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'The Lion King' returns in a new dimension


First, a word on bringing children to the theater: If your child is physically incapable of shutting up for longer than 30 seconds, take one for the team and just stay home.

So yeah, “The Lion King.”  Originally released in 1994, “The Lion King” was the last truly great hand-drawn animated movie and marked the high point of the “Disney Renaissance” that began with “The Little Mermaid” a few years before.  

I was 9 years old when “The Lion King” came out and, naturally, I missed it in the theater.  

In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d never seen a Disney movie in a theater (not counting Pixar) until now. Better late than never, I guess.  

“The Lion King” is a beloved classic, one of those great old-fashioned tales that reminds you of why you love movies to begin with.  

It’s certainly my favorite Disney movie (with “Beauty and the Beast” a close second, in case you were wondering), and it was great to finally be able to see it in theaters.

For this new release, of course it had to be converted to 3D; every movie has to be in 3D now so they can charge you more to see it, even though recent reports say production companies are losing that war.  

For one, the glasses give me a headache, and two, it usually makes movies really dim.  

Keeping all that in mind, the 3D conversion for “The Lion King” is actually pretty great.  

In fact, it’s possibly the best 3D conversion I’ve ever seen for a movie and you’d swear that this was how “The Lion King” was always supposed to look instead of just an arbitrary addition to get more of your money.  

The movie really leaps off the screen in a way that 3D movies are supposed to but rarely ever do.  

For a movie that was already a visual wonder like this one, the added dimension is nothing short of breathtaking.  

Considering I’ve only ever seen the movie on VHS, this was like seeing it for the first time.  

Aside from that, the movie still holds up very well and rarely seems dated.  

The story, which plays like a Shakespearean tragedy, is suitably epic, which again is only serviced by the 3D.  

“The Lion King” also has a wealth of wonderful characters, made even better by the phenomenal voice cast.  

Matthew Broderick is fine as adult Simba and Jonathan Taylor Thomas (remember him?) was the perfect choice for young Simba.  

Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella are a lot of fun as Timon and Pumbaa.  

The real heavyweights in the voice cast, though, are of course James Earl Jones as Mufasa and Jeremy Irons as Scar.  

Jones’ voice has an incredible presence and brings a real majesty to Mufasa.  

His delivery sounds a lot like his Darth Vader voice, except infused with warmth and tenderness.  

Jones and Madge Sinclair, who voiced Mufasa’s wife Sarabi, also played an African king and queen in “Coming to America,” another movie about a young prince going out into the world and finding himself before coming back to take his rightful place.  

Irons as Scar is a revelation in this movie, and if they gave out Oscars for voice acting, and they should, he definitely would have won that year.  

Scar is the best Disney villain of all time, and believe me, he’s among some lofty company.  

His slinky, snakelike demeanor and the way he spits out his dialogue make him deliciously evil and fun to watch.  

Irons was never a big star and most of you probably don’t know who he is, although I’d bet he’s been in some other stuff you’ve seen. Here in this movie he was perfect.  

What’s left?  

The music.  

We all remember the songs and in fact, I was surprised by just how many of the words I remembered, despite not having seen the movie in years.  

So “The Lion King” still sits on its throne.  

It’s still a classic and still the best Disney movie, and no amount of shrieking children in the theater could keep me from enjoying it.  

Go see it and relive your childhood, or if you’ve never seen it before, go and relive mine.  

It’s only out for two weeks, though, so you might want to hurry.