Blu Ray Review: ‘The Lion King’ Walt Disney Signature Edition

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The Disney Vault is home to some of the most iconic works of animation and storytelling; with films that inspire and live on past their releases into the hearts and minds of families the world over.

For many, childhood is defined by the family’s Disney movie collection. Though that collection looks much different now than years of old, it is still a lasting tradition many hold dear. Now, in an era of digital content and online features, Disney is continuing to share their iconic films with a new generation.

Re releases of many of those films are coming out for an encore performance in the Walt Disney Signature Collection. Starting with the film that started it all, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the latest collection line has been a mix of both classic and modern animation. Though titled and inspired by Walt’s personal touch and signature, not all the films in the series have his direct involvement. Very similar to the Diamond and Platinum Editions, this series has a heavy focus on more of the modern era of Disney.

Their latest release, The Lion King, will mark the fourth major release of the film. Originally released under the “Masterpiece” series on VHS, the film has come a long way. Each set builds upon the first, bringing a mix of similar features, along with a new set of gems and footage that have never been seen.

Announced at this year’s Lion King panel at the D23 Expo, this series is fully available digitally and in stores with a huge list of features that cover behind the scenes, cast and crew interviews, music videos, and much more. For a full features list, please scroll down to the bottom of the article. There’s definitely a lot to filter through. For those who have one the previous releases of the film, there are quite a few reminders of sets past.

What makes The Lion King sets stand out are their ability to instill a warm sense of nostalgia. Each iteration has something that is just as memorable as the film itself. Rewinding, literally, you get a sneak peek at Disney’s other major release of that year, Pocahontas. Along with the VHS’ scene trailer, you also received a very heart felt and cheesy advertisement for Walt Disney World featuring Larry and his older brother going over tips and advice for his first trip to the Magic Kingdom.

The film’s DVD release came with the Platinum Edition, which brought us a very unique menu with a ton of features not available during the VHS era. The set also had fun mini games along with a virtual safari with Timon and Pumbaa.

One of the most memorable additions was the “Morning Report”. Originally in the Broadway production of The Lion King, the song was added in a whole new scene that was incorporated into the “Special Edition” of the film’s DVD release. Later removed in the Diamond Edition’s film edit, it was a test done on many of the Platinum line’s films at adding some new musical flair into the original cut. Similar to “Human Again”, which was a part of the Beauty and the Beast release, it was a key feature of the series.

For the Diamond Edition, Disney released the film in 3D, along with a remastered release in theaters to celebrate. Boasting a hefty 4 disc combo pack, along with smaller variations, it’s one of the largest versions on the market. One of the other key components to the set was the “Lion King Blooper Reel”, which can also be found on the new Signature Collection’s digital version.

The Signature Collection will add to the tradition with the “Recording Sessions”, which is an amazing look into the great voice acting done by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Whoopi Goldberg, and so many more. Secondly, the new set also comes with an updated sing along version, archive footage, and more in depth looks at concept art. Overall, the set is a great way to add the film to your home collection or Disney Movies Anywhere lineup. Just like the sets of Lion King Past, this one does a great job at bringing something new to the table, while keeping some of the core features alive from before.

Lion King

Here’s an up close look at the set’s key features:

  • Updated and New Sing-Along Version
  • The Recording Sessions – A special look into the work of all who helped bring life to the characters of the Lion King. Footage Intro by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff.
  • Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Lion King Conversation – Nathan Lane (Timon) and Matthew Broderick (Simba) speak about their experiences with The Lion King and remember the impact the film had on their own lives.
  • Inside the Story Room – Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff present archival footage of five original pitches for the story.
  • Audio Commentary – Producer Don Hahn and co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff discuss the film during key sequences and moments.
  • Visualizing a Villain – Artist David Garibaldi paints and dances with a core ensemble during Scar’s “Be Prepared” sequence in a very interesting way.
  • Circle of Life – A look at the film’s iconic opening sequence and the colors and power that helped make the scene so memorable.
  • Hakuna Matata – Previewed at the D23 Expo, a special look into the pitch for the film’s pivotal song.
  • Rafiki and Reflecting Pool – Looking hard at one of the film’s stable “pillars” and emotional moments.
  • Simba & Nala – Story meetings about what helped shape the title characters.
  • Simba Takes Nala Out to Play – A closer look at some elements that did not make it into the final cut.
  • Music & More – Musical additions that include the following songs
  • “Circle of Life”
  • “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”
  • “Hakuna Matata”
  • “Be Prepared”
  • “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”
  • Galleries
  • Visual Development
  • Storyboards
  • Backgrounds & Layouts
  • Character Design
  • Digital Only (Classic DVD Features)

There’s plenty to keep you entertained! If that’s not enough, check out this year’s exclusive “Celebration of the Animated Classic” panel at the D23 Expo in Anaheim below.

Hakuna Matata!