When The Lion King was released in 1994, I was 17 years old, and animation just wasn't cool if you were 17 years old. This is before the glory days of Pixar (and South Park), but still, for a kid my age, it just wasn't cool to see The Lion King on the big screen. Naturally, years later, I did end up seeing this animated classic and, naturally, I loved it, but i never did get to see it the way it was meant to be seen, on a big screen in a theater packed full of people... until just a few months ago when I saw The Lion King in 3D. While the 3D aspect does add a new dimension (sorry, bad pun) to the movie, I'm more grateful that Disney has given us a second chance to see The Lion King in theaters.
I know 3D has become somewhat of a cringe-worthy term for cinema lovers these days, due to both the overabundance of 3D and the often lackluster quality thereof. If you are of this persuasion, don't let your vile for the third dimension hold you back from seeing The Lion King in 3D. The only drawback that I saw from this new dimensionalized version was the level of darkness, because they are literally adding a new layer to the film, which does dim it down. You'd be hard-pressed to find a vibrant 3D movie out there, either animated or live-action because, as it stands now, they haven't quite figured out a way to bring in the third dimension without affecting the brightness. That being said, those qualities which are lost are compensated by wonderful new levels of depth with this 3D conversion, which strikes the perfect balance between bombast and non-existence that most 3D movies fail to achieve. My hat goes off to stereographer Robert Neuman and his team who brought the right levels of depth in at just the right times.
As for the story itself, nothing has been altered, but, if you're seeing on the big screen for the first time like I did, I imagine you'll find it a much more fulfilling experience. It is still the same wonderful tale of a young Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) who leaves his father Mufasa's (James Earl Jones) kingdom behind for a life of exile in the jungle. After years of growing up with Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), he reunites with Nala (Moira Kelly) and returns to his father's kingdom to dethrone the wretched uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons). But, you should already know that by now because it's, you know, The Lion King.
I saw The Lion King at a press screening, full of journalists and industry professionals, and even still, I could hear people singing along, ever so slightly, to Hakuna Matata and I Just Can't Wait To Be King. I can only imagine what the experience would be like in a theater full of longtime and first-time Lion King fans. I will say that the wilebeest stampede scene really stands out as a highlight of this 3D experience, which does what any good 3D scene does: it brings you right into the scene as if you were right there, in the middle of the action. Honestly, that scene might be worth plunking down the dollars to see this in 3D on its own.
If you're a longtime fan of The Lion King, you really should see it one more time on the big screen, and see how 3D brings out the best in this story. If you haven't seen it on the big screen, get ready for a treat. It is simply wonderful to see this animated classic on the big screen one more time, and I bet you'll feel the same way, even if you're a fan of 3D or not.