It is back. And folks, it has never been better. A digitally renewed version of Disney's most flourishing, wholly original and unconditionally loved animated movies of all time -- The Lion King ragingly returns in extravagant 3D, and that experience is well, some experience. In a stiffly competitive environment, where every other random motion picture, right from a documentary (Never Say Never) to heavy metal actioner (Transformers 3) sees a 3D release, it is a task to not get saturated by the constant supply of mostly mediocre, insipidly formulaic Hollywood fare.
But when a classic re-debuts, added with an extra dimension, it is an entirely different Hollywood story. The intriguing, awe-strikingly beautiful and nostalgically familiar scene of African terrain looks majestic behind those glasses as the classic tale unfolds for the umpteenth number, but this time with a greater depth that is not only technically stunning but at the same time, sentimentally stirring.
The jungle-clan gathers excitedly in full force as Mufasa (the unmatchable James Earl Jones) -- The Lion King, and his Queen Sarabi (Madge Sinclair) let the traditional mandrill to present the infant Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas and then Matthew Broderick) -- declaring him as the future King. The zebra, the giraffes and the birds of the forest crowd up enthusiastically as the Circle of Life soundtrack harmonizes the time-honored ceremony. While the other inhabitants gleefully celebrate the declaration below the Pride Rock, devious uncle to Simba -- Scar is mutely lamenting the avowal, for he desired the throne since a very long time.
If Mufasa is the idealistically courageous and commanding King of a father, nurturing Simba with the choicest of moral values, Scar is ill-willed, malicious and morally corrupt who evokes an impressionable Simba to venture into the out of bound elephant graveyard putting him in great peril, along with his best friend Nala.
After Mufasa timely reaches the sinister location where a trio of hyenas almost kills the two cubs averting the hacking, later the King, in a blissfully sublime scene, and also which is the most poignant of all -- explains Simba the significance of the stars splashed lazily onto the sky saying those are dead Kings who are always there to guide the living.
Eventually, Scar succeeds in his evil betrayal to his very own brother, by setting a herd of
hyenas on a maniacal stampede. Mufasa saves Simba but is pushed-off by Scar when at a crucial position, murdering him hands-off.
The particular mad dash of hyenas is a spectacular piece of animation which is immensely pleasing to watch in 3D. As Scar makes Simba believe that he is the cause of his father's death, he also tells him to flee the territory and never return so as to conveniently reach the coveted throne.
An exiled Simba is raised in the companionship of the wart hog Pumbaa (Jonathan Roberts) and endearing meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane) with the philosophy of "Hakuna Matata" (Don't worry, Be Happy) briefly encrypted in his mind. In the meanwhile, Scar allies with the hyenas' and takes over as King, leading to a great deal of disturbance in the jungle.
On how Simba eventually ascertains his responsibilities, how gracefully he embraces his duties, the courage that brings him to take on it, and that legendary realization of being Mufasa's son eventually leads him in fatally defeating an ethically corrupt Scar, bringing back to normalcy the functioning of the jungle, and finishing the circle of life by declaring his own son, with Nala as the future King.
The Lion King's inspiration could well have been another fairytale like Disney's unending biography claims, but the provokingly thoughtful story that continues to delight actually steals inspiration from Shakespeare's Hamlet (Scar is reminiscent of Claudius) and somewhat from Greek mythology.
With its simplistic yet immortal story The Lion King goes far beyond the confines of just being a cartoon, and attains a much higher epic status. The animation, although designed with sensibilities that prevailed two decades before, still look eloquently crisp and you can satisfyingly devour it in supreme 3D.
The memorable characters synced with some of the best voiceovers recorded ever still appear refreshingly witty, inimitably funny and delightful just like the first time.
The cherished soundtracks by Elton John and Tim Rice, with the background score by the imposing Hans Zimmer, make for some soulful additions, even though the film would have been similarly glorious to sustain its already towering level, without it.
Like they say, Classics never really Die. Technological advancement is a terrific boon that takes us places, wholly revolutionizing the way we see cinema. Today it is 3D, tomorrow who knows what. But one thing is certain -- the roar of the Lion King on Pride Hill, the impeccable humor of Zazu, the moving concern of the mandrake Rafiki, the remarkable camaraderie of Timon and Pumbaa and the idiocy of Shezi, Banzai and Ed (villainous hyenas) has and will continue to dominate and inspire hearts and minds for time eternal.