It was this summer that my love for THE LION KING was reignited during my visit to the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been enjoying it on occasion with my girls over the past few years – quite the contrary, especially given that Disney Junior’s THE LION GUARD has been in the regular viewing mix for quite awhile. I think what I’d forgotten was how magical it was at the time of its first release – the summer after I graduated high school, and a film that was really one of those “lightning in a bottle” moments. The combination of attending a celebration of the film along with being in the room for the debut of test footage from Jon Favreau’s 2019 live-action version of THE LION KING just brought goosebumps. Now, with film having been reissued as part of The Walt Disney Signature Collection as “The Circle of Life Edition” (available on Digital HD and Blu-ray Combo Pack), it’s prime time for audiences to experience the film again, or to introduce it to their children for the very first time.
THE LION KING is one of those movies that my wife and I have purchased several times over, from VHS to DVD and beyond, at one point purchasing the first DVD release during an era where we were amassing a library of classic titles with the idea that we “might” one day have children to show them to, not considering that eventually the studios would be sending them to us for review (as is the case with this one). With this release, THE LION KING marks the fifth film in the Walt Disney Signature Collection, taking its place alongside SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, PINOCCHIO and BAMBI.
There isn’t anything to be said for the film that hasn’t been already (in fact, I recently said a lot about it here), and on this release it looks and sounds great – probably the best I’ve ever seen it.
The big draw here are the bonus features, and there’s a ton that carry over from prior releases, along with an all-new Sing-Along version – something fantastic to have, and a tradition that’s really taken hold with more recent fare from Walt Disney Animation Studios starting with FROZEN.
In addition to the stacked deck of bonuses available on the Blu-ray, there’s also a selection of “classic” features from early releases that are only included on the digital version.
Full Bonus Features Include…
- Brand New Sing-Along Version
- Audio Commentary – View the film with commentary by producer Don Hahn and co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff.
- Visualizing a Villain – Against a backdrop of live dancers and the animated “Be Prepared” sequence, artist David Garibaldi paints a masterpiece of evil.
- The Recording Sessions – Watch rare footage of the actors recording their roles, matched with the final animation. Intro by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff.
- Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Lion King Conversation – Nathan Lane (Timon) and Matthew Broderick (Adult Simba) offer candid and hilarious insights into their Lion King experiences.
- Inside the Story Room – Co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff present archival footage of five original story pitches.
- Circle of Life – See how color creates emotion and meaning in the film’s iconic opening.
- Simba & Nala – See how elements proposed in story meetings evolve into what appears onscreen.
- Simba Takes Nala Out to Play – …And, sometimes what seems funny in story meetings never makes it into the film!
- Hakuna Matata – Co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff sing, act and dance their hearts out as they pitch the “Hakuna Matata” sequence.
- Rafiki and Reflecting Pool – Co-directors Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff pitch a sequence that became the emotional heart of The Lion King to Producer Don Hahn.
- Music & More – Sing along to your favorite songs from the movie!
- “Circle of Life”
- “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”
- “Be Prepared”
- “Hakuna Matata”
- “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”
- Visual Development – Explore a gallery of striking artwork that inspired the movie’s look and feel.
- Character Design – Trace the development of the film’s unforgettable characters through early concept art drawings.
- Storyboards – Examine storyboards created in the development of “The Lion King.”
- Layouts – Feast your eyes on layouts created in the development of “The Lion King.”
- Backgrounds & Layouts – Journey through a gallery of landscape paintings that shaped the world of “The Lion King.”
- Classic Bonus Features (Digital Only) – These offerings from prior home entertainment releases include hours of bonus material, such as bloopers, audio commentary, deleted and alternate scenes, and in-depth journeys into the music, film, story, animals and stage show.
In an age of streaming, it’s still nice to collect the classics in a more permanent form, and THE LION KING makes for a worthy purchase. Bonus: For a limited time, the Blu-ray combo pack includes a 35mm film frame taken from a new print of the film.