The Lion King (1994): Signature Collection [Blu-ray/DVD/Digital]

“The Lion King” is still one of the most entertaining movie going experiences of my life and one of the most moving animated films I’ve ever seen. With the anticipation of the live action remake growing, Disney has granted fans a new release with their Signature Edition. This new edition packs in the DVD, a Digital copy, and of course the new Blu-Ray with changes that are interesting and more geared toward meticulous hardcore fans of the film more than anything. It’s certainly worth a double or triple dip, especially if it’s your favorite of the Disney animated library (and on your top ten), as it is mine.

The 1994 animated film hasn’t lost a bit of its luster, even with the weak sequels and spin offs (the Broadway musical excluded, of course) and stands as a masterpiece of animation of any decade. Set in the African wilderness, we meet young Simba, a lion cub who is fated to take the throne for his father Mufasa, when he dies. Simba’s rotten uncle Scar, who resents Mufasa’s power, also hates that Simba is next in line for the throne and schemes with the villainous hyenas to orchestrate a plan to take over the kingdom. After killing Mufasa and tricking Simba in to believing he committed it, Simba runs away leaving his kingdom and family to fall prey to the corrupt Scar and his army of hyenas. Years later, fate once again comes knocking down his door when he meets with old friend Nala tells him that his kingdom is crumbling at the hands of Scar.

With help from his father from beyond the grave, Simba returns to take his land back and embrace his role as the king. “The Lion King” packs in a lot of fantasy and compelling drama within its run time. While it’s mostly been embraced over the years as a kids’ classic, it’s also a mesmerizing tale teeming with murder, deception, surprises, and romance. “The Lion King” is just a near perfect work of animation that unfolds such a riveting narrative, complimented by the excellent voice cast and fantastic soundtrack. Folks like Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, and Nathan Lane are incredible, while Elton John lends his talents with memorable tunes like “Hakuna Matata,” “Can you Feel the Love Tonight?” and “Circle of Life,” respectively.

“The Lion King” always manages to suck me in and keep me watching until the very final scene, and it’s worth re-watching over and over. The live action remake has a lot to measure up to.

The bonus features for the Signature Release feature new content with some old content from the past releases to allow an interesting experience. There’s a great audio commentary with Co-directors Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff, and producer Don Hahn, and Deleted & Alternate Scenes clocking in at thirteen minutes. It’s the same collection we’ve seen before, but still fun. There are four minutes of bloopers and outtakes, and the original song “The Morning Report.” There’s the Song Selection, which allows you to jump to your favorite song in the movie, or you can run all of the songs in a row without that dumb ol’ movie to interrupt the festivities (I kid, of course). There’s a great Sing-Along mode which feature subtitles for the songs allowing you to memorize them and or practice for your next drunken karaoke night out.

With the redemption of the Digital HD Code, there are more bonus features that are not on the disc that are from previous editions. “Visualizing A Villain” is a three minute odd music video where dancers perform in sync to Scar’s big musical number, “The Recording Sessions” is a five minute interview with film’s directors as they worked with the actors while they performed and tried capturing their likenesses for the movie. “Inside the Story Room” is a great behind the scenes look at the filmmakers and animators working on certain sequences through storyboards. Finally, there’s “Nathan and Matthew: The Extended Lion King Conversation” is a seven minute discussion shot for the documentary “Pride of the Lion King,” with producer Tom Schumacher, and “The Lion King” stars Nathan Lane, and Matthew Broderick, all of whom sit and discuss the film in detail.