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Toon Talk: The Lion King IMAX/Large Format
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by Kirby C. Holt (archives)
December 24, 2002
Kirby reviews the Christmas re-release of The Lion King exclusively on IMAX/Large Format.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

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(c) Disney

The Lion King
IMAX/Large Format Edition

The Mane Event

After my lackluster experience with the IMAX/Large Format ‘Special Edition’ of Beauty and the Beast earlier this year, I admit to harboring reservations for the re-release of The Lion King in this format. Would this, the most popular and successful animated film of all time, suffer the same fate as the equally acclaimed Beauty, with its normal-for-a-35mm-yet-glaringly-obvious-on-the-HUGE-screen-animation-flaws? (Click for the Toon Talk review of the Beauty and the Beast Special Edition)

But all doubts have proved unfounded, for, with its stylized, all-animal cast, this new, larger then life Lion really roars in this format, with all its excitement, drama and fun enlarged along with the visuals. And most surprisingly, considering how many times I’ve seen this film and/or been exposed to it in all its myriad forms (see Toon Talk Trivia, below), I felt like I was seeing it for the very first time.

I don’t need to recap the story of The Lion King here (talk about preaching to the converted … you know the drill: lion born, lion exiled, lion returns, yada-yada-Hakuna-Matata … ); this is the original, unaltered version of the film (again, unlike Beauty, with its misguided additional musical number), albeit with some retouching of the visuals (most notably in the lion’s facial whiskers, which take on an almost hypnotic effect when they’re as large as you) necessary for the transfer to 70mm.

Sure, there are some moments when the characters, usually when they are in the back of the scene, take on a slightly warped, shrunk look; at one point, Simba looks likes like a skinny rat running across the desert, for example. But the bulk of the character animation in this film is done in close-ups or medium shots, so it is not as distracting as was the case with Beauty, which suffered a lot in the relation between the human-size characters and the smaller enchanted objects. And, of course, the film’s original flaws in story (Scar’s inexplicable confession), voice acting (the somewhat uninspired Matthew Broderick and Moira Kelly as the adult Simba and Nala) and music (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” has always felt rushed and/or shoe-horned in to me) remain.

But from the moment you hear the first note of Lebo M’s soaring chant and see that larger then life sun rise over the savannah (a sun that actually casts its red glow over the audience), you will feel the goose bumps rise as well. And the amazing “Circle of Life” sequence is, yes, just the beginning; as each major set piece approaches (“I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”, “Be Prepared”, the harrowingly heartbreaking wildebeest stampede), you know it will be awesome in its revitalized newness, refreshing in this bigness.

And besides, where else are you going to see an eight-story tall warthog?

Toon Talk Rating: A-

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