How 'The Lion King 3D' Is Different From the Original Film

Walt Disney

Disney's re-released Oscar winner is already cashing in at the box office while leaving some critics underwhelmed.

Disney's 1994 animated film The Lion King returned to theaters Friday in 3D for a limited two-week engagement. And while the story remains the same -- Simba transforms from clueless cub to become ruler of the Pride Lands -- and studio president of distribution Bob Chapek promised an experience that will immerse "viewers in the epic settings and put [sic] them face-to-face with these beloved characters," the 3D visuals are a mixed bag.

The Detroit Examiner writes, "Compared to what we are now used to seeing in 3D, The Lion King 3D comes across more like a cardboard cut-out pop-up's still the Lion King, still has laughs, great songs, and climactic moments, but somehow the tale comes across more 2D than ever. 

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"Who can forget the opening "Circle of Life" scene, one of the most powerful animated sequences ever?  Still powerful here, just awkwardly abnormal...this is what you get when someone messes with a classic."

Entertainment Weekly writes, "Having seen the new version, the 3D doesn’t really change all that much. However, it also not nearly as distracting as some recent post-production 3D jobs, and other than muting the film’s brilliant color array a tad, the animated classic we know and love has come through the process unscathed."

Released in 1994, The Lion King was a defining moment for Disney, ushering in an animation renaissance. It continues to be the highest-grossing hand drawn animation film of all time, earning $783.8 million at the worldwide box office.

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The film won two Oscars -- original score and original song for Elton John and Tim Rice's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight -- and earned another two original song nominations as well.

And early box office reports indicate that the re-release is on course to win the weekend over new film Drive and second-week picture Contagion. Disney, which promised children free "Simba 3D glasses" with purchase, does not plan on routinely converting other films in its library to 3D for new theatrical runs. Instead, a studio spokesperson told the New York Times that the 3D release was more of a way to keep an "aging film fresh" while allowing a new generation of children to experience it in theaters.

The Lion King's Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D packages hit stores on October 4th.

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