Director:Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff
“The Lion King […] not only improved on the standards set by Beauty [and the Beast, 1991, Gary Trousdale] but also instantly became a Disney classic, to be ranked alongside other tearjerkers like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and of course Bambi (1942).” (830, Joanna Berry, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) The animation as expected, is top-notch, with beautiful rendering of not only the animals but also the African Savannah.
The Lion King along with Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin (1992, Ron Clements & John Musker) are my all time favourite Disney films. they are the films from my childhood that I continue to love. One of my earliest memories of going to the cinema is seeing The Lion King (I must have been about 7 when it came out). It is a very spiritual movie which deals explicitly with the facts of life and death most wonderfully explained in the idea of the Circle of Life. Simba’s reaction to Mufasa’s death is heartbreaking. I can’t cope when he curls up beside his father after having tried unsuccessfully to wake him up.
The music is incredible – one of the most memorable scores to any Disney film which is saying something as music is such a key element in the magic of Disney. I love the African influence on the music, even more so since having done an amateur production of the musical (it’s not an easy score to learn let me tell you!) It seems to me to be one of those films where everything just works ad comes together in perfect harmony creating an instant classic, much like the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001 – 2003, Peter Jackson)and the Harry Potter series. “This animated adventure works so well because it has all the elements of a terrific movie and plenty of action and adventure.” (830)
Scar is delightfully acerbic as the ambitious and manipulative baddie – predictably voiced by a Brit, Jeremy Irons (clearly we Brits have excellent voices for baddies!) While the film is surprisingly sad and incredibly moving, especially at the beginning, it is also filled with hilarious moments provided by the characters of Timon, Pumba, Zazu and the hyenas, all voiced by well-known comic actors. Oh and Rafiki of course, the wise, sage and ever so slightly insane soothsayer. “Luckily the voice talents of [Nathan] Lane, Rowan Atkinson (as wisecracking bird Zazu), Cheech Martin, and Whoopi Goldberg (as cackling hyenas) are on hand for some side-splitting light relief.” (830)
The relationship between Simba and his father Mufasa is endearing although I am now always waiting for Mufasa to say “I am your father” what with him being voiced magnificently by James Earl Jones, Darth Vader himself (a fact that has become more recognizable as I’ve gotten older). Rowan Atkinson is brilliant as the put upon and self-important Zazu, the King’s Major Domo as he is so fond of reminding everyone. He takes on much the same role as Sebastian in The Little Mermaid (1989, Ron Clements & John Musker) becoming a rather reluctant chaperone to their young ward.
The hyenas are genius, especially Ed. Disney are really very good at creating memorable characters that don’t say a word. While providing comic interludes they also have some of the scariest moments in the film where they are lit sinisterly in deep red, vivid green and smoke. Pride Rock is such an iconic image (we once recreated it on a group holiday in Wales to hilarious effects!!) The pride land is drastically changed … and not for the good … under Scar’s rule. It becomes almost unrecognizable from the lush and light country Mufasa rules. It’s also a massive contrast to the jungle Simba grows up in.
The challenge between Simba and Scar is the ultimate show down and an epic conclusion to the story. And then in keeping with the theme of the circle of life we end the film as we started it, with the introduction of a new cub, the future king and the new generation.
Timon and Pumba are some of the most beloved creatures to come out of the Disney studio. They are the ultimate comic duo bouncing off one another effortlessly; the perfect foil for each other. And they have the best songs in the film – who can resist singing along to Hakuna Matata? And there is a little nod to De Niro and Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorsese) for the adults with Pumba saying the classic “Are you talkin’ to me?” Not that you really need to put anything in for the adults as the film easily appeals to all ages. I may be in my mid 20s now but I will never be too old for Disney movies, they will stay with me always and are some of my most watched dvds!