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TLK on Home Video

As of the release of the DVD Special Edition, The Lion King is no longer (as it was for a long time) one of the most difficult Disney films to obtain for home viewing. In this section is a list of all the formats in which TLK has been released or will eventually be released, along with availability dates and online purchasing links where possible.


DVD

The Lion King: DVD Special Edition
Status: Released on October 7, 2003.
Official Site: lionking.com
Availability: Everywhere.

The long-awaited "Platinum Collection" DVD release of The Lion King is a real treat; it's easily the equal of other well-polished DVD packages in its class, and provides much of the same supplementary material as appeared in the Deluxe CAV Letterbox Edition back in 1995—while at the same time including a lot more new stuff that takes advantage of the unique capabilities of DVD. For instance, the discs contain not only the original theatrical release, but also the new "Special Edition" which includes a new version of the "Morning Report" scene—re-animated as a full song as in the Broadway musical. The disc purports to contain the original version (without the new scene) "exactly as it appeared in theaters in 1994", but the reality appears to be that there is actually only one video stream on the disc—and it merely shows the new "Morning Report" scene or the original, much shorter scene depending on which mode you selected. This is supported by observations in the so-called "original version" of many digital enhancements that were made for the Special Edition. This is a cause for some disappointment, but most of the digitally enhanced bits (such as the waterfalls in the "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" scene) are definitely improvements.

Naturally, there are all kinds of "Making Of" shorts, interviews, concept art, sing-alongs, deleted scenes, DVD games, and other various pieces of video content, including preview material for The Lion King 1 1/2. The release is in its original widescreen (1.66:1) theatrical aspect ratio, with a choice between the original 5.1 theatrical audio mix and a new Dolby Digital 5.1 "Home Theater Mix", specially designed for a uniquely immersive home-video experience.

More information on this release can be found at Disney's official site for the DVD release.

The Lion King: DVD Special Edition Collector's Gift Set
Status: Released on October 7, 2003.
Official Site: lionking.com
Availability: Costco, Amazon

In case the DVD Special Edition (above) isn't good enough for you, there's this collection—the spiritual successor, it seems, to the Deluxe CAV Laserdisc Edition. It's got everything included in the Special Edition DVD set, plus five exclusive lithographed character portraits (new sketches created and signed by the original character animators, as can be viewed here), the "Special Edition Book", and a very nice-looking gift box.

At a list price of around $50, and most store prices considerably less, it's hard to consider this one a bad deal.

Simba's Pride: Special Edition DVD
Status: Released on September 2, 2004.
Availability: Many video stores, including online: amazon.com, etc.

Simba's Pride has been re-released in a 2-disc Special Edition, which includes many of the features we've come to expect from full-scale DVD productions: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, optional pop-up informational commentary, interactive games (the "Virtual Safari") featuring Timon and Pumbaa and Rafiki, five humorous "Find Out Why" shorts, and an animated short based on Lebo M.'s "One By One" song found on the "Rhythm of the Pride Lands" CD and incorporated into the Broadway production of The Lion King. There is also a featurette called "Proud of Simba's Pride" which contains production features such as storyboard art, model sheets, deleted dialogue, and discussion of the development process of the story (a previously fairly opaque topic). However, none of the infamous pencil-test scenes from early edit prints of the movie are present. Pre-orders of this edition through the online Disney Store were shipped with a special commemorative lithograph.

There are some odd changes from the original DVD release's content. For instance, the "Alligator Attack" scene has been renamed "Crocodile Attack", and Kovu in the water has been inexplicably re-animated. This is only one among many examples of retuning and re-editing the movie for this new release.

Simba's Pride: DVD
Status: Out of print; not scheduled for re-release.
Availability: Many used video stores; however, most stocks have been replaced by the Special Edition DVD (above).

The DVD release of Simba's Pride provides a much preferable viewing experience over the VHS edition. There are no forced-view previews as with most other Disney DVDs; the DVD menu appears immediately after the FBI warning. The film is presented in a letterboxed 1.66:1 aspect ratio, hinting that Simba's Pride was produced with the possibility of a theatrical release in mind. The audio is THX-encoded, but suffers from the same crackling and popping that plagues the VHS version. The disc also contains the trailer for the movie, as well as the music video of "Love Will Find A Way" performed by Lattimore and Headley.

The Lion King 1 1/2: DVD
Status: Released on February 3, 2004.
Availability: Many video stores, including online: amazon.com, etc.

DVD is the essential medium for viewing The Lion King 1 1/2, as the movie's irreverent tone is complemented by the lighthearted and satirical supplemental material on this two-disc set. Presented in THX-certified Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround Sound streams, the movie disc contains the usual scene selections and a lush widescreen layout for the main movie, as well as numerous deleted and developmental scenes; the second disc contains such goodies as a tongue-in-cheek "Timon: Behind the Legend" featurette hosted by Peter Graves. Other materials include a "Making Of" video, interactive games, and a "Grazing in the Grass" music video starring Raven.

VHS

The Lion King: VHS
Status: Out of print; not scheduled for re-release.
Availability: Online video stores: amazon.com, etc.

The original video release of TLK appeared in March 1995; for months afterwards, copies of the videotape were stacked at every video store checkout counter to the point that almost nothing else seemed to be for sale. The video was pulled from shelves in 1997 due to Disney's moratorium on general availability until ten years after the film's theatrical release, and to stir up interest for the direct-to-video sequel, Simba's Pride. This VHS edition of TLK has previews of Pocahontas and three later video releases, and is in full-frame (pan-and-scan) format.

The Lion King was re-released on VHS on October 7, 2003; for further information see the "VHS Special Edition" below.

The Lion King: VHS Special Edition
Status: Released on October 7, 2003.
Availability: Amazon.com and other retailers

This new VHS release is not a simple repackaging of the original 1995 video; rather, it's the "Special Edition" cut of the movie, the new one with the "Morning Report" song scene added, as well as many of the same digital enhancements and modifications that were made for the IMAX re-release. Just the same, however, information at Disney's official site confirms that there is nothing particularly "special" about this video. It's in 1.33:1 aspect ratio (meaning pan-and-scan); it's digitally mastered, but there aren't any of the special features on the tape to match what's on the Special Edition DVD. Since this release is packaged in the same way as the Beauty and the Beast Special Edition VHS release, it contains some bonus materials at the end of the movie, such as the Disney Channel's all-star "Circle of Life" video—but nowhere near as much as on the DVD. If you are DVD-equipped, there's little reason to get the VHS instead of the DVD.

The Lion King: Exclusive Deluxe Video Edition
Status: Out of print; not scheduled for re-release.
Availability: Collectors only; try eBay auctions.

Before the Deluxe CAV Letterbox Edition (below) was released for laserdisc collectors, this handsome boxed set was the ultimate in TLK home-viewing nirvana. It in fact does have a few things that the boxed laserdisc set does not have: an exclusive lithograph of Rafiki and Simba (in some editions), a commemorative "Circle of Life" epigraph, and a certificate of authenticity. It also has the six concept-art lithographs that appear in the CAV boxed set, as well as (of course) the standard VHS video and another tape with the "Making of The Lion King" half-hour show. However, it does not have the extra video goodies (storyboards, character designs, rough animation, etc.) that are found in the deluxe laserdisc edition. This boxed set sold for just under $100 when it was in stores; expect to pay more than that if you find a collector willing to part with his or her copy.

Simba's Pride: Special Edition VHS
Status: Released on September 2, 2004.
Availability: Many video stores, including online: amazon.com, etc.

The VHS version of the Simba's Pride Special Edition DVD contains the complete movie with all its re-edited content, but none of the special features that appear in the DVD edition. Quality of this VHS edition appear to be much better than that of the original 1998 release.

Simba's Pride: VHS
Status: Out of print; not scheduled for re-release.
Availability: Online video stores: amazon.com, etc.

The direct-to-video sequel to The Lion King appeared in US stores on October 27, 1998, and in Europe on March 1, 1999. The initial run of VHS tapes suffered from quality-control problems, occasionally showing video banding and choppy sound, but quality is reported to have improved. The video is in pan-and-scan format, and the tape contains numerous trailers and promotions, including a preview of The Lion King on Broadway.

The Lion King 1 1/2: VHS
Status: Released on February 3, 2004.
Availability: Online video stores: amazon.com, etc.

The Lion King 1 1/2 is designed with the DVD format in mind, and the VHS release is little more than an afterthought provided as a courtesy to those who have not yet made the switch. Lacking in the special features found in the DVD set (the deleted/developmental scenes, the "Timon: Behind the Legend" featurette, the music videos, and so on), the VHS presentation contains only the movie in pan-and-scan format and some previews.

Laserdisc

The Lion King: CLV Laserdisc
Status: Out of print; not scheduled for re-release.
Availability: Some video stores; try cdworld.com or eBay auctions.

The less-expensive but very much worthwhile laserdisc edition gives you the same viewing experience as the Deluxe CAV Laserdisc edition (below)—no previews, letterbox format, THX audio, and excellent recording quality—but due to the limitations of CLV encoding does not offer such things as frame-by-frame stepping, variable speed, freeze-frame, and so on. It's an excellent value, though, and you won't have to change discs in the middle of the movie. The CLV Laserdisc release appeared in 1995 and remained in stores until about 1998, though the end of availability is hard to gauge on a low-turnover product such as a laserdisc which does not immediately sell out of stores. It may still be available through some online merchants.

The Lion King: Deluxe CAV Letterbox Edition
Status: Out of print; not scheduled for re-release.
Availability: Some video stores; try cdworld.com or eBay auctions.

This $100+ boxed presentation is still occasionally seen in video stores; if you have a CAV-capable laserdisc player, this is still one of the best ways to view The Lion King at home, as laserdiscs can outdo even DVDs in picture quality. The box contains the movie in letterbox format (1.66:1 aspect ratio), spanning two CAV discs, and two more discs containing the "Making of The Lion King" half-hour show, storyboards, character design artwork, concept art, and rough animation. The movie contains commentary by the directors on the first analog audio track. If that weren't enough, there is an envelope in the box containing six lithographed pieces of concept artwork from the film. There is enough material in this package to make viewing The Lion King an all-day affair. If you find this handsome boxed set for sale anywhere, you won't regret picking it up.

VideoCD

The Lion King: VideoCD
Status: Out of print; not scheduled for re-release.
Availability: Asia-based online merchants: videocds.com, etc.

VideoCDs (or VCDs) are simply CD-ROMs with the full movie in MPEG video, 320x240 pixels (pan-and-scanned). Since a CD can only hold 650MB, feature-length movies span two discs each. VideoCDs are an interim video medium that have all but been supplanted by DVD; they are almost unknown in the USA, but they are widely circulated in Asia and have also appeared in Europe. This means that one must use caution when ordering the VideoCD from an Asian reseller, and make sure that the disc you get is not an unlicensed or pirated copy. Because the discs are encoded from the PAL video signal on non-US video equipment, the movie plays at about 4% faster than the US video version, making the voices all sound a little bit higher than normal. The audio is nothing special (standard MPEG compression), but the signal is very clean. Unfortunately, the audio sync lags very slightly behind the video, making lip movements slightly unnatural. There are no ads or previews.

Make sure your copy has the Disney hologram on the front insert to ensure that it is authentic. I've spoken to Disney's video piracy department and been told that unauthorized duplication can be done so convincingly that it's impossible to tell whether the disc is legitimate or not. Caveat emptor...

Simba's Pride: VideoCD
Status: Out of print; not scheduled for re-release.
Availability: Asia-based online merchants: videocds.com, etc.

As with the Lion King VideoCD, this two-disc set is a low-value but versatile alternative to DVD, primarily released for the Asian market. The video signal is 320x240 MPEG with a disappointing 4% speedup in frame rate from the standard US format. The video and audio are both very clean, but the audio lags slightly behind the video, and neither the audio nor the video are of modern enough compression quality to provide an adequate viewing experience. Since Simba's Pride is available on DVD, there is very little reason to buy the VideoCD instead; but if you do, make sure the reseller you buy it from is dealing in authentic, licensed Disney merchandise—verify the discs' authenticity by checking for the Mickey hologram on the front insert and the Asian distribution information integrated into the back cover design. No ads or previews.

Web design © 1995-2010 Brian Tiemann | Last revised: Monday, 09-Sep-2013 11:06:47 CDT