Just last month, Total Film gave Beauty And The Beast five stars on DVD. The same Beauty And The Beast that made history by becoming the first, and to this day only, `toon to get a Best Picture Oscar nomination. None of which changes the fact that The Lion King beats it paws down.
It begins with the breath-snatching `Circle Of Life' sequence, `camera' swirling vertiginously as jungle creatures great and small gather to herald the birth of lion cub Simba. hen the story kicks in. And it's surprisingly dark, Simba's evil uncle Scar (sneeringly larynxed by Jeremy Irons) offing the tyke's dad and crowning himself King Of The Jungle. Kind of like Hamlet with fur. Even worse, he arranges it so our hirsute hero blames himself for dada's death, causing the little one to slink off into the wastelands...
Cynics may argue this is Disney by template, pointing to the wisecracking sidekicks (meerkat, warthog), noble hero (Matthew Broderick as the adult Simba), boo-hiss villains (hyenas) and kiddie-friendly score (from Elton John and Tim Rice). But everything's fine-tuned to perfection. The hand-drawn characters throb with life. The CG set-pieces yank your jaw to the carpet. The maddeningly catchy songs keep things from getting too bleak. And the story has more emotional kick than a herd of stampeding wildebeest.
Which brings us to the prime reason you should catch this at an IMAX cinema: that sequence has never looked or sounded so good, the din of thundering hooves bouncing off the walls and rumbling across the ceiling to set your teeth rattling. Now you don't get that off VHS.