Ever click on a website overrun by pop-up ads? That’s pretty much what happens when you load up Disney’s depressingly pitch-saturated new two-disc DVD of its beloved cartoon musical, last issued on VHS and laserdisc almost a decade ago.
First, the good news. Remixed for home surround-sound systems (though you can also select the tamer original audio), The Lion King will literally rattle your floorboards if you’ve got the wattage, especially when those wildebeests bear down on poor young Simba, whose evil uncle Scar (superbly voiced by Jeremy Irons) usurps the lad’s regal dad (James Earl Jones). Myriad embellishments to the animation – tweaks commissioned for last year’s big-screen IMAX release – come through beautifully on plasma, LCD, and even plain tube TV sets. There’s also a brief added musical number, ”Morning Report,” a plucky roll call of egregious animal puns that fits none too smoothly into the narrative. Again, DVD means options, so you can deselect this mixed-bag enhancement.
But good luck avoiding Disney’s cross-promotional plugs in every other corner of the discs, delivered via an inscrutable menu architecture that replicates the most infomercial-esque segments so they lurk, viruslike, under nearly every selection. The best goodies – a filmmakers’ commentary, vast sketch galleries – are thus outnumbered by paeans to a vast circle of tie-in products, from albums to theme-park attractions to the Broadway stage incarnation.
If you love ”The Lion King,” do you want this version? Certainly. But the late King Mufasa must be weeping somewhere in the heavens at being enshrined in a disc that plays the viewer as much as the viewer plays it.