout the film are really good, remaining classics to this day.  The storyline, loosely inspired by Hamlet, is an excellent fable about unconditional love, forgiveness, and respect for our natural world.  Any child who is mature enough to grasp the complex storyline should see this film.

My only minor complaint is that the 3D dulls some of the film’s spectacular colour.  Go see Lion King 3D, then buy the Blu-ray, so you can enjoy the film in all its glory.


The Lion King 3D Review by Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

All these years later classic songs from The Lion King such as “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” are still memorable with countless theatre and musical performances keeping them alive.  Now Disney wants audiences to see the beautiful animation that made The Lion King so well-loved, with fresh eyes.

The restored animation is beautiful.  The addition of 3D does add depth to many of the scenes, however the dimming of some of the colors is somewhat annoying.  Still, The Lion King is worth re-visiting for the two weeks it’s in theatres and certainly worth checking out on Blu-ray.  

The Lion King is more theatrical and dramatic than I remembered.  The Hamlet-like story between lions Mufasa and Scar is just as powerful today as it was years ago.  Baby Simba is still adorable and the comic relief from warthog Pumbaa and meerkat Timon still funny.  The fact that The Lion King still feels fresh today just proves that Disney knows its classics.  Check this one out.


The Lion King 3D Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Most people are familiar with the film and/or stage musical based on The Lion King, so I won’t dwell on the story here. Briefly, the young lion Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas/Matthew Broderick) goes into exile from the pride when he is tricked into thinking he was responsible for the death of his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones), by the treachery of uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons). Simba is hanging out with the comic duo of Timon the meerkat (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa the warthog (Ernie Sabella) when he is found by the simian shaman Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) and brought back by his betrothed mate Nala (Moira Kelly) to avenge Mufasa’s death. Other interesting characters include menacing hyenas (Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin), and the witty major-domo bird Zazu (Rowan Atkinson).

The Lion King (1994) still holds up as one of the best 2D animated Disney features. Now in limited 3D release, it is worth a second look for diehard fans in theatres, while the rest of us can wait for the next disc release. The 3D effects are nice in some places, such as in the opening number where layers of cels of herding animals have been moved apart to give the illusion of depth. In some fast-moving action scenes however, the images are a bit shaky. Though the voice acting is first-rate throughout, I personally find the character animation variable. Mute game animals (gnu, giraffe, etc) move naturally across the savanna in a nice style reminiscent of Bambi. The talking hyenas are more stylized in a creepy way, and Pumbaa to me is more a generic cartoon clown animal than a meerkat. Though a bird of some indeterminate breed not unlike a new-world toucan, I particularly like Zazu, with Rowan Atkinson’s always amusing voice and even his eyes. The lions are the best-looking characters, their movements modelled by the animators on real lions brought in by Jim Fowler (Wild Kingdom). The musical numbers are of course one of the most appealing features of The Lion King, nicely filling out what is otherwise a rather conventional story.


Consensus:  Given a limited 3D release in theatres for the next two weeks, Disney’s 1994 film The Lion King is an enduring animated classic with appealing characters, beautiful animation and equally memorable songs that deserves to be seen on the big screen.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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