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The Lion King (2019) (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Welp, Disney is at it again, updating their old animated classics and raking in the dough at the box office. The Lion King, the third of four films of such ilk coming from the mouse house this year was a dominant force at the box office. Not quite making that Avengers: Endgame money, but making its own feast of green in impressive fashion. Poor reviews can’t stop people from biting into their nostalgia apples as both this film and Aladdin earlier in the summer had proven. Granted, you knew this one was gonna make a quick, cool, easy billion and give them reassurance that they are making the right moves with these straightforward modern takes. You’ll be able to own The Lion King on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray when it sees the shelves on October 22nd.

Film 

Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny on the plains of Africa. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother — and former heir to the throne — has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is soon ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. Now, with help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba must figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.

The Lion King’s 2019 facelift manages to be impressively animated so much so that its rendered it dull and feels its just “going through the motions” of the original film. This might be the film to which hold up and showcase when people think these Disney redos are lifeless retreads of the original animations. Its a shame too, as Jon Favreau’s previous effort in this canon was The Jungle Book. Essentially a similar project, that one was far more lively and enjoyable.

Now, lets give credit where credit is due, the photo realistic sets and animals are really impressive here and a remarkable feat of animation. Everyone involved should be applauded. This stuff takes an ungodly amount of hours and talent to pull off. However, one thing its taken away from the original hand drawn animated film is the overexaggerated expressiveness in the body language and faces of our characters. They all look stoic and super bored. Many have criticized this cast that they sound super “phoned in” (And that literally could be the case, John Oliver’s mixing is suspect at times from an audio angle). However, I don’t think the cast is uninterested and I think they are fine, the realistic animation isn’t doing them any favors as the animals just aren’t really expressive in general.

In terms of story, well, aside from some little dialogue here or there, this is basically the same story with no real deviations. I hope you’re really impressed with the new animation because that’s all you’re really getting here. The beats, lines, scenes are all identical to what came before. The songs are the same too, though nowhere near as good as Elton John’s output 20 years ago. I hate to be hard on this film, but this movie really felt more like it was made because they could, not because they should. But, kudos to Disney, this thing made well over a billion dollars. So, I’m in the minority crowd for not being in favor.

Its pretty obvious I wasn’t a fan of the movie, but I do really love the original animated one. And I don’t think its my fondness for the original making me not too into this one. This really just offers nothing new. Almost like re-releasing Its A Wonderful Life, just colorized now. Heck, they could have just taken the original voice work and dubbed it into here, its that similar.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC/ H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: While the film was produced at 6.5K, unfortunately the digital intermediate was not and only 2K. So, here we have the biggest, elite studio in the world taking one of the biggest, impressive projects and not boasting it up to full potential. So very very, strange. Luckily Toy Story 4 was native. This upscale is still pretty damn impressive and really lifts off the screen. The sharpness, crispness and attention to detail is pretty astounding. I have to wonder what there is left that having it be a native 4K title could have done. This surely is a terrific transfer.

Depth: Being animated like this only helps to enhance the three dimensional look to the film. Motion is smooth, natural and very lifelike with no kind of distortions present.

Black Levels: Natural blacks really enhance this picture over the standard counterpart. They provide the film with more definition and a good saturation while holding on to more detail and textures. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: For the most part the colors here aren’t ones that typically would pop and impress (Those do happen and get it perfect when they do), but the natural habitats feel bold, full and accurate to any given shade or tint. Its impressive in how lifelike it looks and that has a lot to do with the coloring as well as the animation.

Flesh Tones: N/A

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD Compatible), English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, German 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, Italian 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish

Dynamics: The Lion King comes intact with a pretty respectable Atmos track for Disney. Its not their best, but far from one of their more lacking efforts (REDO THOR RAGNAROK DAMNIT!). Its a loose, freewheeling sound that may just need to be bumped up a few ticks, but really feels pretty full and almost in concert with the opening Circle of Life. Most of the mix feels pretty accurate to its environment and even kicks it up some good degrees for the more intense sequences.

Height: Ceiling speakers have plenty to offer, from rain to thunder or bristling trees above, it follows a more accurate but sometimes playful course.

Low Frequency Extension: Fire roaring, stampeding and punches (?) make for a solid rumble from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This mix has plenty of fun in crafting the environments in the film and knowing every degree where the sounds emanate. Thunder hits from a back corner, stampedes have sound rolling across the room and ambiance is carefully and accurately placed.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, audible in any given intensity and environment.

Extras 

The Lion King (2019) comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a digital code.

Audio Commentary

  • By Director Jon Favreau

Play Movie With Director Jon Favreau Intro (HD, 1:14) – Jon reveals what 1 shot in the movie is actual real photography.

Sing Along With The Movie

The Journey To The Lion King (HD, 53:25) – This is a pretty nice and surprisingly extensive little journey to the making of the film.

  • The Music
  • The Magic
  • The Timeless Tale

More To Be Scene (HD, 10:31) – Recording studio and layer-by-layer progressions of some of most iconic moments in “The Lion King.”

  • “Circle of Life”
  • “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” 
  • “Hakuna Matata” 

Music Videos (HD, 8:36)

  • “Spirit” By Beyonce
  • “Never Too Late” By Elton John

Song Selection 

Protect the Pride (HD, 3:02) –Director Jon Favreau, the Lion Recovery Fund and conservationists highlight efforts to protect the majestic lions and their home.

Summary 

Nope, wasn’t a fan of Disney’s 2019 remake of The Lion King. And I don’t like being harsh on it, because I do applaud and admire the animation work done on the film. Disney has put in good work on their presentation with outstanding video and a pretty good Atmos track to accompany it. The extras follow the typical Disney beats and provide a solid supplemental view of making the movie and enjoying the songs after the film’s over. Hey, if you enjoyed the film, awesome. I’m jealous. This 4K UHD should be the one you pick up when you add it to your collection.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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