Disney’s 2019 version of The Lion King is re-imagining of the 1994 classic animated film that remains faithful to the story and characters of original, while also giving it a fresh, new, almost live-action look.
The Lion King opens as King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) presents his newborn lion cub, Simba, to the animals of the Pride Lands as his heir and their future king. Young Simba is naive (JD McCrary) and doesn’t fully understand the dangers of world. He tries to prove himself to his father, but is constantly getting himself into danger. Mufasa’s bother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is jealous of Simba—he was to be heir until this lion cub came along. Scar is smart and manipulative, but is no match for his brother’s shear strength. Scar spends his time making promises to his hyena troops and plotting ways to take the crown for himself. Eventually, one of his schemes succeeds, and Scar makes Simba believe he’s responsible for causing a horrible tragedy in the Pride Lands. Due to overwhelming shame and guilt, Simba flees his homeland, vowing never to return.
Along his journey, Simba befriends warthog Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner), who teach him their “no worries” philosophy of just enjoying life and not worrying about others. And as the years pass, adult Simba (Donald Glover) grows to be happy in his new life. But when he crosses paths with former childhood love Nala (Beyoncé), Simba learns what has happened to his homeland under Scar’s rule. He must now learn to forgive and forget his past, and become the leader he was always destined to be.
This new version of The Lion King is nearly scene-for-scene the same as the original. However, there are some slight changes here and there that help to make this feel like its own thing. The comedic cast really shines, especially as the actors improv some hilarious new dialogue for their characters. These characters feel like the same familiar and beloved characters, but also fresh and modern. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen have great chemistry and play off one another wonderfully as the wisecracking Timon and Pumbaa, Eric André and Keegan-Michael Key also have some fun back-and-forth as the nervous hyena henchmen, and John Oliver is perfectly cast as the voice of Zazu. The rest of the cast is also phenomenal, especially when it comes to the musical performances. It would be very difficult to choose a favorite between the original song performances and the ones in this remake. Plus, this version includes two new original songs—one performed by Beyoncé, and the other by Elton John.
One place where this version of The Lion King really shines is the visuals. The original film felt like you were watching a 2D animated feature, however, this version offers brand new, often breath-takingly realistic animation. If the animals didn’t talk and sing, you would think you were watching a real-life Disneynature documentary! It’s truly astonishing what the filmmakers have been able to achieve. Jon Favreau, who originally astounded audiences with his “live-action” version of The Jungle Book, has even outdone himself this time around.
The 4K UHD presentation is phenomenal. Every scene is filled with vibrant colors and heavily-detailed, realistic-looking landscapes and animals. As the film opens to “Circle of Life”, we are treated to a beautiful orange sunrise, rippling water, and blue skies. The detail on every surface and strand of animal fur is meticulous—there is even a scene where you can see a bug hiding in a monkey’s fur. Everything looks so real and lifelike. My only complaint is that Disney continues to only offer HDR-10 on the disc while making the Dolby Vision encode only available on the digital copy.
The audio presentation is also quite impressive. The Atmos soundtrack is well-utilized to provide a fully-immersive aural experience. This is especially noticeable when the room rumbles during the stampede scene. And throughout the movie, the Atoms soundtrack brings the ambient sounds of the Pride Lands to life in your living room. The musical performances sound amazing, the score is delightful, and the dialogue remains clear throughout the film.
The 4K release comes packed in a standard UHD keepcase along with a rounded-corner cardboard slipcover. Inside is the digital copy redemption instructions (the digital copy redeems in UHD format), along with the UHD and Blu-ray discs. The bonus material can only be found on the Blu-ray disc. This includes a director commentary, over 75 minutes of minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes and music videos, plus direct access to the film’s musical performances along with lyrics. Some of these featurettes are truly fascinating—the technology that was utilized to make this film feel so real is quite amazing.
While the 4K release looks phenomenal, it is disappointing to see that Disney is once again not offering the 3D Blu-ray version in the U.S. (it will be available in other countries)—this is such a visually stunning film and it would have been great to have that viewing option as well for those who have the ability to watch 3D at home.
4K Ultra HD:
- 2160p / Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French (Quebec) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, Italian 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, German 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, French (Quebec), Spanish, Italian, German, Norwegian, Swedish
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- 4K Digital Copy redeemable via Movies Anywhere
Bonus material is only available on the Blu-ray disc and digital.
- The Journey to “The Lion King” (53:25)
Play All, or select from
- The Music (13:36)
Head into the recording studio to see composer Hans Zimmer and the orchestra at work and the actors singing their songs, and hear from the filmmakers as they talk about elevating and reinterpreting the beloved music and songs from the original animated film. Includes interviews with producer Jeffrey Silver, executive producer Thomas Schumacher, songwriter/performer Elton John, director Jon Favreau, c-producer John Bartnicki, song producer Pharrell Williams, and stars JD McCrary (“Young Simba”), Shahadi Wright Joseph (“Young Nala”), Seth Rogen (“Pumbaa”), Billy Eichner (“Timon”), Donald Glover (“Simba”), and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (“Nala”).
- The Magic (21:01)
The cast and filmmakers talk about the fascinating technology used to bring the animals to life—a unique interactive performance environment for the actors, combined with virtual reality and other technologies to achieve truly lifelike animation and filming environment. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, production artwork, early animation, and interviews with director Jon Favreau, executive producer Tom Peitzman, producer Karen Gilchrist, production designer James Chinlund, head of research Noessa Higa, producer Jeffrey Silver, visual effects supervisor Robert Legato, director of photography Caleb Deschanel, Magnopus virtual production supervisor Ben Grossmann, animation supervisor Andrew R. Jones, and stars Eric André (“Azizi”), Keegan-Michael Key (“Kamari”), and Florence Kasumba (“Shenzi”).
- The Timeless Tale (18:47)
The cast and filmmakers reflect on how the story, characters and songs of The Lion King have become an integral part of our culture, and how this new version of the tale adds to that legacy. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with director Jon Favreau, songwriter/performer Elton John, producer Karen Gilchrist, executive producer Thomas Schumacher, co-producer John Bartnicki, and stars Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor (“Scar”), Billy Eichner, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Alfre Woodard (“Sarabi”), John Oliver (“Zazu”), Florence Kasumba, and Keegan-Michael Key.
- The Music (13:36)
- More to Be Scene (10:31)
View some of the film’s most iconic musical scenes as the video switches between various forms of completion, from story boards, to live action footage, to early animations and animatics, to orchestral and voice performance footage. Play All, or select from.
- “Circle of Life” (4:08)
- “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” (3:43)
- “Hakuna Matata” (2:39)
- Music Videos (8:36)
Play All, or select from:
- “Spirit” Performed by Beyoncé (4:28)
Live action music video with Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, mixed with footage from the film.
- “Never Too Late” By Elton John (4:08)
Sing along with this lyric video featuring footage from the film.
- “Spirit” Performed by Beyoncé (4:28)
- Song Selection (26:19)
As the musical sequences from the film play, lyrics appear at the bottom of the screen, and are highlighted in time with the music. Play All, or select from:
- “Circle of Life” (4:12)
- “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” (3:59)
- “Be Prepared” (2:10)
- “Hakuna Matata” (4:45)
- “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (1:31)
- “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” (3:07)
- “Spirit” (2:13)
- “Never Too Late” (4:34)
- Protect the Pride (3:02)
Director Jon Favreau and various conservationists provide a PSA for The Lion Recovery Fund its efforts to help preserve and maintain the lion population and their environment.
- Filmmaker Introduction (1:14)
Director Jon Favreau provides an short optional introduction before the film, revealing the film’s one real live action shot.
- Audio Commentary (1:58:15)
Director Jon Favreau provides an interesting and informative commentary, explaining how this visually-stunning and realistic-looking world was brought to life. He also talks about paying homage to the original film while also creating something new. You can sense how proud he is of this film, and how he doesn’t mean for it to replace the original—he never refers to it simply as “The Lion King”, he always mentions that he is talking about the 2019 version of the film.
- Sing Along with The Movie (1:58:15)
During the film’s musical scenes, lyrics appear on the bottom of the screen—this is the same as the Song Selection above, but inline while watching the film.
- Sneak Peeks (4:14)
Trailers for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Aladdin, and Mulan.
- Pride Lands Pedia (3:24)
Dembe the Dung Beetle shares facts about the various animals that reside in the African Savanna.
- Perfecting the Pride (2:42) (Vudu)
Join the filmmakers on their research safari through Africa. Includes interviews with director Jon Favreau, producers Jeffrey Silver & Karen Gilchrist, and head of research Noessa Higa.
(Availability varies per retailer)
The Lion King is a truly astonishing feat of animation. The filmmakers have taken a beloved animated classic and given it a fresh, realistic, almost live-action look, while also maintaining the heart of the original classic. It feels both like the same film, bust also something fresh and new. Disney’s 4K release looks and sounds amazing, and includes an excellent assortment of bonus material. This is a must own for any Disney or Lion King fan. This doesn’t try to replace the original, but offers audiences an exciting, different, way to experience the same beloved story and characters.