It is time…for a new release of The Lion King, apparently. Not that we’re complaining, of course, it’s a delight to have an excuse to re-watch the golden cinematic masterpiece that is The Lion King over and over again. This time, the film is being re-released under the brand new Walt Disney Signature Collection. While I’m of the personal opinion that the Walt Disney Collection should only be reserved for films that Walt Disney worked on, The Lion King is certainly a welcome addition to this list of great films to receive a new Blu-Ray release.
The main question that stands about the film’s latest release is whether this film validates it’s re-release, especially considering its last release was on Blu-Ray just six years ago. That’s where the release becomes a bit of a mixed bag because while the majority of the things on the disc are new, many of them miss the mark and deliver slightly less than the previous releases. What’s most important is that the film as always, looks absolutely stunning, and this is coming from a millennial that grew up watching this movie on a fuzzy VHS tape, which was re-watched until the tape wore out. It’s absolutely beautiful to see this film get such a gorgeous treatment and that alone is worth owning a copy of The Lion King on Blu-Ray.
As for the Blu-Ray, the results are a bit of a mixed bag of some things that work, some things that have worked (and been recycled for this release) and some things that fall straight flat. We’ll break down each bonus feature below.
The Recording Sessions: This is one of the highlights of this release, which features brand new archival footage of the recording sessions taken by the stars of the film, and used for reference for the animators who often look to the footage for inspiration. It’s really neat to see all of this footage, even on their blurry VHS transfers, finally in the public, alongside the finished works that they inspired, including some movement and characteristics.
Inside the Story Room: This is perhaps my favorite of the new bonus features, which features fantastic archival footage behind the process of creating the film, which includes many scenes of the directors pitching elements of the story to the rest of the team, including the hilarious Haknua Matata pitch presentation and storyboard, The Circle of Life sequence, and Simba’s encounter with his father near the end of the film. It’s truly amazing to see this footage, and be given some insight into what the process of creating this film looked like from such a talented team.
Visualizing a Villian: This feature falls flat, because it lacks substance. We’re treated to a performance by David Garibaldi who paints an image of Scar, which looks amazing, but until we’re treated to his work, we’re given a shaky and incohesive dance performance, that just falls flat. This is disappointing, especially when it is one of only three new bonus feature choices.
Nathan and Matthew, The Extended Interview: This four minute sequence is part of a special interview done by producer Thomas Schumacher with two stars from the film, Nathan Lane (Timon) and Matthew Broderick (adult Simba) that was filmed in 2011, for a Lion King documentary. This includes unused scenes that are a delight to watch, but again, this feels like a kinda lazy thing to pull from the archives, and while it’s so great to see this, it feels like little effort was done to add anything new, or even attempt to find ways to connect this film to Walt Disney, which Beauty and the Beast at least set out to.
The Lion King Song Selection: The disc also includes sing-along versions to the film for each of the film’s musical numbers.
The Morning Report, Extended Scene: When The Lion King was released on DVD in 2004, the team went to extensive lengths to add a brand new scene for the special edition of the disc and seamlessly insert the scene into the film. The scene was titled The Morning Report, which features Zazu singing his morning report to Mufasa, only to get pounced by Simba. The scene is certainly out of place, and doesn’t work to the movie’s benefit, so luckily, it didn’t stick around of any of the following releases of the film. This disc re-releases the sequence yet again as a bonus feature, so it is great to see it again, and while we’re glad that it didn’t become a permanent addition to the classic film, we’re also glad this interesting piece didn’t become forgotten by the studio.
Deleted Scenes, Audio Commentary: Once again, both of these are borrowed over from the Diamond Edition and other previous releases, so while there’s nothing new here, it is nice to have it all on a definitive disc.
Classic Bonus: The disc will also include access to older classic bonus features from previous releases by linking your Disney Movies Anywhere account with the digital code found in your purchase, or by purchasing the digital film from Disney directly.
The Lion King is a brilliant, beautiful film that is always worth owning on Blu-Ray, but if you happen to own a previous release of this film, especially the Diamond Edition from 2011, the Walt Disney Signature Collection does little to validate yet another purchase. Sure, the Recording Sessions and the new Story Room features are nice, but the large portion of what’s included does little effort to truly stand out to this spectacular film. However, if you have not yet got a chance to purchase the film on Blu-Ray, you should certainly purchase the latest re-release of the film, as this has those two features, and will give you access to previous bonus features as well, through Disney’s digital streaming platform, Disney Movies Anywhere.
The Walt Disney Signature Collection has been a bit of a mixed bag thus far, with some spectacular additions and some lackluster, and even though The Lion King’s new release isn’t one of its strongest, we’re excited to see where the series heads next, and we’re just thankful to have another excuse to re-watch The Lion King.
The Lion King: The Walt Disney Signature Collection is now available to pre-order online.