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[Review] The Lion King 3D

"What do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?"

Well, today I saw TLK in 3D with the local furs. Not a big event surprisingly, we were only 12 furs and the theater wasn't full either. It looks like not everybody wants to watch a movie that they have already seen so many times so there seemed to be two kinds of people in, nostalgic ones and kids with nostalgic parents :)

So the question with this kind of re-edited movies 'but now in 3D' is: "should I go and see it?" Well, for TLK fans the answer is obvious but look at this like I did: This is the first 2D animation feature film in 3D, mainly because 2D traditional animation is pretty much dead :( CG animation dominates the market and 3D comes natural at the cost of two renders; been there, done that. Stop motion has also been done with The Nightmare Before Christmas. I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of stop motion so I wasn't so gaga over Nightmare being upgraded and I will assume it looked a lot like a CG animated movie. But now, to think of flat characters being not so flat anymore, well... you got my attention!

The first taste of re-released 2D animation jumping out of the screen was 1953's Chip 'n Dale 3D short "Working for Peanuts" that was featured before the forgettable 2007's movie "Meet the Robinsons". But The Lion King is obviously a complete different beast (hah, pun). While Working for Peanuts looked nice, most of the 3D effect was to set the layers at different depths and have the characters display a little perspective parallax (or so I've heard as I skipped Robinsons and this short is really hard to get now). On the other paw, this 90's Disney golden years animation has characters much more shaded and richer backgrounds and characters that move, rotate and slide at all kinds of rates.

So, is this a gimmick? OF COURSE! 3D is a gimmick. But in this case the whole movie has the gimmick. It's fully hand-drawn animation, they used no cheap CGI here to cheat. The animals live in a world of depth layers and move in between them at numerous times. The intro sequence, specially the flying flock, showcases the effect very well. It has the surreal effect where you know that what you are watching is not possible, but it doesn't look synthetic!

The characters don't look like flat pieces of paper set at different depths, they look round with faces made of 3 or 4 layers and bodies made of 2 or 3 layers of depth. It's the shading what makes the illusion complete, along with some new parallax cells that where used for sure (they have the originals after all. I didn't noticed one difference from the original). Having Nala look at "you" with that sexy face in that scene when Simba is pinning her... well, we were discreet at the theater, but OH MURR it sure looked real |3 AHEM... Ah yeah, and the world and background is breathtaking: the savanna and the jungle look amazing and the grass is made of countless layers. And don't get me started with the night skies! It's like staring at the real thing :O

Special effects pop up from the screen. The soft shadows are locked onto the background textures. The smoke, dirt and steam float ghostly in front of the characters, the fire and the rain comes out subtly from the screen in a nice and not overdone immersion effect. The leaves from the supposed "SEX" frame jump to your face as they fly to Rafiki; seems like the SFX animators team got their signature in the spotlight again :P

So I'd like to point this very clearly. This is how traditional 2D animation should be done in 3D!

In fact, this can be the best 3D movie I've seen, because it's not only 5 or 10 scenes that take full advantage of 3D. The full movie gets the advantage! Live Action 3D movies are pointless, real life is 3D anyway. CGI can work depending on quality, but it looks synthetic most of the time. Action, adventure and horror movies are the ones that benefit the most because of the movement and immersion; they become a roller-coaster. Comedy, drama and the like are boring and will perhaps only contain one or two doses of scenery porn (Titanic 3D!? No, thanks!). But movies like The Lion King are full of scenery porn! (Okay, I may be partial because I'm an animation fan like most of you who are reading this sure are, but the Golden Globe Award tells me I'm in the right direction~)

Now, with the blessing of the 3D comes the curse: framerate issues. It seems like movies with the source material at 24 fps have the issue of sometimes jumping and skipping, specially in panning and some fast moving scenes. It's like the movie suddenly goes to 12 frames per second! I don't know if it is a limitation in the Dolby3D technology but it is also present in all other technologies I've seen. Displaying 3D material at such high resolutions (in a theater) and with a high refresh rate must be demanding (I've heard it is 144 fps, repeating 3 times the frame for the right eye and 3 for the left in an alternating way). But the good news is that the image looked exactly the same as you may remember, no RealD dull contrast. Dolby 3D provided good color reproduction (colors looked a bit brighter and more vivid) and a sharper image with more details visible (especially in darker areas), better contrast and almost no ghosting of the objects you see on the screen. The glasses also fitted comfortably over my glasses for most of the movie, didn't have any weird troubles seeing the right colors and I could tilt my head and move around without any perceived distortion. I saw some little reflection on the inside of the lenses and they had some smudges from previous use, but nothing too serious. I'd rather use reusable glasses than disposable ones just to be eco-friendly :3

"Mufasa, Mufasa, MUFASA! *hyena laughs* "

Now, on presentation not related to 3D we have some good news too. The first thing I noticed is that the dub is the same. No pointless, jarring change of voices like in Cinderella's remaster. But it also means that we get the same track from the original release. It's surprising how outdated it sounds. While it is slightly tweaked for surround, it lacks dynamic range (blessing or curse, that's your choice) so, depending on your theater's preference, you might want to boost the bass to feel the extra roar in the lion :P Our experience in this aspect was unfortunately rather bland...

The other thing that was discussed with the present furs and some people I've talked too today has to do with the remaster. Specifically it's The Morning Report song. No, It's not included. I can see why it's not: it breaks the storytelling. Like a friend told me some hours ago on AIM: It was taken out for some reason originally. It's an okay song but some people don't appreciate the extra retarded material (or at least she and people that watched the original release hated that new bit, Your Mileage May Vary).

Time to be honest guys. I didn't watched TLK when it was premiered back in 1994 D:

Now I know how it sounded and looked like because of online clips, you'll see. At that time I was like 11 or 12 years old and I was at that age when you are silly and try to outgrow some kind of things, specially Disney stuff. Even when back then I had "furry tendencies" and therefor the movie kinda appealed me, I faked disinterest, my parents skipped the movie and so it didn't take part of my childhood. I watched some scenes in a demo kiosk when the Laser Disc came and finally watched more scenes from the remasterized version some years ago thanks to my ex-girlfriend and my newfound furry interest, circa 2005. It is also her favorite movie and she was making some quotes and jokes; I felt out of loop and alienated, so I had to. After our break up I didn't kept interest and never got around to see the whole thing (perhaps we'll have a nice meetup to watch the movie. It drained my wallet but I'd like see it again!). It wasn't until 2 years ago when I became the cool animation junkie I am today B). It started as 'English Practice' but I've kept my collection to anthropomorphic material: NIMH, Balto, Robin Hood, The Fox and The Hound, Basil, etc. (and surprisingly TLK is not there). But I'm digressing, I know. It's a shame we don't have a Blu-Ray or an HDTV, let alone the 3D rig. I'd buy this movie because it's one kind of special experience. Highly recommended, it gets my stamp of approval! :3


Young Simba: Dad?
Mufasa: Hmm?
Young Simba: We're pals, right?
Mufasa: Right.
Young Simba: And we'll always be together, right?
Mufasa: Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars. The great kings of the past are up there, watching over us.
Young Simba: Really?
Mufasa: Yes. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.

And then he dies... *stab to the heart THANKS DISNEY!* ;-; [/spoiler]
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Added: 7 years, 8 months ago
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