The Lion King ReviewÂ
Theme Song by Brian Setzer and owned by Walt Disney Records
The Disney Renaissance will always be remembered as a fantastic and unforgettable era in Disney history. It began in 1989 with the Little Mermaid and ended with Tarzan in 1999. Even though that from 1995 onward the Renaissance took a slight downward decline the era reached its apex in 1994 with The Lion King! An underdog of sorts at the studio and on a basic level â€œBambi in Africaâ€ it took the world by storm when it was released on June 15th 1994 becoming the highest grossing animated movie and Disney film at that time.Â Even though this film unfortunately is a ripoff of Osamu Tezukaâ€™s Kimba the White Lion ( no seriously the first story arc is basically the movie. Even character designs are ripped off slightly) I donâ€™t think itâ€™s that shameful. Normally I would believe it to be extremely shameful and no one can hide the fact that Lion King is a ripoff of Kimba, but after sitting down and watching Kimba the Lion King is superior in every way, shape and form. Kimba was a corny and fun show, but the Lion King is the one that takes the concept to its fullest thematic and emotional potential. Also Kimba throwing in the modern human element just needlessly complicates things too much. I know the anti hunting message is good, but the humans just prevent the concept from truly growing. The Lion King can claim it was inspired by Hamlet all it wants to, but I think that thematically it follows the themes of Beowulf and adds its own themes. Hamlet is a tale of anger and vengeance while the Lion King is a tale of honor, responsibility, and finding a place in the world. With these excellent universal themes, well written characters, excellent musical score, great songs, wonderful animation, huge scope, and a greater emotional understanding of the conceptâ€™s potential than its source material (Kimba) the Lion King is one of Disneyâ€™s best films and was most likely the first Disney movie or even first movie I ever saw in the theatre (I was 3 when it came out originally)! Let’s celebrate the 20th Anniversary of this fantastic film!
Come on we all know the story right? A lion cub named Simba is the prince of the Pridelands and his father Mufasa bestows upon him the wisdom of being a good king and Simbaâ€™s uncle Scar plots with hyenas to kill Mufasa and Simba. Mufasa is killed and Simba runs away and is rescued by Timon and Pumbaa and lives a life free of worries and he is visited by Nala and Rafiki and Mufasaâ€™s spirit and goes back to take his place in the circle of life and he becomes king. The End. The story is simple enough and easy to follow and understand. What makes this movie excellent are its themes and how well the film handles its themes. The themes of honor, responsibility and finding a place are all excellently explored. Since most of these themes come out in the characters Iâ€™ll discuss the themes in more detail in the characters section.
Lion King is one of those Disney movies where there are a lot of characters, but Iâ€™m going to only talk about those that have a particular mythological or real importance to the themes and are the most meaningful.
The Hyenas: Shenzi: voiced by Whoopi Goldberg Banzai: voiced by Cheech Marin Ed: voiced by Jim Cummings
Iâ€™m going to talk about the hyenas as a group as opposed to individually. The hyenas serve as Scarâ€™s soldiers in his takeover of the Pridelands and often do his dirty work. The main 3 have their own distinct personalities and are fun to watch. Their role is important because of how they interact with Scar and how Scarâ€™s arrogance in thinking that they can take such abuse and even being blamed for Scarâ€™s plans led to his death. More on that when I talk about Scar. These characters embody the inevitable fate of suffering and death to those that would dare upset the balance of the circle of life and irresponsibly use royal power like Scar.
Timon and Pumbaa: Voiced by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella
Again since these two characters work best as a team Iâ€™ll talk about them as a team. Timon and Pumbaa are characters that mythologically are tempters. Think like Calypso in the Odyssey. Theyâ€™re nice guys, but by having Simba adopt their irresponsible lifestyle it prevents Simba from carrying out his responsibility as king once heâ€™s a grown adult. While Simba needed a break in his youth to reflect upon Mufasaâ€™s memory and wisdom to get a better perspective he didnâ€™t leave when he should have because of the Hakuna Matata philosophy. This prompts Mufasa to say â€œYou are more than what you have become!â€ After Simba goes back to Pride Rock one can say their experiences with Simba make them better people and they put aside their fears and do what they can to help their friend.
Sarabi: voiced by Madge Sinclair
Sarabi is a very interesting and underrated character. After Mufasaâ€™s death and Scarâ€™s takeover she is all that remains of the old honorable kingdom and stands for the honor and justice of Mufasaâ€™s rule in her homelandâ€™s darkest hour. She still maintains her pride and dignity even as the hyenas are scoffing and disrespecting her. She is also the last one to try and appeal to Scarâ€™s sense of reason that if he were a responsible king he would do what is necessary for the survival of the pride, but Scarâ€™s arrogance wonâ€™t allow Scar to acknowledge that he is the problem and strikes Sarabi across the face. That is an extremely powerful scene that really cements Scarâ€™s villainy and how resilient the honor of the true kings really are.
Rafiki: voiced by Robert Guillaume
Rafiki is the wise mandrill who takes the role of mentor after Mufasaâ€™s death and shows Simba the wisdom memory and power of Mufasa and all his ancestors rest within himself and that is where the courage to return home and the drive to fulfill his responsibilities lie. Rafiki also is a complete badass with his walking stick.
Mufasa: voiced by James Earl Jones
Mufasa is extremely important to Simbaâ€™s upbringing and preventing him from becoming like Scar. His wisdom monologues are like Hrothgar from Beowulf (the book NOT the movie!!) giving wisdom on what it means to be a good and responsible king. Mufasa is a loving father who has all the honor and responsibility a good king should have and he has an understanding on the responsibilities that come with royal power and that is something that Scar never understood.
Scar: voiced by Jeremy Irons
I think that Scar is one of the great Disney villains! Mythologically he represents the irresponsible king that has no concept of honor or loyalty, not to kin and especially not to his people. He cares only about himself and covets power for powerâ€™s sake. All this scheming and planning brings him is only temporary peace and the only true result is death and destruction. The death of his brother, the death of the grass, death of the majority of herds, drying of the river, and destruction of the Pridelands. Many people think that once Scar gets power he becomes a whiny diva, but thatâ€™s kind of the point. Itâ€™s supposed to show the destruction and blindness that this arrogance and egotism creates. Heâ€™s like Heremod from Beowulf. Scar is an example of one that doesnâ€™t understand the balance of nature or how to rule and his ego would never allow him to recognize that he has failed miserably as a king. He continues to deny honor and responsibility by blaming the hyenas and that act of betrayal towards them would cost him his life.
Simba: voiced by Johnathan Taylor Thomas (young) Matthew Broderick (adult)
One of the interesting things about Simba is that he starts off not entirely likeable. This is a coming of age story and in order for these types of stories to work there needs to be something wrong with the character. He doesnâ€™t need to have an evil problem just one that isnâ€™t favorable to our moral views. Simba starts out cocky and arrogant I mean, at that age being a prince wouldnâ€™t you be the same way? These qualities in the beginning make him very similar to Scar. Simba has the same blindness and arrogance as Scar, but Simbaâ€™s a kid heâ€™s not mature or experienced enough to understand yet and Mufasa has been raising Simba well and those wisdom monologues and lessons were to instill Simba with honor and an eventual understanding on the responsibilities of the kingdom. When Simba starts to reflect on his fatherâ€™s memory in adulthood he begins to question whether the Hakuna Matata lifestyle is right for him and he knows deep down itâ€™s not, but feels heâ€™s unworthy because of the unnecessary guilt Scar made him feel. In Simbaâ€™s moment of greatest emotional need Rafiki and Mufasa have one last gift of wisdom to give and Simba recognizing the answer heâ€™s known all along returns and when he fights Scar that is a battle of responsibility vs. irresponsibility. A battle of honor vs. dishonor. A battle of humility vs. arrogance. A battle of loyalty to others vs. selfishness. Simba confronts Scar who is the very type of king that Simba could have easily become. The Lion King isnâ€™t just about finding oneâ€™s place, but also learning from your elders and respecting your world and the people in it and with the values of responsibility, honor, humility and loyalty you can be worthy of your place in the world.
The music of this film is absolutely fantastic! Although I really like Hans Zimmer, the main problem with him is that most of his music sounds the same. Whether itâ€™s Pirates of the Caribbean or Batman it just sounds so similar. While this movie also sounds like the aforementioned (technically the aforementioned sounding like it) it has a more emotional and powerful impact as well as the unique usage of African sounds as well as the great Lebo M. doing the majority of the African chants (for those of you who donâ€™t know heâ€™s the one that does that famous chant at the very beginning of Circle of Life). The songs strangely enough were not composed by Zimmer. The songs were composed by one of the greatest pop stars and musicians of all time Elton John and the lyrics were written by Tony Award and Academy Award Winner (For Aladdin) Tim Rice. Even with this powerhouse of talent behind the songs there are only two in my opinion that are truly excellent and timeless while the others are good for the story and nothing else. Here are the songs of the Lion King.
Circle of Life
My favorite song from the film and the theme song of the film. This song and the opening scene it accompanies is absolute perfection! Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with it. It says everything so well and sets up the world so well and introduces Simba and Mufasa well. The part where the light from the past kings shine down blessing Simba still send chills down my spine. This is an amazing song and the best part is that the movie ends with it too making the film complete the very circle it describes.
I Just Canâ€™t Wait to be King
Now this is the first of just one of those okay songs that work for the story, but doesnâ€™t have that much longevity without the film supporting it. Itâ€™s to establish Simbaâ€™s ego and how he doesnâ€™t understand the responsibility and honor to be king because heâ€™s just a kid and his natural immaturity and lack of life experiences prevent from understanding. Itâ€™s an entertaining crowd pleaser for this sort of story, but is nothing more than establishing character flaws and how the inevitable coming of age will correct it.
This is the second song that is absolutely awesome!!!!!!!!!! One of the best villain songs ever!!!!!!!! What I like about it is that itâ€™s basically a twisted and darker version of I Just Canâ€™t Wait to be King. This song is filled with anger, hate, jealousy and arrogance and really shows us how similar Scar and Simba are at this point in the story and how the rest of the film will change that similarity into polar opposites. Its atmosphere, staging, lighting, usage of shadows, and the song itself come together to create a powerhouse of villainy and Scar is animated wonderfully in it. Jeremy Irons (and a little bit of Jim Cummings) sings this song very well and it is just great!
Unfortunately we get to the most popular song of the movie. Although this is a fun, catchy song that works for the story this is pretty much the MOST OVERRATED DISNEY SONG EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I thought Under the Sea and A Whole New World, and Supercalâ€¦ were overrated, but this just takes the cake! I donâ€™t know whether to shake my head in disappointment that this is more recognized than Circle of Life or to weep for humanity knowing that there are people dumb enough to actually think that Hakuna Matata is a legitimate lifestyle. Look this song is good and catchy I admit to singing this all the time as a kid, but its meaning is NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!!!! The fact that people get so invested in a song that was never (at least morally speaking) supposed to get such recognition. People talk crap on When You Wish Upon a Star as promoting laziness (which is bullcrap by the way!!!!!) this is the example they should use! Even then the argument still doesnâ€™t work. Â This song was used merely as a foil to create conflicts and contrasts so that Simba would divert from the responsible path and eventually feel that the lifestyle isnâ€™t right for him and to return home and take his place in the Cirlce of Life! You know there are people dumb enough to actually think Timon and Pumbaa before their development in the end are good role models and the songâ€™s popularity only makes it worse. While not a bad song by any means especially in the story the popularity just makes me sigh a sigh of sadness because it should be Circle of Life and Be Prepared!
Can You Feel the Love Tonight
The award winner is the next song on the list! I do like this song and I guess it deserves the award, but still I would have wanted Circle of Life to get it, but then again the Academy has snubbed so many deserving songs, actors and films before so whatever. I do like it and is a nice song, but itâ€™s nowhere near as awesome and meaningful as Circle of Life or Be Prepared!
This film is beautifully animated! The designs while mostly rip-offs from Kimba are given a really good spin and I love the use of coloring of the fur and the red manes and Scarâ€™s darker coloring itâ€™s just awesome! The eyes are colored excellently and are very expressive! The lighting, use of shadows and effects are absolutely fantastic even by the standards of 3D animation! Last, but not least there are scenes that are so powerful and moving they capture the grand scope in terms of layout, but also in terms of emotion! Who doesnâ€™t at least get sad when Mufasa dies? Who doesnâ€™t have their heart beat slightly faster during the stampede? Itâ€™s excellence! There so many scenes that embody perfection. The wisdom speeches of Mufasa such as â€œEverything the light touches, Everything you see, and Look at the Starsâ€ are all excellent and really inspiring and meaningful. One scene that still sends chills down my spine is obviously Mufasaâ€™s spirit. That is amazing! The animation on Mufasa has never looked better. Who knew heâ€™d look better dead! The emotional and thematic powerhouse that scene is is also absolute perfection especially with James Earl Jonesâ€™s voice and Zimmerâ€™s music! Another scene that is so powerful is when Scar hits Sarabi. That is such a powerful scene in how it shows Scarâ€™s arrogance and how Simba could have been Scar when Scar says â€œI am the king I can do what ever I want!â€ and how Sarabi still holds on to her dignity and honor even in the darkest of times. You know what the entire climax is perfection! This climax is so perfect and amazing of all the Disney films it can only be rivaled by Hunchback of Notre Dameâ€™s, Pirates 1, and Beauty and the Beast and maybe the Kingdom Hearts final battles. The best part of the perfect climax is obviously Simbaâ€™s roar come on! I love the use of rain here. Traditionally in filmmaking the rain is supposed to be a bad thing because things look gloomy and itâ€™s scary and all that, but here the film takes a more realistic and ancient approach to rain. Rain in reality is the basis of life on land. It cleanses and is a rebirth. The scenes of the rain washing away that wildebeest skull is obvious symbolism that Scarâ€™s irresponsible reign (I love puns) is washing away and is being replaced by Simbaâ€™s the true, honorable and responsible king! Simbaâ€™s roar is definitely one of the most beautiful and magical of all Disney history!
Scar Hits Sarabi
King of Pride Rock
If you havenâ€™t guessed from the review already I love this movie! It may be a rip-off of Kimba, but you know what this is so much better! Very rare does a rip-off surpass its original source, but Lion King did it! The powerful and meaningful themes wrapped together in a great story with excellent mythological archetypes for characters, excellent animation and art direction, excellent musical score, and phenomenal to good songs! This is one of Disneyâ€™s best! Unfortunately all of the wonderful and beautiful things I described in the review will be utterly destroyed by Lion King 2 (Iâ€™m shocked that people actually think that monstrosity of a movie is okay when itâ€™s a piece of garbage!)That rant will be later, but this movie is fantastic! Mermaid and B&B are still my favorites, but this is right up there with them. Join me next time where I review the preview episode released by Disney XD last week and can be seen on Youtube of the awesome looking TRON: Uprising Episode: Beckâ€™s Beginning!Â
VERDICT: 5 Simba portraits out of 5!