Let’s get this out of the way right now, I am a very big fan of Walt Disney Animation Studios. I always have been since they are my childhood. If I had enough money to buy every single film for a collection right now, I would risk everything to get all of them. This love grew out of the classic age known as The Disney Renaissance. The Disney Renaissance started great with the 1989 release of The Little Mermaid and ended with the beautiful 1999 feature Tarzan and it was quite a thrill to see a new animated film release. In my opinion, the real shining moment of the entire age was the epic change of pace, The Lion King.
Released in 1994, The Lion King came to light to give a new experience in sight and sound. This, along with Sleeping Beauty, felt like films that could be seen up there with live action epics. It also is nice to know that this film is still Walt Disney Animation Studios highest grossing film in their entire history.
Yet, why do we love it? I have a few reason wise.
The story of this film is quite simple. King has a son, son grows up, sees his dad get killed at the hands of his uncle, feels he is the blame, runs away, comes back, seeks vengeance and regains the throne. Okay, it’s not that simple but you get the concept. Does the story of The Lion King seem familiar? Well then, reading Hamlet in high school sure paid off. The Lion King does borrow themes by Shakespeare classic but has similarities to the epic story from West Africa, Sudiata Keita, which tells the story of the rise of a leader to eventually create a new empire. Oddly enough, the writers of The Lion King handle the mature themes and ideas to create something fresh and a bit tame for the family. If the story is great, the film itself will always be great which is always a testament in filmmaking. Of course, it’s all brought to life by the characters, which brings us to…
Disney always has a marvelous cast of characters to fall in love with or just plain hate, yet we can relate to them. Mufasa, the strong willed and powerful king reminds many of the father figure (well, no crap, he is a dad in the film) We see a father as a means of support and always there to guide and protect us almost as a leader in life. The audience can connect well to this and sets up the heartbreak to come later. The main villain, Scar, who lives in the shadow of his brother (he will be your Claudius for this evening). The audience can relate to living in the shadow of one’s self, but the hate is created when he (Spoiler for a nearly 17 year old film ahead) kills his own brother to obtain his place. No one in their right mind would ever do that, but Scar succeeds triggering hate within us. The funny thing is that he sort of loses his villainy as when he gains control which makes him lose his power. He had all the time to complete his goal yet, when he does, he feels less then a menace and more than a young tyrant. Simba (our Hamlet) was youthful and vibrant when we see him as a young boy, but after the death of his father, we can see his hope fade which is saved by Timon and Pumbaa. Timon and Pumbaa play the sidekick role to Simba and practically steal the film with humor and playfulness, but yet, they feel like our friends they are always there to cheer us up (they are our Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for this evening, stay for the fish). Nala, is the love interest since Simba and her childhood. She’s not the best character in the film but has some depth to her since they have same past. Finally, Rafiki…what can I say about him? The is our wise man and what a wise man. Rafiki may not show up a lot throughout the feature, but he leaves a big impact helping Simba on his return to greatness. Those are our beloved characters, but come on, this is Disney in the 90’s. This can’t be one without a bit of…
(That’s the video and it’s cheesy and awesome)
Elton John…how did you do that Disney? Easy! Make a great story and concept or mail him a bag of money. Either way, I’m happy with that. Not only is it amazing how well it works, it is a miracle. Tim Rice and Elton John are a fantastic pair and it shows with the fantastic opening song ‘Circle of Life’ to the pure evil in ‘Be Prepared’ all the way to the cheesy love ballad that is ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’. Disney also arranged African inspired sounds for the score thanks to Lebo M, a South African composer, along with great compositions by the most talented musical German (not including the members of Rammstien) Hans Zimmer. The music is beautiful in quiet moments, terrifying in the dark moments, and inspiring in scenes such as Simba’s return or the classic ending of the film. My personal favorites have to be ‘…To Die For’ which is the classic wildebeest stampede along with the epic of epics ‘Circle of Life’ which engages your interest and so much more. How good is the music exactly?
That damn good.
Why Else Is There?
The Lion King impacted my generation with intriguing storytelling and beautiful animation. The animation of this movie has been hailed as one of the finest in animation history and acclaimed all around. The mixture of hand drawn animation and digital is seamless and works to it’s full advantage. The landscape are gorgeous as seen in the concept art
It’s moody, atmospheric, and sets the tone for what is to come in the scene. The tale seems timeless and told in a new light that captures us all. The voice cast in the film also makes us remember this. With brilliant choices with Matthew Broderick, Whoppi Goldberg (sorry for not mentioning the hyenas earlier), Jeremy Irons who is near perfect in this, and James Earl Jones, this is one that is hard to forget at all. Finally, this film succeeds at being what I stated earlier, timeless. The new generations coming along can watch and it feels fresh and new to them with songs that make them sing along and humor to boot and older generations can enjoy the rich story and magnificent animation, along with the music (Elton has a magic tough).
Why we love The Lion King is finally answered and I can’t wait to experience it, along with others, in the theaters in 3D. Sure, it might be a gimmick, but any excuse will do to see the film I love again on the big screen.