The Lion King Ultra HD Blu-ray review

The Lion King lands on 4K Blu-ray in time to celebrate the film's 25th birthday (and before a remake later this year), and remains one of Disney's finest achievements. It's a stellar combination of gorgeous old-school animation, memorable music from Elton John and Hans Zimmer, unforgettable characters and a deceptively sophisticated story that's as irresistible to adults as children.

The Lion King is also the first of the 'classic' Disney animations to arrive on 4K BD. And unfortunately for your wallet, it does enough to suggest that you'll probably end up buying the whole Disney canon one more time…

Picture: Image quality is lovely – albeit not game-changingly so. The visuals are gorgeously clean, and while the sort of 'broad strokes' classic animation techniques Disney employs on The Lion King don't lend themselves to the extreme detailing that 4K thrives on, everything at least looks ultra-crisp. And the extra definition creates a better sense of depth, especially during largescale set-pieces.

The addition of HDR10 (there's no Dolby Vision) and wide colour isn't particularly aggressive, and the way the film's been remastered – focussing on small highlights rather than dialling up average brightness – means you will need a pretty punchy display to stop the 4K image potentially looking a little dark. Colours appear slightly richer, especially where extra brightness is on hand to push tones further. There's a more dynamic feeling to the bold, emotional palettes of the film's stylised musical sections, too.

Overall, Disney seems more focused on using 4K Blu-ray to eke out every last drop of quality from the original source than on pushing the format to the max.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: Disney has created a mostly excellent new Dolby Atmos soundmix for this 4K outing. It injects a few height effects from time to time – such as during the rain storm near the end, or the wildebeest stampede – and there's greater scale to the songs and general score. Surround channels are busy too.

You don't get the bass depth or three-dimensional soundstaging that you tend to find with films mastered from the start for Atmos. Also, the surround channel effects can sound a touch brittle, and – strangely – the lead vocal on the opening Circle of Life rendition seems slightly muddled in the mix. For the most part, though, the extra emphasis given to effects and the far more epic feel of the film's music make this a track to savour.
Audio rating: 4.5/5

Extras: Bonus features are all found on the Full HD Blu-ray that is packed alongside the 4K disc. Highlights include a director's commentary, deleted and extended scenes, and a series of fascinating featurettes on the creation of five of the film's most famous sequences.

All have appeared before on previous Blu-rays, of course – most closely the Signature Collection re-issue. You do not, sadly, get a number of extras that were included on the movie's previous Diamond Edition release, and the 2011 3D conversion is predictably absent.
Extras rating: 3.5/5

We say: While it doesn’t set new standards or anything, this is the comfortably the best this Disney animated classic has looked or sounded.

The Lion King, Walt Disney Home Entertainment, Ultra HD Blu-ray & All-region BD, £30