Walt Disney Animation Studios’ perennial favorite The Lion King (1994) is back on Blu-ray (and DVD and Digital HD), this time as “The Circle of Life Edition” under the “Walt Disney Signature Collection” moniker. The film is currently available for download on your favorite Digital HD platforms and the new Blu-ray version gets released this Tuesday, August 29.
Chances are excellent that, if you’re a Disney fan, you already own a copy of The Lion King on DVD, Blu-ray, or VHS. The Lion King is the fifth Disney animated motion picture title to join the “Walt Disney Signature Collection” established in 2016 (previous titles are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, and Bambi). While it’s unclear to me why this new collection even exists (other than to possibly provide a new simplified “halo” brand for Disney’s home entertainment offerings and/or to generate more revenue), having a pristine Blu-ray copy of these beloved films along with the opportunity to have Digital HD copies of them (if you’re into building up your digital film collection like I am) is always a good idea. But is this new “Walt Disney Signature Collection”/”The Circle of Life Edition” (whatever that means) worth your time and money?
The film’s digital transfer is gorgeous (which I also thought of the 2011 Blu-ray release). It was a pleasure to watch this beautifully animated film again. Included on the Blu-ray is a brand new sing-along version that displays fancy subtitles during all of the film’s songs. I watched some of this version as well and the subtitles are done in a colorful and fun way which should be very appealing to young readers. Probably the more compelling reason to get this new version is to have your own digital copy of the film (again, if you’re into that).
The new special features are a mixed bag. My favorites were the “Inside the Story Room” segments where co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff reunite and introduce some fascinating video footage of the film’s storyboard presentations from 1993 when the film was in production. Some of these I had seen before and some I had not, but I enjoyed them all. I also liked “Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Lion King Conversation” where Matthew Broderick (voice of adult Simba) and Nathan Lane (voice of Timon) meet up with former Disney Animation chief Thomas Schumacher and talk about the making of the film. My only complaint is that the segment was too short.
Other special features (which may vary by retailer) include a dance and paint performance piece by artist David Garibaldi and a team of modern dancers called “Visualizing a Villain”; video footage of some of the film’s vocal talent recording their dialogue for the film superimposed on top of the final animated clips called “The Recording Sessions”; and an audio commentary track with producer Don Hahn and co-directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. Other specifications for the release are at the bottom of this post.
The timing of this re-release is confusing to me, since the “reimagined live-action” (aka photo-realistic CGI) remake of the film directed by Jon Favreau is currently in production isn’t scheduled to be released until 2019 and there’s no other promotional thing to tie it to (even the Broadway musical is still going strong–it’s now the third-longest running musical in Broadway history behind The Phantom of the Opera and Chicago; Cats comes in fourth). It will also be interesting going forward to see what Disney does with all of their home entertainment releases with the recent announcement of their own exclusive streaming service to begin in 2019.
Still, I’m happy to have both a beautiful Blu-ray and new Digital HD copy of this beloved film which I hope that my friends, family, and I will be able to enjoy for years to come. So, if Digital HD is your thing or you just need a new version of the film, the “Walt Disney Signature Collection” version of The Lion King is a winner. (And I still don’t have a clue what “The Circle of Life Edition” means other than it’s just a name for this 2017 release.)
My rating of The Lion King film: 5 out of 5 stars
My rating of “The Circle of Life Edition” Blu-ray special features: 3 out of 5 stars
And speaking of “The Circle of Life,” here are are a couple of covers of that great song for your listening pleasure. First up is a rendition the Mormon Tabernacle Choir along with YouTube star Alex Boyé recorded at a concert last month (I sing bass with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and performing this song was a real treat for this Disney nerd).
I promise you that I don’t keep up on boy bands, but it really does seem like 98 Degrees hasn’t been doing much for years. (The last I even remember seeing Nick Lachey was in his MTV Newlyweds days with his now ex-wife Jessica Simpson.) However, 98 Degrees’ newly recorded cover of “The Circle of Life” is also a fun one.
Specifications (Movie Only)
Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy); Digital HD/SD; DVD
Feature Run Time
Approximately 89 minutes
G by the Motion Picture Association of America
Blu-ray/1080p High Definition/DVD – 1.78:1
Blu-ray – DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (English); Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish and French)
DVD – Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish, and French)
English ESL, English SDH, French, and Spanish