Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Phenomenon of The Lion King

What can you truly say about a pure, undisputed phenomenon?  For that is certainly The Lion King.  Seventeen years after its initial release and unqualified critical and commercial successes, it has now again roared into theaters by way of a 3D conversion that has dramatically surprised even the most optimistic of Hollywood bean counters,  So much so that its two week engagement has been extended and is now bumping into its latest home entertainment release.  The Lion King arrives this week in its sparkling new Diamond Edition that comprises any number of purchasing options involving Blu-ray, standard DVD and digital download formats.

Though often inconsistent in their treatment of animated classics, Disney Home Entertainment does do justice to the films selected for the high profile Diamond Editions.  The Lion King is no exception.  Beyond its high definition upgrade to Blu-ray, the new set includes any number of new and rather impressive bonus features.  The Pride of the Lion King is very well-produced and entertaining talking head retrospective that includes the likes of Jeffrey Katzenberg, Michael Eisner, Julie Taymor, Peter Schneider, Thomas Schumacher, producer Don Hahn and directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers.  Noticeably absent?  Elton John, no doubt due to his disappointment in  Disney for its lack of marketing and promotional support in regard to Gnomeo and JulietThe Lion King: A Memoir-Don Hahn makes extensive use of home movies and videos to transport viewers back to the early 1990s and behind the scenes in the making of the film.  Five deleted scenes are rather minimal and only marginally interesting, while some newly animated bloopers (derived from audio outtakes) are brief, occasionally cute, but little more.  Bonus features from the earlier Platinum Edition are made available via an online connection with a broadband compatible Blu-ray player.  The "Morning Report" sequence that was seamlessly integrated into the film for the Platinum release has been extracted and now exists only as a stand-alone feature.

The big kahuna of the bonus features is indeed the Disney Second Screen, now in its third incarnation following notable inclusions in Bambi and Tron Legacy.  To recap, Second Screen is an additional interactive platform that provides supplemental content that is synchronized to the actual presentation of the film.  Two such platforms are currently available, either an Apple iPad or a laptop computer.  Second Screen comes to the iPad by way of a free application downloaded via the App Store.  For the Mac or PC, it is a Flash-based interface streamed through Disney's web site.   Similar especially to the Bambi Second Screen, The Lion King Second Screen presents a veritable wealth of animation related content--production art, storyboards and flipbook simulations in addition to archive photos and videos and anecdotal snippets of text and trivia.  It is a much more integrated and interactive experience than your typical gallery type DVD bonus feature and certainly more user-friendly.

I only had one complaint with The Lion King Diamond Edition.  Once again Disney has limited the Digital Copy to the much more expensive 4-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack which includes the Blu-ray 3D copy.   This continues to penalize the vast majority of consumers who have no need for a 3D version of the film but still desire a digital copy.  It is a distinct blemish on an otherwise excellent home entertainment package.


Joe Shelby said...

With the digital copy expiring after only one year of release date (which means the longer you delay purchasing it, the less valuable it is, and eventually one might buy the product and not be able to use the digital copy at all), I really don't see that as a deterrent anymore, or a value-add.

Increasingly people are going to learn how dvd-rippers work and just do it themselves and stop *buying* something that expires in a year or less.

If I, as purchaser, agreed that it was just a rental up front, that would be one thing. This is bundled as part of a purchase, and the idea of a purchased product is that I can use it as long as I want to, which the digital copy DRM essentially violates.

I right now have about 12 different, totally useless pieces of plastic, as a result of bundled Digital Copies that have expired. I don't need any more. It is a senseless waste of time and money.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Hi Joe,

I'm not quite sure I understand your point. Once downloaded, my digital copies will last until I physically delete them from my hard drive or backup drives. As long as I retain the file, I will have access to the film.

Sure, you cannot re-download after the expiration, but similarly you could also not get a free replacement disc if you lost or damaged a DVD or Blu-ray.

The digital copies represent enormous value to me and my family members. We own iPods and an iPad and also frequently use our PCs to watch movies. We also own Apple TV.

Anonymous said...

Why not include the "2nd screen" content? There is enough storage space on a BD, so why in the world do I have to be online to access the stuff?

Jeffrey Pepper said...


It's not a question of storage capacity. The content has to be accessible to another device that provides the "Second Screen," i.e. you PC or iPad. Putting the content on the Blu-ray disc would serve no purpose. The intent of Second Screen is to provide supplemental content that is synchronized to your watching the film, but does not in fact interfere with that film's presentation. The ideal interface is most certainly the iPad and that reflects the very close relationship that exists between Disney and Apple.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Although I just realized I may have misunderstood your point.

Yes, it is valid that the content could be made available in a non-synchronized presentation. It takes up about half a gig on the iPad. The same could be argued in regard to the Classic DVD bonus features that also have to be accessed via an online connection.

Sorry about that.

Joe Shelby said...

I have, as I said, some 12 useless pieces of plastic that started life as a digital copy that has now expired, one year after the date of the product's release. They are now coasters of the same value to my coffee table as an AOL disc 15 years ago.

Maybe they've changed their DRM (Digital Rights Management) policies since then and have gotten rid of the expiration on newer content, but they've already turned me off on the whole idea of the corporation itself offering me content. I refuse to support the idea that they exclusively decide what devices I can or can't play it on. I'm not trying to illegally share it - I just believe I should be free to watch it on my own terms.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Joe, I'm still rather confused by your argument.

The expiration that you speak of only relates to the redemption of the digital copy offer. Once redeemed and then downloaded to a digital file, the movie is then available to you indefinitely (as long as you preserve that file copy). The physical digital copy discs are just the means to that end. Their perceived uselessness is really irrelevant; they are just the means to acquiring the digital files that you ultimately transfer to your PCs and devices. I believe that the use of the discs in the redemption process relates more to verification of your hard copy purchase (thus preventing someone from selling or giving away the redemption codes).

While you say you have 12 useless pieces of plastic, I have over 50 films in my digital library that I can view on any number of device platforms. And because they were all bundled into Blu-ray packages, I didn't pay anything extra to acquire them.

Joe Shelby said...

Yes you are missing my point. The very idea that I have this piece of plastic that has a zillion bits on it that I can not do anything with anymore is the inherent waste. There never should have been an expiration on the process of authenticating the file and allowing you to play it. Even if there was, the original plastic bits remain useless now that that year is over.

And not every device out there can play these files, authenticated or not. My primary viewing device these days is the WDTVLive from Western Digital, which can not play them.

Do I support the idea of the digital copy? Yes. Do I support the current implementation? No.

Steven said...

Well said on the digital comments side. I think all movies should include a digital copy because people want to view their movies on multiple devices like their phone or ipads or media center devices. The only choice left for most is to rip the copy because buying multiple copies is just not feasible.

All that ranting aside. I love the Lion King. Went to see it at the theaters again (didn't really need the 3D) and I will certainly buy it on blu-ray


Anonymous said...

@Jeffrey Pepper: What I was thinking about was a kind of synchronisation that does not need another device, sth like the "footnotes" to the Lilo and Stitch Making Of, or sth the DVD or BD player can handle - for me, accessing sth online is just not the same thing as "owning" it, that´s why I buy discs instead of using VOD - I guess it´s just the collector in me... :-)

FigmentJedi said...

Disney Movie Rewards codes as of recent generally unlock a digital copy on site there, so I don't see why the physical discs are as necessary anymore