Mr. Movie

'The Lion King' in 3D crowning achievement for animation

Hans Zimmer’s rich, dirt deep score and the Elton John/Tim Rice songs and stunning animation literally transport you from theater seat to the plains and jungles of Africa.

A story packed with clever lines and colorful characters created and written by a staggering sum of 29 writers make The Lion King — in some circles of life — the all-time animated feature king.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

No need to go through the plot. Many of us saw it in theaters and the rest of us caught it on video or DVD.

It’s hard to argue that Disney’s 1994 classic isn’t the best of them all. The Lion King was the crowning achievement of a string of fabulous animated features that, along with Pixar’s great films, began the animation revolution we’re experiencing today. It started in 1989 with The Little Mermaid and was followed by Beauty and the Beast in 1991 and 1992’s Aladdin.

How good were they? All four cleaned up music awards and movie score awards at the Oscars and Golden Globes, and The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast picked up Best Motion Picture Comedy awards at the Golden Globes.

If the Oscars had a Best Animated Feature category in those years, all four would have won hands down. Some would argue that Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King were the best pictures in any category in their individual years.

I’d argue that for The Little Mermaid, too.

That’s the history that brings us to Disney’s special two-week 3D release of The Lion King. Great idea. Not just the 3D but re-releasing the movie so those of us that caught it in a theater and on a big screen the first time can experience it again, and our children and grandchildren — who didn’t — can have the thrill.

The movie is — if nothing else — spectacular.

Usually 3D as an after-thought is a disaster. This is especially true for head shots and close-ups. Heads look square, and one eye will seem detached from the rest of the head. For the three-dimensional version, Disney’s re-animators were not able to avoid that pitfall.

The opening sequences and the action sequences, however, are dazzling in multiple dimensions. Even more impressive is a couple of shots where the animators do what filmmakers call a rack focus. That’s where the camera is focused on an object and the background is blurry. Suddenly, the camera changes focus and the background is in focus and the foreground is blurred. In ordinary films the move is impressive. To do it in an animated feature is mind-boggling.

The Lion King has dozens of equally impressive shots that are normally seen only in live-action films.

Though Disney is also releasing this in 2D, if you can afford the extra dollars, do see it in 3D. If you can’t, hakuna matata (no worries). Two dimensions or three, do make an effort see it on the big screen again. I don’t care how big your home theater TV screen is, it can’t compare with the real deal.

Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars

Rated G. It opens today at Regal’s Columbia Center 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.