3D Review: Lion King & Beauty and the Beast

Get a double-shot of Disney this week, with two new 3D-enhanced Blu-ray releases.

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This week is a double-whammy for Disney fans. The studio released both The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast on Blu-ray 3D disc. This is the first time that the King has been released as one of Disney’s coveted Diamond Edition releases. It’s also the first time either title has been done in 3D. Got about $30 to blow on each title? Let’s take a peek at each of the new releases.

The Lion King
You probably know the story, at least a few of the songs, and may have even seen the stage show. However, nothing can prepare you for this killer set. It’s the king of the jungle, without a doubt.

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From that opening sunrise, you know that you’re in for something truly special. As the reigning box office champ for hand-drawn animated features, we wouldn’t expect this film’s image to be anything short of stellar. Disney delivers in both 2D and 3D, and throws in a wondrous 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track to boot.

Of course, you need the Diamond Edition of The Lion King. The question is whether or not you actually need it in 3D. It depends on how high your expectations are. Frankly, we were expecting more from this 3D conversion, and not because it’s a conversion or a classic, but Disney just never seems to disappoint. It’s hard to nitpick when the film itself looks so wonderful. However, those expecting a ton of 3D effects may be slightly disappointed. The film has a bit of depth, and even has leaves, feathers, grass blades, embers, and the occasional animal paw to deliver pop-out moments. There are specific scenes where we expected much more — Mufasa’s great return from the dead being one of those lost opportunities. It just seems like the 3D could have been, well… a bit more three-dimensional.

That said, we are still giving a ringing endorsement for this four-disc set; it’s well worth the extra $8 over the non-3D version. The extremely impressive thing about the 3D version isn’t the effects, but that it really doesn’t detract from the film’s high-def image, which is filled with gorgeous colors and detail throughout. It’s a breathtaking movie, and we’re happy to see it finally get the Diamond Edition treatment.

Speaking of which, because it’s a Diamond Edition, Disney has also made sure to include a lot of extras. There are never-before-seen deleted scenes, a deleted song, multiple featurettes, and all of the special features ported over from the previous DVD release. Oh yeah — the set also includes a 2D Blu-ray version, as well as the standard-def DVD and a Digital Copy.

Beauty and the Beast
Like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast didn’t need a 3D release. In fact, it needed it less, because there was a perfectly good (great, in fact) Diamond Edition released in 2010. That said, this classic film offers up slightly better 3D effects than what the king of the jungle received.

Beauty and the Beast has better overall depth. It’s not constant, but it’s better. Many of the scenes appear almost like a pop-up book, with the ballroom scene and the infamous “Be Our Guest” number offering up especially good 3D visuals. There are also plenty of pop-out moments, from falling snow, flowers, and more.

This Diamond Edition release also has a ton of extra materials. In this case, pretty much everything has been ported over from last year’s Diamond Edition. If you don’t have that, it’s a feast of goodies, including three versions of the film, deleted scenes, featurettes, a sing-along mode, and more. Also, like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast comes packing a phenomenal 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, as well as the Blu-ray 3D disc, a 2D Blu-ray, the standard-def DVD, and a Digital Copy. That Digital Copy is key, too, since it’s a new offering over last year’s 3-disc Blu-ray.

The Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray 3D release is really where things get tricky. While getting The Lion King on Blu-ray seems to be a bit of a no-brainer, this one will depend on whether or not you have last year’s release. The 3D is decent. However, if you have the previous Diamond Edition, it’s hard to endorse yet another upgrade. If you don’t have that set, this is an absolute must-have. We even suggest spending the few extra dollars (really, it’s less than $10) for not just the 3D disc, but that added Digital Copy.

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