Disney Cartoon #38, Lion King Week: "Bloopers & Outtakes" & "Stand By Me" (October 4, 2011 / December 22, 2011) - published September 24, 2011
by Albert Gutierrez
Outtake reels are very delicate works of art. In the vast reels of film available, an editor must not only handpick a limited number of flubs and general goofiness, but must make sure they are memorable. These are usually lighthearted pieces compiled for wrap parties at the end of principal photography for a live-action film. Luckily for the general audience, they're often included on the DVD or Blu-Ray release, allowing us to see the fun side of making movies. For animated films, an outtake reel is much more rare. After all, this isn't like a live-action film with actors standing in front of a camera. Each scene is carefully animated, leaving little room for flubs, except maybe those in the recording booth.
In 1998, Pixar released A Bug's Life to theatres, with a special surprise during the end credits. Pretending that the film we saw was indeed a film, the studio animated an outtakes reel set to flubs and ad-libs from the recording booth, along with some specially-written material. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that a second reel was added later in the theatrical run, and both were welcome inclusions on the VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-Ray. Pixar continued the trend in Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. before finally putting the idea to rest. Disney experimented with the idea in 2003's Brother Bear, but left it alone soon after. At least, until October 4, 2011. That's when The Lion King hits Blu-Ray and DVD, and we get to see an otherwise unseen side at the making of the movie.
One of the bonus features included in the upcoming Blu-Ray release of The Lion King is a featurette entitled "Bloopers & Outtakes." Already available online (officially in sample size by Disney, unofficially in full by other uploaders), this four-minute reel features characters from the film working on delivery, messing up lines, and missing cues. The animation is fairly accurate to the feature film, though the color palette occasionally looks slightly brighter than it should. That's as much praise as I can give, as the actual bloopers aren't exactly side-splitting funny stuff. I'm sure fans will get a kick out of hearing Mufasa practicing his gutteral growl, or Timon trying different approaches to "Luau!" But most of the material just feels forced. When Simba asks a meditating Rafiki if he knew his father, the baboon snores instead, as did I. A flubbed pronunciation of "Simba" by Nala gets obviously-canned laughter, trying to make the mistake seem much sillier than it is. And it wouldn't be a blooper reel without some scatalogical humor, courtesy of - spoiler alert - a farting Pumbaa (was there ever any doubt?).
After the genius use of outtakes in the Pixar films, this reel from The Lion King feels too little, too late. Had something like this been available in 2003 during its first DVD release, maybe I would have given it a warmer reception. After all, animated outtakes were still fresh in the public minds. But here we are, eight years later, and the featurette is just plain unfunny to me. Then again, maybe I'm just being biased, as I'm not a huge fan of the film. I'm sure if something like this were done for Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, I'd be singing the featurette some moderately high praises. I hope I'm not discouraging anyone from seeing this Lion King Blooper Reel. I just recommend lowering expectations as much as possible and remembering that it's all in good fun. After all, the opportunity to hear James Earl Jones burp comes but once in a lifetime.
When I first heard of this feature, I assumed it might be attached to the 3-D theatrical release as a little surprise. Thankfully, reports from theatre goers stated otherwise, so it appears these bloopers are an online and home media exclusive. If you're interested in watching a sample of the outtakes now, check out the video below. For those wishing to wait, October 4 is only ten days away.
And for those wishing to find a Lion King short that's worth watching, look for 1995's "Stand By Me" on YouTube. It was attached to Tom and Huck in theatres and is generally considered a music video in which Timon sings the classic Ben E. King song in the company of Pumbaa and various other animals that seem to abuse the warthog whenever Timon sings the refrain. An episode of the "Timon & Pumbaa" animated series also incorporated the short. Sadly, its appearances on home video are quite limited: "The Best of Roger Rabbit" and "Disney Sing-Along-Songs: Topsy Turvy, two VHS releases from 1996. The short wasn't included in the 2003 DVD for The Lion King, nor in the upcoming Blu-Ray. I personally would have preferred "Stand By Me" to the bloopers.