“Nants ingonyama!” The chant we all grew up singing booms out through the surround sound system, and the bright orange sun rises over the African savannah. You’ve seen Disney’s 1994 classic The Lion King, and I’m sure you’ve sung along countless times to the familiar voice that opens the film. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t? But I guarantee you haven’t seen The Lion King quite like this before: the breathtaking, re-mastered version that is now playing in stunning 3D.
While this new version adds another visual dimension to the beloved story, it doesn’t add anything new in terms of the film itself. And that is OK. This updated Lion King boosts the visual quality and makes the same story come to life even more whimsically than I remembered as a little kid. “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” and “Hakuna Matata” pop with brighter color palettes, dazzling animation, and visual appeal that gives one the sense that this is truly how the classic film was meant to be viewed.
In terms of cinematic beauty, this film succeeds. Additionally—and probably surprisingly—the story holds up genuinely well all these years later, with its portrait of love, death, courage, and destiny echoing profoundly in this day and age. Certainly, small children will be charmed by the film, with its music and animation never feeling dull. Yet many older audiences will be even more touched, whether it’s because of the innocence and beauty of The Lion King’s story or the scope and spectacle that the added dimension gives to the film. While 3D often does not serve to enhance movies these days, this one is an exception, with extra depth and heart in the new format. Not only is it easier to be entertained by a film that immerses you in breathtaking images, but it is also easier to be moved.
With vibrant colors, beautiful visuals, a familiar and acclaimed story, rousing musical numbers, and creative use of the often stale 3D gimmick, this version of The Lion King is well worth the premium admission price. After sitting through Disney’s re-issue, I can conclude that it is more than just a cash-grab for the studio; it is an emotional and exciting journey that transported me right back to my childhood and stands as one of my favorite movie-going experiences of the year.
I give The Lion King in 3D a rating of 5 out of 5.