Monday, September 19, 2011

The King Has Returned!

For those people who weren't around in 1994 and for those who didn't want to see it in IMAX format in 2002, or those who for some other reason missed it the first two times it was released, Disney has re-released its blockbuster hit, The Lion King, in theaters this week. This time those marketing marvels at Disney have added a 3D format to the film (no doubt hoping to cash in on the current 3D craze sweeping theaters all over the country).

Generally speaking, I tend to think of 3D as a sort of gimmick, like the B-grade movies that filled drive-in theaters and matinees back in the 1950's with their accompanying cheesy special effects. And for me at least, I received the news that Disney had given this animated classic the 3D treatment with more than a little skepticism, despite my innitial delight at the thought of seeing it again in theaters.  The Lion King is a modern piece of storytelling genius that doesn't need any gimmicks to entice me to see it again in all its theatrical glory. That having been said, I shelled out thirteen dollars to see it last night in order to discover whether the movie still stood the test of time, or if my fondness for Disney/Pixar was coloring my memory for this film.

The memorable cast of characters and inspired voice casting were just as wonderful as I remembered. Jeremy Irons is chilling as the antagonist of the film a ruthless and self-serving lion called Scar. He is plotting to slaughter his own elder brother and nephew in order to become King of the Pride lands While James Earl Jones provides the rich, resonant voice and gentle strength of Mufassa the rightful king. Actors Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick share the role of Simba, the displaced heir apparent to the rule of the Savannah.  Robert Guillaume embodies the role of the mystic monkey Raffiki, and of course, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella as Timon and Pumba give stalwart and heartfelt performances that make you forget these are animated animals. Instead, they feel all too real as the movie progresses.

And who could forget the Oscar worthy set of songs from Sir Elton John? Can You Feel the Love Tonight won, while Circle of Life and Hakuna Matata were also nominated. Plus, Hans Zimmer's debut score for an animated film won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and TWO Grammys as well.

Fortunately my concerns for one of my childhood favorites were generally unfounded. The grand scope of the African setting and sweeping cinamatography of the original film translate well to the immersiveness of 3D. The 3D bits aren't really distracting. although the opening sequence did actually have me peeking out from under my special 3D glasses for a moment just to check and see what the film actually looked like. Overall however, I have to say that my 3D experience was as magical as my first veiwing of this film albeit for slightly different reasons, and I DO hope that like me you rediscover this timeless classic for yourself.

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