My 3-year-old godson Leo (yes, how very fitting) jumps around the movie theater and munches on a cookie as he awaits the start of The Lion King 3D. It’s only the second time he has ever been in front of a big screen, but he seems to know the drill. A cozy reserved nook between his mom and dad is warming up and his popcorn/drink combo is arranged perfectly for consumption. Mom holds a cardboard Pumba mask on her lap for safekeeping.
Squeals from eager pre-schoolers crescendo as parents and grandparents discuss how old they were in 1994 when the classic animated film first hit theaters. It’s exactly the environment Disney was hoping for when the studio decided to re-release The Lion King for a limited two-week theatrical run in anticipation of next month’s release of the Blu-ray/DVD Diamond Edition (in case you missed the Platinum Edition back in 2003). In the theater, there is a hint of nostalgia mixed with the excitement of a new generation of kiddies who have yet to experience the humorous shenanigans of the goofy hyena villains or the catchy albeit now-slightly-annoying philosophy of “Hakuna Matata.”
As a purist, I hang onto my heavy-duty 3D glasses begrudgingly, but know I’ll probably get a migraine if I don’t conform to Disney’s movie-watching demands. The massive wildebeest stampede and Scar’s Third Reich-inspired musical number were already phenomenal 17 years ago without the additional dimension, so what’s really the point? I scoff when the lights in the theater dim and the Disney logo becomes slightly blurred forcing me to toss on my specs. I turn to look at Leo, who has already wedged into his spot comfortably. His eyes are fixated on the screen as an animated sun rises and a mighty “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba” echoes from the speakers and sets off what I still consider four of the most spectacular minutes in Disney cinematic history. A calming sensation washes over me and I think about the first time I saw a Disney cartoon at the theater with my family. I was three years old when they re-released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1983 and remember it vividly. Leo was about to create a memory he would hopefully keep for the rest of his life. Who cared what format he’d see it in?
Just then, I turn to Leo to see his reaction to the brilliant opening scene. He has removed his glasses and is watching The Lion King just as intently. “He doesn’t want to wear them,” Leo’s mom says. For the rest of the movie, I lower my glasses every so often to feel just as courageous.
Dir. Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff; writ. Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton; feat. Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Whoopi Golderg (G)
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