Monday, September 19, 2011

The Lion King in 3D

Well, today was interesting.  I had planned to get out and see The Lion King in 3D with a couple friends...but they wanted to go on 'cheap night'...a night on which I have to work.
So, after a couple failed attempts at getting other friends to go with me, I went solo.
Arriving at the mall far too early, I grabbed my ticket and began wandering somewhat aimlessly.  I decided to stop at the EB Games and pick something up to kill the time until the movie started.  I nabbed Kirby Mass Attack for the DS; I'll get to that in another post, for now I'll just say it's pretty good.

Finally, it was about 30 minutes until the movie so I decided to get in early and nab a good seat.  I had quite a choice as I was the first in the cinema so I grabbed a seat right around the very center.
After what seemed like far longer than a half hour, the movie finally started...and honestly, it was a rather powerful experience for me; I don't recall if I ever saw The Lion King in theaters as a child so I think this was the first time I had ever seen it on the big screen.  This movie is among the most influential of my personal life and it was quite an experience even if I was all by my lonesome.
And as for the actual 3D...I was very impressed.  If you look back to my review of How To Train Your Dragon, I made a small note to point out that I did not like the 3D effect and what my problems were with it.  That said, there are undoubtedly points of that movie that benefited from the gimmick (the sequence of Astrid and Hiccup flying around on Toothless, in particular).  This time around, I thought the 3D was executed pretty much flawlessly.
My biggest problem with 3D is the borders of the screen cutting off extreme foreground elements; something looks like it's right in front of you until you notice that it's still being cut off with the edge of the screen.  In The Lion King, they handled this much better than How To Train Your Dragon by drawing most of the depth from going into the screen rather than off of it (similar to most of what you'd see on the Nintendo 3DS).
The only bit I noticed as coming right off the screen was the dust that Rafiki catches Simba's scent on.  In the scene where it's flying through the air, it comes right up to you and it looks just fine because none of it oversteps the boundaries of the screen.
I noticed a couple little tricks that allowed the hand-drawn characters to even have some perceived volume to them.  Many of the extreme close-ups (of which there are a handful for Mufasa, Scar, Nala and Simba) seemed to have a light fish-eye lens effect placed on them which helped their snouts appear as though they were 3D, with marginal success.  Also, as I believe the eyes on many of the characters were animated on separate layers, they also seemed to be placed a little further back than the characters themselves which gave more sense to the 'sunken-in-ness' of them; at least on the lions.

For 3D, the flight scene in How To Train Your Dragon is probably better than anything in The Lion King, but that's just one scene.  The characters in How To Train Your Dragon also do a better job of showing true volume because...well...they actually have it, but The Lion King shows commendable efforts at achieving a sense of volume.
All in all, of the two movies I've seen in 3D, I'd have to say the better overall use of the effect goes to The Lion King.  Being on the super-high-resolution of film and being in well-done 3D, this is as good as the classic has ever looked.

Side-note:  This is the first time in many many years that I've seen the non-Special Edition version; it was pleasantly nostalgic to see the Morning Report scene without the Morning Report song.
Also, if I had to pick out a particular best sequence for use of 3D in the Lion King, it would be when Simba chases after Rafiki; there are tons of multi-layered environmental elements going on here that look gorgeous in 3D.

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