Following a Perfect 1994 Release, ‘The Lion King 3D’ a Money-Hungry, Manipulative Exploitation

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Average: 3.6 (12 votes) Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – While “The Lion King” is one of the best Disney movies of all time, “The Lion King 3D” is a manipulative exploitation to bring paying parents back with their kids merely through the sexiness of today’s 3D fad.

Disney’s 1994 version, which has and will continue to stand the test of time, was the highest-grossing animated film ever until 2003’s “Finding Nemo” from Disney and Pixar. That said, its 2011 release is lazy, underwhelming and a missed opportunity to up its already epic ante with more vivid colors, etc. Just making it 3D isn’t enough.

Simba, Pumbaa and Timon in The Lion King 3D
Left to right: Simba, Pumbaa and Timon in “The Lion King 3D”.
Image credit: Disney Enterprises

Many people don’t know the film is out now, and upon finding out, you’ll wonder: Is this an entirely new “The Lion King,” is it a rerelease without anything new or is this a reboot? Answer: Nothing’s new except that it’s being rereleased for the first time in 3D. Other than the 3D, the film’s the same, the story’s the same and each scene is the same.

While the 3D will appeal to kids who convince their parents, the 3D conversion is disappointing. Many people are tired of 3D these days and clearly know by now it’s a profitable marketing tactic. Still, we have seen cases where 3D truly does add to the entertainment of overall experience.

For example, 2011’s voraciously gory “Final Destination 5” – despite being only worthy for its pure shock value – is actually improved by its use of 3D. Its death sequences truly do pop out at you. That 3D makes the dramatic even more extreme, and being that shock is the film’s only value, 3D works there. But in “The Lion King 3D,” the 3D falls flat and is a background afterthought.

The Lion King 3D
“The Lion King 3D”.
Image credit: Disney Enterprises

A producer for “The Lion King 3D,” of course, feels otherwise: “When I first heard that ‘The Lion King’ was going to be converted into 3D, I wasn’t sure it could be done,” reveals producer Don Hahn. “However, I was blown away by the results. It looks fantastic! All in all, it took about nine months to complete the process. We spent the first three months preparing and testing the shots followed by six months of actual production work.”

But despite the film’s lazy, money-fueled 3D exploitation, people so far are flocking to theaters in droves and Disney is proving that its rerelease decision in 3D is a success. Following its wide release on Sept. 16, 2011 in 2,330 theaters, “The Lion King 3D” in one day has surprisingly already put up $8.8 million in the U.S. and is on its way to a projected $33 to $35 million weekend. Suffice it to say that you can expect more Disney rereleases in 3D in the future.

Today, 1994’s “The Lion King” is the sixth highest-grossing animated film ever and it continues to be the highest-grossing hand-drawn animation film in history. “The Lion King” in 1994 is still the highest-grossing 2D animated film of all time in the U.S. In total, the 1994 film grossed more than $783 million worldwide, which makes it currently the 35th highest-grossing feature film ever.

The Lion King 3D
“The Lion King 3D”.
Image credit: Disney Enterprises

“The Lion King” was released by Walt Disney Pictures in 1994 as the 32nd film in its collection of animated classics. Despite being released under the guise of a children’s story, “The Lion King” is actually chock full of biblical influences – such as burning bushes and rays of light – and is most closely influenced by the Bible stories of Joseph and Moses. It also pays homage to William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. “The Lion King” takes place in a kingdom of anthropomorphic lions in Africa. Anthropomorphism means these non-human animals have been given human characteristics.

Star More reviews from Adam Fendelman.

Following the 1994 critically acclaimed release, Disney later produced two related movies: “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride” sequel in 1998 and a prequel/parallel in 2004 called “The Lion King 1½”. In the 1994 version as well as 2011’s, both films are ultimately made into a perfect classic through a rich story and evocative, great-feeling, sentimental music. Songs were written by composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice with an original score by Hans Zimmer.

10 Things You Never Knew About ‘The Lion King’

  1. “The Lion King” was originally titled “King of the Jungle” and then “King of the Beasts”.
  2. An artist in Burbank, Calif. invented Pride Rock.
  3. “In the early stages, Zazu was a little, pointy-beaked bird,” reveals co-director Roger Allers.
  4. It took nine months to convert “The Lion King” into 3D.
  5. The creative team brought real lions into the animation studio to research their movements.
  6. Instead of the crazy hermit monk that Rafiki now is, he initially was a very serious counselor.
  7. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella originally auditioned for the role of the hyenas.
  8. The unused song “He’s Got it All Worked Out” got replaced by “Hakuna Matata”.
  9. Pumbaa’s belly rubbing was inspired by an animator’s (Tony Bancroft) pregnant wife.
  10. The filmmakers originally wanted Cheech and Chong to voice the movie’s hyenas.

Timon in The Lion King 3D
Timon in “The Lion King 3D”.
Image credit: Disney Enterprises

“The Lion King 3D” features voice work from Matthew Broderick, Niketa Calame, Jim Cummings, James Earl Jones, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Jeremy Irons, Robert Guillaume, Rowan Atkinson, Moira Kelly, Whoophi Goldberg and Cheech Marin. The 3D film opened in theaters everywhere on Sept. 16, 2011 and releases on Blu-ray and DVD combo pack on Oct. 4, 2011. The film, which is rated “G,” has a running time of 88 minutes. publisher Adam Fendelman


© 2011 Adam Fendelman, LLC

Dan's picture

Nothing Wrong With 3D Release

I have a 6 year old son who had never seen The Lion King. I was very excited to be able to take him to the theater to see this Disney classic, and he became very excited too. I would have been just as excided to take him to see a 2D version, which as I recollect it was a long standing tradition of Disney before video became so prominent. I wish they’d re-release other older classics also so I can introduce my son to them. There’s nothing like seeing these movies in the theater. While the 3D does cost more, my son received the Simba 3D glasses which he took pride in and it made it more than just a movie but an event for him. I see the 3D release as a continuation of a long standing tradition that takes advantage of the current 3D fad. The only problem I have with it is the general problem applying to all 3D movies of having to pay for glasses even if you don’t want them (because I can easily use the last pair I paid for).

Anonymous's picture

If disney can make millions

If disney can make millions of dollars on a 17 year old film more power to them and their products. A money manipulating explotation, lol the lion king should never be refered to in those terms, poor choice of words, how about buisness 101

WeirdFish's picture

Was With You Until the End

I read this review with as much of an open mind as I could. I can understand the point of view of this release being a profit-grab by Disney. I can understand that the effects did seem like afterthoughts, and after seeing this version, I too was hoping for a little more, like more vivid colors and especially better audio.

However, this review lost all credibility as soon as this phrase — “‘The Lion King’ takes place in a kingdom of anthropomorphic lions in Africa. Anthropomorphism means these non-human animals have been given human characteristics” — kicked in. In one breath, the review took on more of a condescending tone right away. And not toward the film, but for those who would dare spend money on it to go see it, as if the mere thought of wanting to see the movie thus relegated anyone to a second-tier caste of film-going smarminess and haughtiness.

The patronizing tone of explaining what anthropomorphism is, along with the completely irrelevant references to the sequels that were originally released, has pretty much reduced this review to simple and mere bitterness with little left in objective criticism.

Love or hate a movie, fine. But don’t insult the intelligence of your readers, even if you do somehow hold yourself above the unwashed masses. Especially when writing for an obscure Web site with some amateurish design elements.

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