The Lion King 1 ½ appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the project’s status and vintage, I expected a fine presentation, and that’s what the DVD provided.
Sharpness seemed very positive. At all times, the movie remained detailed and concise. No significant examples of softness or ill-defined images appeared in this tight and firm presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects appeared absent, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, I noticed none, as the movie looked clean and fresh from start to finish.
The jungle setting of King meant that it boasted a vivid and varied palette, and the DVD presented those hues well. The colors consistently looked solid. From the lush landscapes to the animals to all other elements, the hues came across as lively and tight. Actually, I thought they could have been a little more eye-popping, but I still found nothing about which I could complain. Black levels looked solid, with appropriately dark and rich material. Low-light images were concisely displayed and tight, with no excessive opacity. Overall, Lion King 1 ½ gave us a fine presentation.
For this DVD, we got both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. As I compared the two, I noticed no differences. Across the board, the pair sounded identical to me.
That was fine, as the mixes mostly seemed solid. Though oriented toward the front, the soundfield appeared pretty engaging and active. The forward speakers offered very good placement and localization. Effects cropped up in logical spots and meshed together well, with some nice movement and panning. A fair amount of speech came from the side speakers, and those bits were well placed. Music showed good stereo imaging as well, and the forward channels generally presented a fine soundscape.
The surrounds didn’t offer a tremendous amount of material, but they bolstered the presentation well. The rear speakers kicked in with good ambience and provided a strong feeling of atmosphere. Occasional examples of more surround specific information occurred, and those created a fine sense of the setting. The rears weren’t terribly involving, but they added enough to the mix to make them useful.
In general, audio quality appeared very good. Speech sounded distinctive and concise, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility. Effects appeared dynamic and lively. They showed full, rich tones, and presented loud and firm bass response. Music sounded decent but was a little thick. Midrange dominated the score and songs, and they didn’t offer the depth and range I expected. To be sure, the music seemed reasonably fine; those elements simply lacked the vividness and clarity they should have displayed. Nonetheless, the soundtracks of Lion King 1 1/2 were fairly positive and both merited “B” grades.
With Lion King 1 ½ we get the first Disney “direct to video” project that rates a two-disc set. On DVD One, we start with a creative feature called a Hidden Mickey Hunt. Disney fans know about “Hidden Mickeys”; mischievous animators conceal images of the world’s most famous Mouse within the frames in clever ways. With this piece activated, an icon occasionally appears on screen during the movie. This alerts you that a “Hidden Mickey” will soon show up; you need to hit “enter” at that time. It’s a cute and interactive way to watch the flick.
Next we locate seven Deleted Scenes. These last a total of 11 minutes, 44 seconds. Introduced by producer George Mendoza and director Bradley Raymond, they explain that what we’ll see don’t really comprise true deleted scenes; instead, they present storyreels without actual animation. They also talk about each sequence and let us know why the bits failed to make the final cut. The scenes generally seem interesting to see, and the filmmakers’ comments add good insight into their decision.
As the DVD starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Aladdin, Home on the Range, Brother Bear, The Three Musketeers, Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride special edition DVD. These also appear in the disc’s Sneak Peeks domain along with ads for Mulan II, the Lion King 1 ½ video game, Walt Disney World, Toontown Online, and Toon Disney.
Lastly, DVD One features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.
On DVD Two, the extras split into two areas. Featurettes contains three elements. Timon: Behind the Legend runs for four minutes and four seconds as it presents a faux documentary about our favorite meerkat. Hosted by Peter Graves, this gives us a quick biography of the wisecracking rodent. It’s a short but fun little piece.
Before the Beginning: The Making of Lion King 1 ½ fills 15 minutes as it gives us some actual information about the creation of the flick. It features the standard mix of movie snippets, behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We hear from Mendoza, Raymond, actors Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Cheech Marin, associate producer Michael Paxton, unit director Ryan O’Loughlin, assistant director Pieter Lommerse, clean-up artist Nicole Zarubin, leads animator Bob Baxter, Lianne Hughes and Alexs Stadermann, CG animator DJ Nicke, production color stylist Wes Champion, and background supervisor Beverley McNamara. They go some of the basics related to the flick’s creation such as animation continuity with the first flick and the new one’s music. Occasionally tongue in cheek, it seems like a rudimentary program, but a few interesting stories appear along the way.
Finally, we get a music video for “Grazing in the Grass” by Raven. Mostly she lip-synchs and struts around the video set as we also see clips from the movie. Since all the “crewmembers” join in, this seems a little more creative than most videos of its ilk, but it’s not anything special.
The second domain covers Games and Activities. The highlight here is Timon and Pumbaa’s Virtual Safari 1.5. A sequel to a similar feature on the Lion King DVD, this lets you take a virtual theme park ride along with our favorite warthog and meerkat combo plus Timon’s Ma and Uncle Max. I didn’t expect much from this mostly computer animated piece, but it’s actually quite a lot of fun. Since it presents occasional choices to be made by the viewer, it enjoys decent replay value as well, since each trip will be a little different. As with the original feature, this one offers a very fun experience, especially in the way it parodies real Disney theme park attractions.
Who Wants to Be King of the Jungle? parodies Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and even features host Meredith Viera. Timon appears on the show, and we help him pick his answers. All the questions cover things from the first movie plus 1 ½ and the sequel Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, and the format works the same as the TV show. Most of the items come from the original flick, so many of them seem fairly easy, but the inclusion of the obscure Pride gives us much more challenge, at least for those of us who’ve not seen it in years. Some of the banter becomes repetitive at times, but this offers a generally fun and well-done piece.
Lastly, we go to Find the Face. This displays silhouettes of guests at Timon and Pumbaa’s home theater; you need to select the character represented in that image. Disney fans won’t find much challenge in this simple task. Unlike “King of the Jungle”, it also presents no reward or replay value; the questions remain the same with additional takes.
It never equals the heights of the original, but The Lion King 1 ½ nonetheless proves to offer one of Disney’s strongest direct to video pieces. The movie seems light and irreverent as it demythologizes the original in a frisky and clever way. The DVD presents excellent picture with very good audio and a minor roster of moderately fun extras. There doesn’t seem to be quite enough here in the way of supplements to warrant a two-disc set, but the package still works well. Lion King fans will want to give this fun alternate version a look.