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Lion King Roars on Special Edition DVD

At long last, Disney's mega hit, THE LION KING, arrives on DVD Oct. 7, 2003 (Walt Disney Home Entertainment, $29.99) in a special edition worthy of the phenomenon. For starters, the two-disc set contains gorgeous transfers of both the theatrical release and the extended edition featuring the Elton John/Tim Rice song from the play, "Morning Report," digitally cleaned and enhanced in painstaking fashion by the original filmmakers from Feature Animation. In addition, an all-new 5.1 "Enhanced Home Theater Mix" is offered for the first time, creating a more dynamic and intimate surround sound experience.

As far as extras, Disney has once again raised the DVD bar. In addition to the usual commentaries (in this case by producer Don Hahn and directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers), disc one boasts the making of "Morning Report" (with all-new animation); a "Personality Profile" game (what animal do you most represent?); a new "Circle of Life" music video, Disney's first-ever two-player set top game, "Timon's Grab-A-Grub"; "Pumbaa's Sounds Sensations" game (in which kids match animal sounds to corresponding pictures); and such deleted and abandoned scenes as "Bug Football," the original "Hakuna Matata" opening and an abandoned concept for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (with Timon and Pumbaa were the lead singers, which John immediately protested).

Disc two offers the new "Virtual Safari" game - a Disney set-top first in which Timon and Pumbaa lead viewers on theme park-like virtual rides by boat and jeep inspired by the popular Jungle Cruise and Indiana Jones rides; and comprehensive "journeys" covering the animals of THE LION KING, how the story evolved, the making of the film (which reminds us THE LION KING was originally perceived as a "b" project), the making of the stage play, the making of the music and how the phenomenon has taken root in Burbank, Glendale, Orlando, New York, and expanded to Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia and South America. Character design, musical influences, choreography, animal parks, DVD sound design and other cultural references all play an informative part here.