With the remake coming out soon, I would like to reflect on the original. When this movie came out in 1994, people went nuts. I wasn't alive in 1994, but I heard the excitement about this movie was comparable to the excitement of Frozen. The film is a classic and considered one of Disney's best movies. In fact, it may very well be the reason why I love animals so much. And it is surprising to say...
This is not my favorite Disney movie, doesn't even make the top ten. However, I still like this movie a lot and hold it in very high regard. It's a great movie for families and children, and the movie that many consider to be the last great Disney movie. A year after The Lion King, Pocahontas came out. Disney was really hoping for this movie to be bigger than The Lion King, but were surprised. After Pocahontas, interest in standard animated films went downhill, and now only exists on television. Now the craze is computer animated films, which started with Toy Story and were further boosted by other movies like Shrek.
I will give a brief synopsis of the film in my review. It begins with all the animals in the Pride Lands travelling to a place called Pride Rock to celebrate the birth of the new prince Simba. He is to succeed his father, the king Mufasa. However, Simba's uncle Scar is not happy about the birth of Simba, since Simba will be king before Scar, and Scar really wants to become king. Scar devises plans with his three hyena henchmen to kill Simba, but they are unable to due to Mufasa, so Scar decides to kill both Simba and Mufasa by getting them trampled to death by wildebeest. However, only Mufasa dies. Simba is devastated by his father's death but is unaware he was killed by Scar. Scar tells Simba that his father's death was his fault and Simba leaves in exile. While in exile, he meets a meerkat and a warthog named Timon and Pumbaa. They teach him about "hakuna matata," which roughly translates to "no worries" in Swahili. Simba uses their philosophy as an excuse to not go home and lives with the duo into his adult years. Then, a childhood friend of his arrives in his new home and tells him that the Pride Lands is suffering under Scar's rule. Simba doesn't want to go back, but with the help of a mandrill named Rafiki and his father's ghost, Simba decides to go back and retake his place as king. He returns, deposes his uncle, becomes king, and has a cub.
First I will talk about the good things in this movie.
1. It's BIG
The film has this grandiose scale, aided by the music and visuals. It helps make the events of the movie all the more important.
2. The animation
This is one of the best looking animated films ever. We get absolutely beautiful shots of the African plains, the deserts, and jungles.
3. The music
The music was made by legendary musician Elton John and Tim Rice. The films music was composed by Hans Zimmer. They make some amazing and iconic music. The background music fits very well with the environment, with a heavy focus on African instruments. You hear flutes, xylophones, all sorts of sounds in the music.
3a. The Songs
This also goes into music. Elton John doesn't sing any of the songs in the movie, the characters do. Circle of Life is the most iconic song of this movie and everyone knows the Zulu chanting at the beginning. I think Circle of Life is a good song, and has some great visuals. Just Can't Wait to be King is okay. Be Prepared is really cool, I'll get to Hakuna Matata, and finally Can You Feel The Love Tonight. I personally really like this song and the Elton John version.
The characters in this movie are good. Simba goes through a really good ark, Mufasa is a good leader, Scar is a cool villain and has a perfect voice, Zazu is funny, and Rafiki, and the hyenas are hilarious.
5. The film has some balls
To show the death of Mufasa and come across his corpse was crazy. I never cried at this because the first time I saw this movie, I was so young, and I used to watch it constantly.
6. The moral in of itself
The moral is very adult. It is that you need to move on from past trauma and not let it hinder your growth and success. This moral really resonates with me since I have anxiety over past experiences. The best part of the movie is when Rafiki is telling Simba this by whacking him on the head with his staff and telling Simba that the pain from the whack is in the past and you can either run from the pain or learn from it. Then Rafiki tries to hit Simba again and he dodges it. It is a great moral. Until the climax.
Now let's talk about the bad.
1. Execution of the moral- SPOILERS!- But honestly, who hasn't seen this movie
This was mentioned by Doug Walker in his Disneycember review of the movie, and I agree. Once Simba returns home full of confidence, Scar begins to whittle away at his resolve by bringing up his father's death and placing the blame on Simba. It isn't until Scar has Simba on death's door does he reveal the truth of how Mufasa died and Simba forces Scar to tell everyone the truth. Doug Walker goes into better explanation of this in his review, but the moral itself is still really good, it is how it is executed that is the problem. See the video here, from 2:17 to 3:40.
2. Some of the voice acting.
While I do like Simba, I think he sounds very bland. Matthew Broderick is a really good actor and I personally think he could've done better with the role. He went through something similar to what Simba was going through. Despite that, he isn't bland through the whole performance. After Simba's argument with Nala, he shouts out to his father and he sounds very emotional. Also when he pinned down Scar and called him a murderer. Nala's voice is also bland.
3. Some of the characters
I am not big fans of Timon and Pumbaa. They are trying to hard to be like the Genie by shouting and being obnoxious. Also, the moral they teach Simba is kind of toxic. "When the world turns it back on you, you turn your back on the world." Also, Timon can come off as very insensitive. He says things at the wrong times-
(Pumbaa) "Kid, what's eating ya?"
(Timon) "Nothing he's at the top of the food chain."
(Simba) "Somebody once told me, that the great kings of the past are up there, watching over us."
(Timon) "You mean a bunch of royal dead guys are watching over us?" (laughter) "Who told you something like that? What mook made that up?"
I understand that Simba never told them what he was going through, but you should always watch what you say because you don't now what others have been through. When I explained this to someone about Timon's behavior, I was told, "He's a New Yorker." In Timon and Pumbaa's defense, they do say some funny things, especially the ad-libbed line about dressing drag and doing the hula.
Also, I felt that Nala, Simba's female friend, and his mother Sarabi were really underdeveloped. Also, Scar's character arc starts with him being this really cool, respectable bad guy who works behind the scenes and actually succeeds in his plans and causes his nephew to develop a guilt complex. But after Scar wins, his character goes downhill. This was also mentioned in Doug Walker's review, but I feel that Scar's character becoming more petty and childish was intentional to show why he was not fit to be king. However, they don't really show us how Simba is meant to be king. We only see one moment of his leadership when he tells Timon and Pumbaa to distract the hyenas and then tells Nala to find his mother and rally the pride. That's it.
4. The Pride Lands going bad after Scar takes over and going back to normal when Simba takes over
The biggest problem with this is that it is just a major distraction. How is a drought and food shortage caused by the hyenas, and then they start complaining about the lack of resources?
5. Hakuna Matata- The song
This song is kind of annoying, I don't hate it as much as Doug Walker does and the song was given more meaning in The Lion Guard. I also like the version of the song by the Baha Men.
Now here are some of the things that are not criticisms of the film, but just some personal issues.
1. The frequent use of eye closeups
This is used throughout the whole franchise, and I must say, it was uncomfortable for me to look at. I always used to close my eyes whenever Scar killed Mufasa, or when Scar told Simba the truth. It doesn't really bother me now.
2. Biological Inaccuracies
I already made a list of them and they can be distracting towards hardcore animal fans.
Issues that people my have but I don't.
1. The way the lions treat the hyenas is racist.
NOPE! They are different species and we are shown how poorly handled the hyena's homeland is and why they weren't aloud to live in the Pride Lands. Also, the hyenas that speak coherently are voiced by people considered to be minorities, when some of the good guys are also voiced by minorities.
So that is my review of The Lion King. Overall, I like this movie. I don't think it's the best Disney movie, but I do have a lot of respect for it.