The story is also kept fairly simple, with traces of all kinds of familiar works involved. Start with the "Hamlet" element of Simba's Uncle Scar scheming to take the throne by any means necessary to the "Bambi" side of losing a parent at a young age to the Biblical parallels of Simba coming back from exile to save his family and community.
But the biggest element that preserves "The Lion King" is the rich amount of characters and amazing voice acting. While the main characters are handled superbly, it's the supporting characters that keep the movie's energy up. Jeremy Irons is fiendishly fun to listen to as the scheming Scar and Nathan Lane's meerkat Timon is spot on. But Robert Guillame steals the show as baboon/witch doctor Rafiki.
But the area where "The Lion King" holds up the least over time is, oddly enough, in the music. While Elton John and Tim Rice combined to form some amazing songs for the soundtrack, few of them truly integrate well into the story of the film. The most memorable songs ("Circle of Life," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight") basically serve as placeholder songs in the flow of the movie. Only Scar's "Be Prepared" actually manages to be relevant to the plot. And the new song "The Morning Report," just adds to the problem. While it was popular in the stage musical version, it serves as just another time killer here, complete with a new, weird singing voice for young Simba.
But Disney has gone all out for this DVD release. First of all, the film looks beautiful. "The Lion King" has been digitally restored and remastered giving it a bright and glossy look that is truly amazing during the film's colorful chorus moments. And Disney uses its own brand of surround sound on the film for a marvelous clarity throughout the movie.
Besides cleaning up the movie's look and sound, Disney went a couple extra miles in the presentation. There's a great commentary on the film from directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers and producer Don Hahn that really paints the larger scope of "The Lion King."
Besides being quite humorous, the trio also discusses how the crew went to Africa, were visited by Jim Fowler and his African animals and how each animator took on characteristics of their creation.
The first disc also gives a couple of games for the kids to play, music videos and sing-a-longs, but it's the second disc which shines.
Spanning six continents and five distinct areas of interest, the second disc makes this DVD a complete experience.
The animal section of the disc provides some insight both into the animals of the film and Disney's close ties with the animal kingdom.
But the most revealing extras are in the story and film journeys. These two areas show how the movie evolved from a simple throwaway to a classic.
The directors were basically told the story was "Bambi" in the jungle and were given free reign to do anything they wanted to the story. And even better, most of the company's A-list people were working on "Pocahontas" during the time, letting the second-stringers shine on "The Lion King."
Those little touches, in addition to the massive amounts of features and information on the rest of the second disc, make this one of the most impressive DVD collections of the year.
"The Lion King": B
DVD features: A,”Matthew T. Olson”