The Lion King appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Across the board, this was an impressive presentation.
From start to finish, the movie displayed excellent clarity. All shots exhibited good to great definition, as nary a soft spot appeared.
The image lacked jaggies or moiré effects, and it also showed no signs of edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent, as the movie was always clean and fresh.
With its jungle setting, King gave us a wide, varied palette that the 4K replicated well. From the lush landscapes to the animals to all other elements, the hues always came across as lively and tight. The disc’s HDR gave the tones a bit more vivacity and range,
Black levels looked solid, while low-light images were concisely displayed and tight, with no excessive opacity. HDR added impact to whites and contrast. This was a consistently excellent visual presentation.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, The Lion King also provided a pretty strong Dolby Atmos soundtrack that featured a very active soundfield. All the channels presented a lot of different elements that made them work constantly throughout the movie.
Music emphasized the front speakers, but the score and songs also used the rears for solid reinforcement and occasional unique elements. Stereo imaging was very fine.
Effects played an active role in the proceedings and helped bring the action to life. Quieter sequences demonstrated a nice feeling of atmosphere, while louder ones kicked the track into higher gear.
The mix really helped bring even greater power to sequences like the wildebeest stampede, as unique material came from all the speakers to create an engrossing sense of environment.
Overall audio quality seemed excellent. Speech across as natural and crisp, without obvious issues connected to the lines.
Music varied somewhat but usually was solid. A few of the production numbers lacked the dimensionality I expected, but those examples remained fairly minor, and the music was usually rich and full.
Effects always sounded accurate and dynamic. Those elements presented good bass response and seemed tight and well defined with no signs of distortion. This was a nice auditory experience.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the 2017 “Signature” Blu-ray? The Atmos audio felt a bit more expansive than its 2017 predecessor, though not by a big margin.
I also felt the 4K offered moderately superior visuals, mainly because it seemed a little more stable and natural. The BD’s colors could appear somewhat more “cartoony”, whereas the 4K was more subdued, though still plenty vivid.
Delineation also came across as slightly stronger, and the whole package looked more stable. This didn’t turn into a substantial improvement, but the 4K offered the stronger rendition.
To complicate matters, a 2011 3D Blu-ray also exists. For those who can run both 4K and 3D, which fares best?
Honestly, I’d call it a toss up. While the 3D comes with an appealing sense of immersion, the picture quality of the 4K seems superior. I’d probably opt for the 4K just because it feels like the stronger visual presentation, but the 3D looks very good as well, and the added dimensionality makes it a fun alternative.
No extras appear on the 4K itself, but the included Blu-ray copy involves some, and we start with an audio commentary from directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff with producer Don Hahn. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific track.
Taken straight from the 1995 laserdisc release, the track seems very solid. The trio cover pretty much all the appropriate topics. They hit on various animation challenges, casting and aspects related to the voice actors, script changes and character development, research, and many other elements.
The three men display nice chemistry and interact with vivacity and good humor. A little too much happy talk shows up at times, and the track drags a little during the film’s third act, but overall, this seems like a useful and entertaining discussion of the movie.
Under Bloopers and Outtakes, we get a three-minute, 44-second reel that provides an unusual piece. It takes a mix of actual slip-ups and jokes from the voice recording session and matches them to the animated animal “actors”. That’s an unusual approach but it’s kind of fun.
Five Deleted and Alternate Scenes come next. Including a 29-second introduction from Allers and Minkoff, these run a total of 12 minutes, 42 seconds. We find “Zazu Flatters Mufasa” (0:27), “’King of the Wild’” (2:23), “Scar Wants Nala As His Queen” (5:08), “Simba and Nala Reunited” (3:19) and “Zazu Flatters Scar” (0:52).
All of these consist of story reels that show filmed storyboards combined with audio. Some use the actors who appear in the film, while others feature scratch dialogue/vocals.
Should any of them have made the final cut? Probably not, but some interesting side stories appear. “Queen” allows Nala to have a little more screen time and creates an intriguing love triangle theme, so it’s probably the best of the bunch.
On the other hand, “King of the Wild” is a dud. In it, Mufasa croons a jaunty tune, and it doesn’t work for the character.
On the prior release, Allers and Minkoff introduced each scene, but here, we only hear from them at the start. Why did the set drop their other comments? I have no idea.
On a prior DVD, The Morning Report was integrated into the film. Originally part of the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King, don’t expect a substantial production number.
Instead, this tune simply substitutes for Zazu’s previously spoken chat with Mufasa early in the movie. It’s a short song and only added 44 seconds to the film’s running time.
It’s not especially interesting, but it’s okay, and I’m glad the two-minute, 30-second clip appears here, though I’m surprised we don’t get the alternate version of the flick that included it. If the DVD provided two versions of the movie, why doesn’t the Blu-ray or 4K?
Visualizing a Villain runs two minutes, 53 seconds and offers an odd music video of sorts. Set to “Be Prepared:, we see movie clips mixed with a dance performance accentuated by an artist who “live-paints” Scar. It’s strange and not at all interesting.
With the four-minute, 46-second Recording Sessions, we hear from Minkoff and Allers. After their intro, we see movie clips that also display matching elements from the recording studio. It’s too short and scattered, but I do like the glimpse of the actors at work.
Inside the Story Room breaks into five sub-domains. Equipped with more intros from Minkoff and Allers, these fill a total of 23 minutes, 42 seconds.
“Room” lets us see “story pitches” as well as concept art and other background elements. It becomes a good look back at the movie’s original planning sessions and becomes one of the disc’s strongest extras.
Next we get Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Lion King Conversation. This seven-minute, eight-second reel offers a chat among producer Thomas Schumacher and actors Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Expect a delightful discussion.
The disc opens with an ad for Coco. Sneak Peeks adds a promo for The Lion Guard. No trailer for Lion King appears here.
The Lion King stands as one of Disney’s finest and continues to impress after 28 years. The 4K UHD brings excellent picture and audio along with a smattering of bonus materials. This turns into the best presentation of the film yet put on the market.
To rate this film, visit the Platinum Edition review of THE LION KING