The Lion King Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of The Lion King, from Disney Home Entertainment, a contemporary telling of the unforgettable story that features Academy Award-winning music, beloved characters and, of course, its inspirational the tale of Simba, the feisty lion cub who “just can’t wait to be king,” and his journey to claim his place in the “Circle Of Life.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

92

Details:

Studio and Year: Disney – 2019
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 118 minutes
Genre: Family

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC @
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, English/Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, 1080p Blu-ray: DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Written by: Jeff Nathanson
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: October 22, 2019

“The Circle of Life Continues”

Synopsis:

“Experience The Lion King in this new, contemporary telling, with its unforgettable story, Academy Award-winning music, beloved characters and, of course, its inspirational the tale of Simba, the feisty lion cub who “just can’t wait to be king,” and his journey to claim his place in the “Circle Of Life.” – Disney Home Entertainment

My Take:

The original animated classic “The Lion King” is a favorite in our house. I didn’t venture out to the theater to see it and looked forward to experiencing what this reimaging was going to bring to the table. Like the original film, The Lion King is solid family entertainment that captures the spirit of adventure, heartwarming tone and in this case a superbly crafted CGI world that brings the characters and their surroundings to life like never before.

We all know the story of Simba, the feisty lion cub who “just can’t wait to be king.” Unfortunately, his envious Uncle Scar has plans for his own ascent to the throne, and hatches a dastardly plot that forces Simba’s exile from the kingdom. Alone, heartbroken and riddled with guilt, Simba soon joins the escapades and carefree lifestyle of a hilarious meerkat named Timon and his warmhearted warthog pal, Pumbaa, whose mantra is “Hakuna Matata,” (it means no worries). Simba turns his back on his responsibilities but, is shown that he must fulfill his destiny and returns to the Pride Lands to claim his place in the “Circle of Life.”

Let me start off by saying that “The Lion King” will forever have special meaning for me. It is the very first film I took my daughter to see in the theater. She was two years old and it was just the two of us. I watched as she sat quietly, mesmerized, not only by the experience but the film itself. We loved the music, the characters, the humor and the uplifting messages of courage, loyalty and hope. I know that Disney has seen fit to bring many of their animated classic films to life with live-action retellings however, I wasn’t so certain how this story would translate given that all of its characters are animals. I also worried that making creative changes, even subtle ones, to the story, could be damaging.

As I sat and watched The Lion King I was blown away by its spectacular digital world and its characters. The narrative, while not word for word with the original, is essentially the same, adding some minor extensions that push the runtime close to two hours. I don’t know, as much I was concerned that taking liberties with the story could be an issue, I felt that rehashing it, with CGI and new performances, added nothing concrete. In fact, I found myself missing the original cast and some of the charm that the hand drawn animation brought to it. Having said that, I want to add that I didn’t dislike The Lion King, and, enjoyed seeing it brought to “life” in this way. The original remains my favorite and would definitely be the version that I reach for when I feel like watching this wonderful story.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

 

The Lion King comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Disney Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

For its presentation in Ultra HD The Lion King was derived from a 6.5K source and finished on a 2K Digital Intermediate. This is an excellent Ultra HD presentation that looks terrific on my large screen. What struck me from the onset is the lifelike reproduction of the imagery featured in the film’s various locations. Whether it be the finest minutia in physical features or the rough textures on the interior of a cave, the desert, or the vistas of the jungle/pride lands, the scenery is gorgeous. The benefits of high dynamic range and wide color gamut are on display as earth toned colors have an added dimension that enlivens shots where they would have been seen as a less provocative background element. Color reproduction across the spectrum of those used in conjunction with the film’s thematic elements look great.

Whites are emboldened, detailed and bright, especially during low level transitions viewed in a darkened environment. The rendering of natural light during the sun splashed daytime segments is among the presentation’s highlights. Contrast abounds, lending an authenticity that underscores the subject matter, bringing it to a visually rewarding level. The standoff in the finale looks fantastic with the fires and flashes of arcing light set against the dark gradations in the sky and background.

Shot digitally, this rendering reproduces its elements with aplomb. Looking at the 1080p version, which is solid as well, the difference is noticeable, but not what I would describe as night and day. That being said, there is no question that the Ultra HD presentation makes for the more gratifying and engaging viewing experience.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the moderately active variety that started out slowly and built up momentum along with the story. Its use of audio objects is a mix atmospherics, discrete effects and music. This is done to very good effect and creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Early on there are occasional instances where the soundstage offers increased depth in the form of broadening the music score/classic musical numbers. During the last act there are noteworthy moments where the mix generates an improvement in dimension where overhead sounds take on a more pronounced role in conveying the spirit of the scene. The encounter in the finale is the best of these as it bristles with enveloping ambience and discretely placed effects.

NOTE: I did find that a minor increase in volume, approximately 4db, was required to derive the most from it. Once there, it kicked nicely with no signs of dynamic compression or anemic bass.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

 

Audio: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

 

The Lion King comes to Blu-ray Disc from Disney Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound.

This is a reference quality Blu-ray offering from Disney that looks terrific in high definition. The video is razor sharp with a pristine quality that is visually pleasing. Detail rendering is essentially flawless with lucid visual acuity and fine articulation that brings forth lots of subtle detail in the images onscreen. Colors are delineated, with warm tonality and pleasing depth, that make them pop nicely. Boldly applied contrast and consistent black levels provide excellent balance during bright scenes containing mixed content. Shadow detail is strong which brings out plenty of discernible texture in low/uneven lighting, and dark backgrounds. The CGI softened some shots but its effects are innate and fidelity remained unaffected.

The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD (Atmos core – UHD version) and the DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio soundtrack (on the Blu-ray) makes effective use of the surround platform and offers detail rich sonic clarity, and crystalline dialog reproduction. This is a well-balanced and fairly active soundtrack that augments the dynamic impact associated with the films action and music score. The surround channels are appropriately engaged with a blend of discretely placed sounds and spatial ambience. I never had any trouble discerning subtle vocal inflections or the presence of low-level sounds that were contained in the background. The mix facilitates natural integration of the front and rear channels which creates a stable and well-proportioned listening experience that is complimented by appropriate bass response.

NOTE: I did find that a minor increase in volume, approximately 4db, was required to derive the most from it. Once there, it kicked nicely with no signs of dynamic compression or anemic bass.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: The Lion King Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: The Lion King Blu-ray
    • The Journey to “The Lion King” –
    o The Music – Go inside the studio with the cast and crew as they work to honor and elevate The Lion King’s beloved music.
    o The Magic – Discover how the filmmakers blended the traditional filmmaking techniques with virtual reality technology to create amazing movie magic.
    o The Timeless Tale – Filmmakers and cast reflect on the story that has moved generations and share how this Lion King carries a proud legacy forward.
    • More to Be Scene – Recording studio and layer-by-layer progressions of some of most iconic moments in “The Lion King.”
    o “Circle of Life” – Peel back the layers of effects and go behind the scenes of this iconic musical moment from the film
    o “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” – See all the effects, talent and fun that went into creating this vibrant version of “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” for the movie
    o “Hakuna Matata” – Join Donald Glover (Simba), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa) and Billy Eichner (Timon) in the studio for the making of this memorable scene.
    • Music Videos
    o “Never Too Late” (lyric video) by Elton John
    o “Spirit” performed by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
    • Filmmaker Introduction
    • Audio Commentary – By Director Jon Favreau.
    • Song Selection
    o “Circle of Life”
    o “I Just Can’t Wait to be King”
    o “Be Prepared”
    o “Hakuna Matata”
    o “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”
    o “Spirit”
    o “Never Too Late”
    • Protect the Pride –Director Jon Favreau, the Lion Recovery Fund and conservationists highlight efforts to protect the majestic lions and their home.
  • Digital Code

Final Thoughts:

The Lion King is a technically engaging retelling of Disney’s classic 1994 animated film. Its unadorned story doesn’t have the appeal of the original which relegates it to the fair but, unremarkable category. It comes to Blu-ray in the Ultra HD Combo Pack from Disney featuring excellent Ultra HD video, engaging lossless surround sound, including a solid Dolby Atmos immersive listening experience and a fair supplemental package. The Lion King is a film that is sure to please the kiddies but, leaves their parents hankering to watch the original Disney classic.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems