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 Juliet. The 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.