The Lion King on IMAX

Finally saw THE LION KING last night on a glorious IMAX screen. It dawned on me as the movie started that I hadn’t seen it in close to 10 years. Then it scared me when I remembered as much of the dialogue as I did. Sure, a lot of it was helped from listening to the soundtrack over the years, but Rowan Atkinson’s one-liners as Zazu are still memorable and hilarious.

Some random thoughts:

* One of the important things a director must do for a movie is to frame his shots so that the audience is looking at the right thing on screen at the right time. On a regular movie screen — or on your television screen at home — it’s almost trivial. Peripheral vision will take care of the worst of it. You don’t need to move your head to see opposite sides of the frame. With IMAX, you do. I was impressed at how naturally the direction went at certain points to guide your interest and attention where it needed to be. It’s annoying at first, but you get the hang of it after a short while.

* Yes, they showed an ALADDIN trailer before the movie. It hits IMAX on Christmas Day, 2003, which means you can see the DVD in fall 2004, no doubt. I really wish they’d go back and do THE LITTLE MERMAID after that. The trailer shows a clip from the movie where Aladdin is on the carpet and flying quickly through caves and whatnot, towards and away from the viewer. It’s very impressive on IMAX.

* The animation on THE LION KING (and particularly the small clips of ALADDIN) holds up much better on the large screen than it did with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. It looks cleaner. All the extra pencil marks in the animation don’t show up. Yes, there are still a few shots where a character stands still and the lines forming him move around a bit, due to the animation process. Those are much lesser in TLK than in BATB.

* I know it’s a kid’s movie, but can the parents please restrain their children sitting in the row behind me from arguing at top volume about the popcorn? Jeez.

* THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, and THE LION KING make up the golden age of Disney animation for people my age. After that, the movies became stale, repetitive, and formulaic. THE LION KING is an amazing movie. The “Circle of Life” beginning might be the strongest opening of any Disney movie I can recall. The music is well-placed and infectious. Scar is a great villain and the whole “Be Prepared” number with its Nazi goosestepping hyenas is enough to send chills down your spine.

* Both Jeremy Irons (“Scar”) and Rowan Atkinson (“Zazu”) sings songs in the movie which involve very little actual singing. They just talk their way through them and occasionally hold a note.

* I still don’t see why the slow motion bit was necessary in the final battle between Simba and Scar. I remember people questioning it when the movie first came out, and I’m sure a fresh viewing ten years later did nothing to explain it to me.

6 thoughts on “The Lion King on IMAX

  1. “You’re weird, Uncle Scar.”

    “You have no idea.”

  2. Hakuna matata to you, my friend.

    “His uncle is a monkey?”

    They almost lapsed into a Marx Brothers routine there. Now THAT would have been cool.


  3. Scar was SO incredibly cool. I thought he’d just let Simba run feeling guilty which would have been bad enough…and then…

    “Kill him.”

    Shivers. You’re right about that golden age thing, though I would add Mulan and The Hunchback to it. Not Pocahontas. After that…trainwreck. I can’t even remember any titles and I haven’t watched the latest one yet.
    Funny…I enjoy watching older Disney’s like The Rescuers.
    My favourite old animation film is not a Disney one though….it’s The Secret of Nimh.

  4. I’ll stand up for Hunchback as being better than anything from the “Gen X Golden Age” excepting Beauty and the Beast. They could have, and should have, gone farther, but the darkness of Hellfire has no parallel in a Disney flick, and the hero DOESN’T get the girl! On top of that add Menken’s greatest overall score and you’ve got good stuff. Word is Disney is planning to do a live-action version for TV based on the film and musical (a full stage version played in Germany). I like the Lion King fine but disagree strongly on the score’s merits – excepting The Circle of Life Elton John’s songs pale next to any of Menken’s work.

    Also, as an FYI, Jeremy Irons is doing that talk-singing thing as we speak at New York City Opera in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.

  5. My fave Scar line, and I have it on a T-shirt, is “I’m surrounded by idiots.” ;)

    And you’re right, that really is the true golden age of Disney animation. I’m glad you pointed out that Lion King looked alot cleaner than Beauty and the Beast — Eric was reluctant to go see Lion King because he wasn’t entirely thrilled with seeing all the “defects” of B&B on the giant IMAX screen.

    I also agree that Hunchback had some great great moments that were totally lost in the midst of the critiques (which weren’t entirely unjustified) — “Hellfire” is honestly one of the creepiest and darkest songs out of most musicals, stage, screen, or animated.

  6. I think they dropped the ball in two major ways on Hunchback

    1 – I can stomach the gargoyles, but they should NOT have been real; it should have been made implicit that they were merely mirages Quasimodo’s mind had invented to help cope with the loneliness.

    2 – Quasimodo was entirely too happy to lose Esmeralda to Phoebus, they chickened out of a much more mixed ending by not allowing Quasimodo to be truly unhappy that he didn’t “get the girl”

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