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3-DDisneyFeature Film

“Lion King 3D” talkback

NPR loves The Lion King, but calls the 3D release a “cash grab”.

You know what I think. How about you? Intrigued enough to see a classic Disney hand drawn feature converted to 3-D? If so, share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comments below (Please respect our talkback rule and only post below if you’ve actually seen the 3D version).

UPDATE: The 3D Lion King was number one at the US box office this week.

  • The Hey

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  • X

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  • Justin Delbert

    Hey! As a person that has been dismayed about 3D, causing me to save money by going to 2D shows, I must admit the 3D looks really FANTASTIC! It will be well worth your money. Looking back at the Lion King as an adult, you understand more than what you did as a kid, and some memories of being a kid will bounce back at you. I strongly recommend this to anyone who loves Disney and the Lion King.

  • Blake

    I saw it tonight. I mean as much as it’s a masterpiece. The 3D was barely existent. And the majority of it showed up in the beginning of the movie among grass and rocks.

    I’m no expert but a lot of these 3D effects on old movies usually touch the backgrounds and the floors and pull them out and such. I don’t think these guys wanna pull out the characters because their hordes of fans will cause a problem about it. But seriously huge missed oppurtunity to pull Mufasa’s spirit out of the screen , that would have been worth everything.

    So yeah go see the movie regardless because it’s fantastic but the 3D seemed kinda effortless if you ask me. Nightmare’s 3D was better IMO and more frequent even if it was just backgrounds and such.

    • Mike Luzzi

      I disagree that it was “barely used” I feel like it was subtlely eviden in every shot of the film. Characters had depth and volume. The whiskers of the lions protruded as did Zazu’s beak and Pumba’s snout and tusks. Sure (thankfully) nothing flew out of the screen ala the Muppets 3D attraction at Disneyworld (Which I happen to enjoy) But it was there and it probably took a huge amount of technical work and manual artists rotoing depth onto these frames.

      I was pretty amazed.

  • Slinky Dog

    I made up my mind to see it partially out of curiosity as to how Disney would convert a hand-drawn movie to 3D. Mostly I wanted to see it because “The Lion King” is one of my favorite movies. I went tonight, and I enjoyed it. The 3D was an interesting novelty. There were a few instances where the effect particularly impressed me:

    1) During “Circle of Life”, especially when Zazu flies toward Pride Rock.
    2) The scene in which Simba runs after Rafiki in the thicket.
    3) The climactic fight scene…and the 360 pan around Simba during the buildup to the fight
    4) Of course, the stampede

    Overall, the effect was neat, and I didn’t notice any detrimental color muting, which is a good thing because the movie is supposed to be colorful.

    I still prefer 2D for movies in general, but I’m glad that I went to see this in 3D because the effect and the conversion process are both interesting.

    I noticed that, in my area at least, theaters are showing the movie in 2D, so that is an option for anti-3D “Lion King” fans. I may take that option myself ostensibly to compare the 3D version to the original. But who am I kidding? I just love the movie.

  • Slinky Dog

    I should also add that the theater was packed, and there were a lot of college kids and young adults there. I even saw a fair amount of people who looked to be in their 30’s. Everyone applauded at the end – most likely for the movie itself, not the 3D.

    • Dana G

      Yep, I’m a college kid and went with a group of college friends—we were the first generation to grow up with it, so it’s special to a lot of us. It was also great seeing much younger kids in the theater, who must’ve been born years after the original release, who knew all the lines and could sing along to all the songs. This movie is going to stick around for a long time.

  • I just came back from seeing it… I think I was more excited about nostalgia rather than the 3D adaptation… which, after a few minutes, you do not perceive, although they try to add elements here and there to make you feel better for the money spent. I really feel bad for the parents that took their 2.5 children… and the “point five” does not even know what is going on.. but had to pay the 12 or so dollars to get in.
    I still got excited on the places where it is expected to get excited.. I laughed at the jokes… I sang the songs… and shed a tear when Simba walked the plank and roared… AAANNND, guess what???…. people clapped at the end when you see the final “lion king” seal… yep! … last time I experienced crowd-clapping in a movie theater was with “inglorious basterds.”

  • John

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  • Jpox

    Saw it tonight. Great film. Good 3D effects.
    They really popped the 3D during “Circle of Life” and my eyes had a hard time adjusting. Impressed by the layers popped off character’s faces in some scenes.
    I was just glad to see the movie on the big screen again after 17 years…

  • Honestly, the 3-d effect was evident and sometimes offered a cool vantange point for us to watch the story unfold. But overall it was not necessary nor did it actually enhance the story in any way.

  • I mostly went to see the Lion King tonight because I missed out seeing it in theatre when I was a kid, and not because of the 3D aspect of it. In my opinion, I think the 3D at the beginning was really bad and running through my head were the thoughts “Oh no! They ruined the movie!” and I thought I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of it. However, it seemed to get toned down a bit and I didn’t really notice it too much after that. None of the 3D made the movie any more spectacular than it already is, but if only to see the movie again in the theatre, I say go for it.

  • I honestly loved the 3D Lion King. I loved the rounded dimensions, and I thought the way the muzzles, whiskers, and manes of the big cats were all on different planes. That combined with the shading on the cats, on Zazu’s beak, all added to the plumpness and therefore weight of the characters (Also, a side note: This was the first time I’d seen Lion King since it’s original opening, and I’d forgotten how much digital audio makes all the difference as well). The 3D multiplane gave such dimension to the backgrounds, even the ones that would’ve otherwise been a stagnant, non-multiplane matte. The newly 3D-tized Lion King leaves me the impression that this could be a trend with traditionally hand drawn films- and I’m okay with that. That’s not to say that it isn’t still, at the end of the day, a trick. But a beautiful one, indeed.

    • woops. late night posts make for lots of errors. but try and catch my drift :)

  • Why not just make NEW traditionally animated cartoons Disney! Maybe the funds for this will go towards a new hand drawn feature?!?!?

    • Well since stuff like this is typically an easy cash-grab (I’m on my way out to see it in a few), maybe they’ll use the money to help fund other projects in the future.

      We can hope for that, anyhow.

    • Not sure from Lavalle’s comments if s/he saw the movie. And I don’t understand why people think Disney is releasing this in place of some new project. Is there a news story I missed that said, “Disney re-releases Lion King so that they don’t have to make a new film.”

      (Yes, I saw the movie on opening day. Yes, I felt like the 3D was a good enhancement and was never gimmicky. It did enhance story points, such as when Simba steps into the depth of Mufasa’s pawprint. It did get a flickery at moments of action but that was never that big of a problem. And, no, the colors did not seem muted by the 3D effect.)

  • Mathew

    I saw it today and I enjoyed it very much! It turned out a lot better than I thought it would. This gives me hope for hand drawn animation planned from the beginning for 3D.

  • kayte

    I have never been a fan of 3D movies. But seeing Lion King might have changed my mind. I thought it looked beautiful and wasn’t overdone. Lion King has always been one of my favorite Disney movies.
    I had read other reviews and was hoping for the best and was very pleasantly surprised. I also had a really good seat where I was in the middle of the theater.
    I am glad I spent the money to see it, it was well worth it.

  • justin

    Saw it this afternoon, same great film, just darker.
    Also: I don’t know if this counts as not respecting the talkback rule, but I don’t know of any better place to post it. I know of two theaters around me that are showing the 2d version as well as the 3d. I thought this was supposed to be all about the 3d, not just a general re-release. Is this widespread, or is it just the theaters around here that are just doing whatever they feel like?

  • hash

    It was surprisingly easy on the eyes and i liked it. The 3d was apparent to me the entire movie, i thought it made some scenes with poor draftsmanship from the original version obvious. However the people i was with said they barely noticed it.

    As someone who hates 3d, this was actually pretty nice

  • hash

    I just have to add, the original movie came out when i was 3 so i never saw it in theaters. If you havent you HAVE to go. For some reason a room full of children slowly realizing that mufasa died is incredibly hilarious. I had to muffle my laughing

  • Saw it this afternoon, and like as Justin said, it was available for viewing in both 2D and 3D. I saw it in 3D obviously, and found it just as enjoyable. The 3D was all in the right places, and it wasn’t distracting or annoying at all. I was pleased to see a packed theatre, full of adults and small children alike.

    There was applause and cheers and sometimes even the odd sing along from viewers. If you loved the Lion King, treat yourself and go see it for the hundredth time. Seeing 2D (even in 3D) on the big screen again was worth it for me.

  • Paul N

    I gotta say I liked the 3D treatment. Don’t know how it was put together, but I didn’t expect the characters to look as rounded and dimensional as they did. There were some scenes where the characters looked like cutouts, and some of the backgrounds could have used more attention to get them to look less flat, but for the most part I thought the 3D conversion worked better than expected for a 2D animated film.

    I never realized how much this is a movie about fathers and sons before. Maybe because of some current personal issues it resonated more for me than previously, but the film brought me to tears more than once.

    Is there a DVD/Blu-Ray rerelease coming up after this theatrical run?

    • Yes, DVD and Blu-Ray coming in October.

  • Mousketeer

    I saw the movie, and I worked on the 3d-ification of it.

    I’m really glad that people saw it and liked our work. What people seem to be noticing in the quality of the 3d is what we were attempting… there was an intended artistry to the use of 3d.

    If 3d isn’t to your taste, so be it. I love it. Some don’t. I get that.

    But if Lion King was to be made in 3d, we had to do the BEST job of it.

    Who did the 3d conversion? Walt Disney Animation Studios artists. Many of the same artists who made Tangled.

    It wasn’t shopped out to folks out of house or out of the country. It was lovingly converted by folks who are REALLY protective of the original artistry of the film.

    One of the hand-drawn artists who worked on the original said this to me: “You know, this is the way we see the characters in our minds when we draw them. In our minds, we’ve got to see these characters dimensionally, in perspective. In a way, now everyone gets to see the characters as we see them.”

    • snip2364

      When people criticize something, they need to be careful about what they say because anything they hate is still made by a human being with his/her own judgment, and who can probably post on this very blog! I identify with wanting to defend your position.

      The effect gave inconsistent results, but overall, I was fine with it, and it did NOT give me a headache after 10 minutes! I won’t review the movie itself because everyone remembers everything about it from years ago. I loved how whiskers branched out into their own planes, little details like that. I’m glad the majority of the audiences loved the conversion, and it was interesting to read that some of the same people who put the 3D layering over the film also worked on Tangled! If Disney decides to take the other movies in their library and convert them to 3D, I hope they use the same process they used here.

  • I’ve got to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the 3D effect . The 3D worked pretty well, didn’t hurt the animation (didn’t really add anything to it either, imo, but I’m not a big fan of 3D projection to begin with so take my comments with that in mind …) When I first heard about it I was afraid that the 3D conversion might make the animation difficult to watch, but overall it looked good.

    Although the problem of the image being much dimmer than usual was still evident , as it is with most 3D films. That for me is something I really can’t stand about 3D . Colors that should have been vivid were grey and muted.

    Apparently they’re also playing The Lion King in conventional 2D projection in some theaters , so I’m hoping to go see it again in 2D projection because it’s not often that I get to enjoy watching hand-drawn animation on the big screen the way it was meant to be seen. Heck, everyone should go see it twice !

    I really agree with what Jerry wrote last week:

    “3-D adds nothing new to the greatness of Disney’s The Lion King. But anything that returns hand drawn animation to the big screen, and to the attention of the public, is a good thing. At various times during both screenings I kept thinking how fantastic a new drawn film, designed and shot for 3-D, would be.”

  • Rick Kowal

    Laugh if you may, but I never saw the Lion King before today. When it came out in the theater years ago, I was in what I call “silly childish anti-Disney anime mode.” Actually, allow to me correct myself…I should say “anti-musical numbers.”(of which is my only complaint of the film..the use of musical numbers to move the plot along) Since then, it has been on the list of “I’ll get around to seeing it when I get around to it.”

    I must say, it blew me away seeing it on the big screen. The opening sequence seriously almost made me cry at how beautiful it was.(Okay fine, I wiped my eyes once) The 3D was the best here, during the stampede, and at the fight at the end IMO.

    I would really like to see a 2D film planned from the start with the depth of background layers and such. After seeing this film today, it really changed my view on what could be possible with it. Unfortunately, since it is all a business after all, I realize I will likely not live to see that. :D

  • A few excerpts culled from various comments above:

    “I would really like to see a 2D film planned from the start with the depth of background layers and such. After seeing this film today, it really changed my view on what could be possible with it.”


    “Seeing 2D (even in 3D) on the big screen again was worth it for me. “

    illustrate the ongoing awkwardness in the language of referring to animation as either “2D” (meaning animation with drawings) or “3D” (meaning animation made on a computer) , because we now have “3D”(computer, CG) films like Kung Fu Panda 2 or Tangled , and “2D” (drawn) movies like The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast which we can watch in 2D (conventional projection) or in 3D (stereoscopic projection).

    So, now can we all finally agree it’s time to totally stop referring to classical hand-drawn animation as “2D” animation and certainly not “2D animations“? See here:

    Call it hand-drawn , drawn, classical , or traditional animation , all synonymous terms , but drop the “2D” except when speaking of the mode of projection.

    • Rick Kowal

      It is funny, before I read your quote of my previous statement, I was re-reading my post and laughing at my daft statement. Point taken, cheers.

  • Joseph Nebus

    I was disappointed in the 3-D effect. There were scenes in which it worked very well, particularly when characters were nearly stationary, but too often the contours — particularly of Zazu’s beak — would pop around loosely. Other compromises were just weird; Mufasa and Grown Simba’s eyes looked like they were divots carved in steel.

    I think the 3-D broke down most often when characters were moving, particularly in ways that stretched them. The original artwork was designed to read as a flat plane, and trying to interpolate the shape of (say) Timon just didn’t add up. The less they had to move, or the more like real animals where the shapes could be pinned down, the better the effect looked. And the backgrounds and landscapes looked impeccable in their occupation of space.

    Worst, for me, was a scene where Pumba nudges Timon in the elbow, and they just aren’t anywhere near the same plane. The scene was composed perfectly for 2-D, but in 3-D giving them different depths meant this interaction just had to be fudged.

    The stretches where it worked convinced me that a hand-drawn animation planned for 3-D would probably work extremely well, particularly with computer-aided coloring and shading, but retrofitting the effect on left a patchwork of good scenes and bad.

    • Well, I have to agree with you that the 3D conversion didn’t work too well during scenes where characters were moving in typical hand-drawn animated extreme actions (with distortion smear drawings, speed lines, that sort of thing) or especially when there was a lot of “camera shake” (as in Scar’s big song number, that part looked the worst in 3D , imo). Something about those types of effects which work well in conventional “2D” hand-drawn animation didn’t translate well to 3D.

      Overall it still worked better than I expected.

      My only big quibble was with the dimmer, greyed-down colors , which is a problem afflicting most 3D films. Color design is so important to the emotional power of an animated film and anything which tones it down is a detriment.

  • I didn’t go for the 3D so much as the fact of getting to see it on the big screen again, and it was awesome to hear the music swell in places I hadn’t noticed and see little subtle bits of animation that is hard to catch on the DVD viewings (maybe on the blu ray I can!)

    My theater was packed as well, with adults and kids and college students. I loved hearing them laugh at the jokes and sing along with the songs, and yes, we had a slow clap at the end (which I’m happy to say I started ;P)

    I wouldve been fine with no 3D, but it was neat at some parts, but for the whole movie it wasn’t needed.

    Also there was a couple beside me in the theater that – while they were fun singing the songs with – started making out at one point. During the end of the stampede scene. (Simba finding his dead dad wouldn’t be the place *I’d* choose for make-out time…)

  • GordonA

    Well, I saw the TRAILER in 3D a month or two ago, and what I saw then didn’t entice me to see the full movie. My overall impression was of paper cutouts moving in front of the screen, which pulled me out of the movie, instead of drawing me in. There was one shot I recall in which you could see the background at a different depth THROUGH one of the lions’ mouths, which was particularly jarring.

    Believe me, I’m NOT a 2D-only bigot; I’ve enjoyed many (although not all) 3D films that I’ve seen, and think it’s a fine addition to the animation toolbox. But this looked as bad a colorized BW film, for much the same reasons.

  • I saw it on Sunday and -aside from people with their stupid, crying children- it was pretty great. It felt like I was watching it through a 3D Viewmaster. The real problem with the film is that I was watching it and thinking: “I wish this was The Little Mermaid, Mulan, The Great Mouse Detective, Beauty & the Beast, or Rescuers Down Under…”

    I hope we see this kind of restoration more often. I also loved that The Lion King feels like there are very few frames I would actually cut. Very well edited movie.

  • Daniel Shock

    I loved it. Did the 3-D make it a better movie? Nope. But it was gorgeous! There was never a time when I thought – ” I wish I hadn’t paid the extra for the 3-d.” Believe me, I DID think that at “Clash of the Titans”!

    If it means that I can take my kids to the theater to see other Disney classics… I’m all for this process (As long as they maintain the high standards they set with this release).

  • Cath

    They’re showing the film in a theater near my place without 3D. Going to see it this weekend!!!

  • tom

    I saw Lion King and I thought the 3d did not add to the movie experience. Where I saw it the 3d glasses made the movie about 2 stops darker than without the 3d glasses. I would have rather seen it in brilliant color and skipped the darker 3d effects. It was a great movie and lovely animation.

  • AC

    Loved it myself. I was pleasantly surprised by the 3D effect. I usually can’t see it in live-action (I saw Tron in quadruple vision from the 3D not working). I noticed some rough retraced line like Jerry mentioned before, but it was beautiful on the POV shots-especially Simba chasing Rafiki.

    Btw, how wonderful it was to hear kids behind me luaghing and enjoying the movie. It’s good to see they’re being exposed to a quality animated film again in this age of dancing penguin CGI.

    Btw-this was also my first time seeing it in theaters, as I was only a young cub myself when it came out in 1994 and had to settle for VHS! Phenomenal.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Having never seen it in the theaters before, it was the first for me anyway just so I could say I saw it on the big screen (and in 3-D). While it is true that 3-D adds nothing to this classic, I still thought it was rather nice to see the approach they did to give the characters that rounded depth so they didn’t come across like cardboard cut-outs in a diorama. I probably didn’t scrutinize it too much since my eyesight is rather less far-sighted to really see those little details enough but what I did see was quite a nice experience for $11.25 that I’ll never see again.

  • Funkybat

    Finally got around to seeing Lion King in 3D, and I have to say it was pretty well done overall. The 3D effect was pleasantly noticable in some parts (Nala hiding in the grass, stalking Pumbaa, truck out shot at the end of “Be Prepared”) with only a couple of jarring spots where my eyes/brain were confused. For some reason, when the pollen & leaves Simba stirs up that blow all the way to Rafiki are flying through the air, it just looked totally wrong for a couple of seconds.

    The story and animation are as dramatic and compelling as ever, the film truly was an “instant classic” and will doubtlessly still be regarded as such 50 years from now. The dedication to Frank Wells, due to his death in 1994, was a poignant reminder of one of the reasons why “The Lion King” was the peak of Disney features in the 90s.

    I hope that the Beauty and the Beast 3D version gets a theatrical run outside of L.A., even if (from what I remember) the 3D effect was a little less subtle than in Lion King. I would also hope that other Disney animated features get regular re-releases in theaters, I think the classics would be as entertaining as ever on the big screen, especially for kids who have probably never seen a hand-drawn Disney cartoon in theaters, save for maybe Winnie the Pooh or Princess and the Frog. With digital distribution, it would not be all that expensive to do re-releases of already remastered material.

  • purin

    The 3D was an interesting effect. It didn’t really add or take away from the movie, though, so I’d recommend it for a matinee viewing, if you can help it (my theater also had the movie in 2D). It was kind of surreal how drawings with flat areas of color did seem to have a certain amount of mass and roundness. It was something I perceived, but I couldn’t put my finger on how exactly I was getting that impression. In certain scenes, however, it did look a little odd and kind of distorted to me. It’d be interesting to see this effect used on a 2D animated film made with it in mind.

    I was so pleased “The Morning Report” was left out. So, I was left very satisfied. There’s a lot of nostalgia involved, but I think the movie still holds up very well. I’ll probably see it at least once more (but in 2D this time) while it’s out there.

  • I just got out of the theater, and felt compelled to chime in here. I am not in the animation biz, but consider myself an animation enthusiast. It truly warms my heart that I had this opportunity to take my kids to see a film that has meant so much to me. I think I was 15 when I first saw it with a group of friends at the theater. I remember being absolutely blown away. I had been going through a ‘I should leave this Disney stuff behind so I can grow up’ phase in my life. Lion King completely cured me of that. I’ve stayed enthusiastic ever since, and I truly missed seeing drawings come to life on the big screen. As some others have voiced here, I hope that this “cash grab” by Disney helps them realize that there truly is still a market for good traditional animation.
    As for the 3D treatment: it did bother me that everything was slightly muted, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it dark or gray. It was missing the vibrancy that I remember. That being said, I truly enjoyed flying with Zazu, being trapped in the wildebeest stampede with Simba, and thrilling as Scar lept through the flames right at me in the end battle scene! I’d be doing a disservice if I did not mention the more subtle effects like the rain! Or the dust that is still floating in the air as Simba approaches Mufasa’s still body. These things drew me in.
    The debris that wafts from Simba to Rafiki was somehow jarring and weird, and some of the faster action appeared jerky.
    But wow, I had a smile on my face the entire time. The same film that reignited a passion so long ago did the trick again for an increasingly cynical grown man. And yes, I was one of those parents that brought a crying kid with me. But once the film started, he was hooked too. And so was his five year old sister. In fact, I’ve taken them to a couple of 3D CGI films, and this was the first time they both kept their glasses on!
    Thank you so much to those of you who worked on the original classic and the 3D edition. Your hard work has not gone unnoticed.

  • Brad Constantine

    Just got back from taking the Kids! We had a great time sharing this experience together. The 3d was very well done, and it felt very natural in most shots.There was a lot of attention payed to making it as good as could be done with a pre-existing work. Hats off to the team!!