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The Lion King finds home on IMAX

Destined to live in Beauty and the Beast’s shadow, The Lion King has followed up its predecessor in every way imaginable. The only problem with playing second fiddle is you’re not supposed to be better.

First Broadway and now IMAX, The Lion King has outdone the only animated feature to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

This isn’t a crack on Beauty and the Beast — that masterpiece is in its own category. But, what a difference three years makes in animation quality.

When Beauty and the Beast was released a year ago, on the same IMAX screens, the flaws were noticeable. For extras in the background, Xs marked their eyes and lines posed as mouths on the plain faces. When the animators showed a wide angle of a scene, the backdrop was muddy and out of focus.

Everything can be seen on a screen that big.

But The Lion King looks immaculate. Nothing was changed or added to the original. The print was simply blown up to fit large-format screens and the original product is what you see. But while Beauty and the Beast is best on the small screen, you should not miss The Lion King on the gargantuan one.

It’s amazing now looking at the film, years after its initial release, to see just how much the actors’ voices come through the animated faces. For instance, adult Simba is undeniably Matthew Broderick, and likewise Jonathan Taylor Thomas can easily be seen in young Simba.

The story of The Lion King is Disney’s most original plot of its biggest successes. If you consider that The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules and The Emperor’s New Groove all come from previous source material, a story about a pride of lions that follow the circle of life was rather original. Well, that’s if you don’t consider the whole uncle-kills-father-becomes-king-while-son-can’t-decide-what-to-do-about-it Shakespearean connection.

But as far as the protagonists’ sidekicks and the level of obligatory comic relief involved in every Disney flick, Timon and Pumbaa take the cake.

And Elton John’s blend of love ballads and upbeat numbers only help accentuate the entertainment value of The Lion King, which inspired a spin-off CD called Rhythm of the Pride Lands with all-new songs, as well as tribal music composed by Libo M.

When talk of making The Lion King into a Broadway musical came about, the creators went to the second CD and inserted the extra musical numbers into the stage show. — W.A.

Shown in Tampa at the MOSI IMAX dome theater across the street from USF and at Channelside Cinemas downtown, ‘The Lion King’ runs through March 31.