I was recently invited to screen Disney’s Lion King in 4DX. You probably already know the classic Disney movie, but what is 4DX you may ask? It’s a new and unique way to immerse yourself in the whole movie-going experience. 4DX is a movie technology that is augmented with environmental effects like seat motion, wind, rain, fog, lights, and scents along with the standard video and audio. The 4D technology immerses the audience with a multi-sensory experience, allowing them to connect and feel like they are part of the movie. The experience was developed by CJ 4DPLEX, which headquarters in Seoul, Korea with international offices in Los Angeles and Beijing.
The 4DX movie experience is only available in specialty-equipped theaters around the world, with 6 locations in California — Los Angeles, Buena Park, Pico Rivera, Vista, San Diego, and Fresno. The 4DX theatre is similar to any other theatre until you sit down. The seats felt stiff and resembled massage chairs with a cupholder on them. Be sure to get to the movie theatre a few minutes before the previews start because there is a short movie that takes your seat out for a test drive! It’s a mini rollercoaster that takes you on a few twists and turns as air shoots near your head as popcorn bursts on the screen. In the middle of the previews, there is another short movie that is the 4DX brand trailer. This one lets you experience the motions of a motorcycle crash. These motion-enabled chairs and environmental effects work in perfect synchronicity with the action on screen.
Having already had the 4DX experience with Aladdin and Toy Story 4, I was looking forward to the different types of effects I would feel in Lion King. The movie opened up with the classic presentation of Simba and the camera angles pans and changes point of view from amazing angle on top of Pride Rock looking down at the animal kingdom, and then on the ground near the monkeys, zebras, elephants, and giraffes. The familiar song, “Circle of Life” plays while our movie seats rocked and moved with the melody of the music. It was quite enjoyable seeing how realistic the animals looked and the 4DX movement during the opening scene really sets the mood for the rest of the movie.
It has been 25 years since the story of the Lion King came to life on the big screen. Seeing it again in 4DX was a whole new adventure. Our seats rocked and swayed along as we watched the Pride Land and its wild inhabitants re-imaged in real life. The majestic feeling of running and roaming around in the Savanna with the wildlife animals was incredible. A memorable scene is when young Simba and Nala were exploring the elephant graveyard and they were suddenly chased by a pack of hyenas. Our seats moved us along like a bumpy rollercoaster ride. Our seats moved and vibrated as we heard the mighty roar of Mufasa as he saved the cubs. During the classic wildebeest stampede scene, there was fog, wind, motion, vibration, and air shots that captured the suspense of the scene. The chairs followed along with the thunderous movements. The theatre also filled up with a plenty of different scents that captured the smells of the of the safari plains, the ominous elephant graveyard, the umami of the bugs in the logs, and the iconic waterfall from the famous Hakuna Matata scene. Yes, Pumba left quite the impression during that scene! I loved experiencing the thrill of the hunt through wind, motion and vibration, scent, that captured the speed and agility of the lions. The most memorable scenes were all the lion fights. Every time they pounced on each other I found a pounding on my back. And every time they punched each other, I felt the punches on my back to. It does not sound that comfortable, but it strangely made me feel that much closer to the action!
All of my favorite musical scenes were made more entertaining with the 4DX experience.
The “Hakuna Matata” scene was quite amusing as our chairs dance along to the song! They moment the characters crossed the waterfall, the audience felt a little splash of water. During the “The Lions Sleeps Tonight” song, the chairs’ vibration and motion gently rocked along to the beat of ‘Wimoweh’. The 4DX technology made the animals seem even more realistic as it captured the little details of the animals like the vibrations of a rhino snort or the galloping motion of antelopes running around the Savannah.
The cinematography of the new live action Lion King was incredibly impressive and breathtaking. They paid attention to every single little detail — there was a the single hair that sticks out from Simba’s brow to make him more natural and the movement of each animal mimicked real life. Because of the natural approach to telling the story, they had to change some dialog and updated the look and feel of the characters, like Scar for instance. I greatly enjoyed the original Lion King animation, and felt the live action movie did not have as much emotion connection with the audience. The real animals had to look like they do in nature, so there was no exaggerated facial expressions expressing a lot of emotion. Overall, it was still an amazing movie to experience, especially in 4DX.