After a relatively unimpressive couple of decades, the Walt Disney company ended the 1980s on a high with The Little Mermaid. After that came Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, and the renaissance was capped in 1994 with The Lion King. The film was arguably the studio's last great hand-drawn movie before the dawn of the computer age with Toy Story a year later.
The Lion King was adored on first release and is still the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated feature ever - but does it still stand up after all these years? Have shinier films from Pixar (which was of course acquired by Disney in 2008) turned the old classics into nothing more than quaint artefacts of a bygone era? And does sticking Simba and co into 3D do them any favours?
Well, the film is every bit as good as you remember. The first animated Disney feature from an original story - though it also borrowed from the Bible, Shakespeare (and controversially Japanese anime Kimba the White Lion) - The Lion King succeeds by being epic in its scope while also staying wonderfully simple in its execution.
The vocal talent in the studio is wonderful, and not just Matthew Broderick's Simba and James Earl Jones's Mufasa. From Rowan Atkinson's huffy hornbill Zazu and Nathan Lane's meerkat Timon to Whoopi Goldberg's cackling hyena Shenzi there's quality all the way through. Of course the standout performance comes from Jeremy Irons as the sly, sardonic Scar who seeks the throne.
Every one of Irons's lines are delivered with a delightful slither. His relaxed approach to the most horrible betrayal chills you to the core and is all the more affecting because of the sheer banality of his evil. Scar seemingly wants the kingdom because, well, such jealousy of his brother is what's expected, rather than because that emotion burns strongly in him.
Elton John and Tim Rice's songs do their job. There's the soaring 'Circle of Life' and strutting 'I Just Can't Wait to Be King'. Scar's army march 'Be Prepared' contrasts nicely with the carefree 'Hakuna Matata', and of course there's timeless weepie 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight' (reprised by John over the end credits).The score from Hans Zimmer frames these tracks beautifully.
Visually, the passing of time makes you appreciate the animation all the more. The famous wildebeest stampede may no longer stun with its technical accomplishment, but nor does it look dated - and it still sucks you right into the action. By not slavishly attempting to replicate reality, the artists behind the film have instead created something that lasts. Something layered with beauty and depth.
Ah yes - depth. This time around we've got a whole extra dimension and it adds... nothing much at all. It's never offensively obtrusive or headache-inducing. It is utterly pointless, though.
During the moments with the least retro-fitting, it's a rare treat to lift up the glasses and enjoy the glorious brightness. As an excuse to get the movie back on the big screen, the 3D is just about excusable - but you'll be best off getting the bog standard 2D Blu-ray when you pop to the shops to take Simba home with you.