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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Some Thoughts: The Lion and The Beast Are Given New Dimension


Given that I managed to have the rare chance to see both Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King in 3D, I figured I would put up some thoughts about these new versions of old classics.  Both are films that, before watching them recently in this new format, I have not watched in their entirety since the VHS days.  I was certainly looking forward to revisiting them, simply due to the fact that I think they are both great films.  As far as the 3D is concerned, while I don't want to go too much into detail on how the process was done, from all that I have read, there were a lot of considerations and efforts made to properly convert these films and make them look great with the added dimension.  Considering the fact that these are HD versions of wonderfully animated films, adding a whole new dimension is not necessarily something to count out, just because it is ostensibly a gimmick. 


The Lion King is still great.  As I stated, I haven't watched it fully in the longest time, but man is this movie just a wonderful watch all the way through.  The story is wonderfully gripping and has some interesting adult themes, as it brings about Shakespearean levels of drama to a colorful musical about talking animals.  The animation is gorgeous, especially given the high definition transfer of the film.  The hand drawn style, mixed with some subtle uses of CG provides for a wonderful looking film that is alive with vibrant colors and a great sense of style.  All of the songs are a delight to listen to as well.  Created by Elton John and Tim Rice, there are plenty of memorable tunes that are easily sung-along with for a reason.  The riveting score by Hans Zimmer is also great, as it finds a way to keep everything moving, regardless of scenes played comically, dramatically, or during the more action oriented sequences.  Then you have the fantastic voice work.  James Earl Jones only has so much time to make his presence known, but Mufasa is a commanding character.  On the opposite side of things, Jeremy Irons makes for a wonderful villain, who is deliciously evil.  The various other cast members, including JTT and Mathew Broderick as the young and adult version of Simba, Rowan Atkinson, Nathan Lane, and Robert Guillaume as Rafiki are all great as well.  Even if this Disney film was notable for hiring a large amount of "known" stars for a change in pace compared to other Disney films, it certainly benefited and matched the epic scope of what is a fairly short film.

 
Beauty and the Beast is a film I have not seen as many times as many of the other modern day (late 80s to mid 90s) Disney classics.  That said, I do really enjoy the story, the characters, and the soundtrack present in this film.  It is particularly the songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman that keep me enthralled in this film (although Gaston is a huge bonus as well).  Much like The Lion King, there is a liveliness and level of vibrancy (also seen in the animation), which truly brings out a lot of personality and joy to this film.  Seeing this film on the big screen again and in its remastered format was certainly a pleasure, with the same opinions I have for Lion King pretty much applying to this feature as well.  It was easily a film that was provided with a lot of care and established a legacy that was well earned.

As far as the 3D is concerned, both films look great in it.  No short cuts appear to have been taking, as the level of depth has been expanded to not just feel like things are popping off the screen, but manage to provide an additional way to feel engrossed by the stories being told.  With that said, there are some great signature scenes in each film, which one would come to expect if they really know these films and can see where this format could expand upon them.  The stampede through the canyon or Scar's song, "Be Prepared" are wonderful to behold in this new setting, as far as The Lion King is concerned.  For Beast, many would jump to the ballroom dance scene, which does look pretty great, but it truly is the Gaston bar singing sequence, which is pretty fantastic to behold.  Even if one has other scenes they would love see in 3D, both films provide for plenty of great moments benefiting from the additional dimension.


Claims that state things like, "putting The Lion King in 3D is like raping my childhood," are ridiculous and only seem to imply that said person had a pretty horrible childhood.  The fact that not only have these wonderful films been faithfully restored to high definition quality, but have been given a 3D retrofitting is a nice new experience.  Is the 3D something necessary or needed in anyway?  No, but the fact that enough care has been put into it, with the benefit going to those that appreciate this format or even those who are experiencing it for the first time makes it nothing to write off either.  It would be cynical of me to write this all off as a way for Disney to make more money, simply because the effort is there and these films look great.  For something I probably wont get to see again in 3D, it was a neat experience.  The Blu-ray quality of these feature films is outstanding, but the added depth is not at all a bad way to view these films either.  Now if only I could see Aladdin or the epic Mulan battle scene in this setting.

Both films will be available soon in this format on Blu-ray and The Lion King will be in theaters again for a limited amount of time.  Regardless of opinions on 3D, seeing The Lion King on the big screen again is a great thing in itself, but the added perspective does add a bit to it for the sake of creating a new way to embrace it.  I can never say it is worth the cost, but I would not want to miss it either.


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