I’ve seen the musical in London, I’ve enjoyed the stage show at Disney World several times, I even have a little Simba plushie, but one thing I had never experienced until yesterday is The Lion King on the big – or even the little – screen. The re-release of the film in 3D in the cinemas gave me the perfect opportunity to see the film that I have heard some describe as Disney’s best. It’s worth pointing out that I went to see The Lion King despite having meeerkat issues.
It’s unnecessary to describe the plot because the plot is loosely wrapped around a series of fabulous multi-colour tableaux, enhanced by song and, in this re-release, 3D. All you need know is that young lion cub Simba, heir to the throne, is cast out by his uncle Scar and his hyena minions and is adopted by a meerkat and warthog until he is able finally to reclaim his place as King of the Pride Lands.
Simba’s journey takes him through elephant graveyards, jungle, desert and stampedes. The 3D, so well used by Disney in the past, adds the most colourful depth and perspective to the African landscapes as we see layer upon layer of animal species taking their place in the circle of life. Instead of realism, we have beautifully stylised portraits of life in the bush and jungle, with animals anthropomorphically transformed through dance and song. The Tim Rice and Elton John songs, with their imaginative and very funny lyrics, are brought to life thanks to the fine delivery of such voice actors as Jeremy Irons (Scar) and Whoopi Goldberg (Shenzi the hyena) or Rowan Atkinson (a slightly annoying Zazu bird).
Add a chunk of sentiment, some beautiful colours, African skies and a golden hug of life and you have The Lion King. Admittedly life’s not that great if you’re an antelope but if you’re a lion this is a spectacular celebration of Africa. 3D often works well with animations, especially with Disney animations, but here the 3D is particularly light and takes nothing away from the original, much loved film. Indeed, it provides the perfect excuse to revisit – or visit for the first time – a film 17 years after its original release, a film that clearly has much to offer new audiences of every age.
I hear that Finding Nemo may receive a similar treatment. If that’s the case, I may have to be surgically removed from the cinema.