THE LION KING
Directed By: Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff
Produced By: Don Hahn
Inspired By: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1601)
Premiered On: June 15, 1994
Distribution By: Buena Vista Pictures
Easily one of the most recognized and most popularized of the Renaissance Era if not the entirety of the Disney Animated Films, The Lion King would have reached even loftier heights had the Internet been what it is today. Currently, this film stands at being the highest grossing film of its year, the highest grossing traditionally animated film, and sits at fourth in highest grossing animated film.
Heck, including the live stage musical version of the film The Lion King, as of September 2014, is the top earning title in box office history for both stage production and films, surpassing the record previous held by The Phantom of the Opera which had previously grossed $6 billion.
The basic summary of the film goes that a young lion cub, appropriately named Simba which is the Swahili word for “lion,” who is destined to succeed his father, Mufasa, as king of the Pride Lands. However, the envious greed of Scar, Simba’s uncle, knows no bounds and he forms an alliance with the hyenas to see to it that he becomes king and that they, in turn, will never go hungry again.
Scar’s plan to kill his brother works perfectly and though he manipulates Simba into thinking that the fault lay entirely upon him, the cub runs away into exile, narrowly avoiding the pursuing hyenas. Years past and following an interesting perspective of life, love, and honor from a few old, and departed, friends, Simba returns home to challenge Scar and bring an end to his tyranny over the Pride Lands.
As stated above, the film is inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet but seeing as there are quite a lot of differences between them, chief being an all animal cast and what have you, I’m afraid there’s far too many to make serious note of. I will say though that while the overall narrative is not anything new per say, as the concept of jealous sibling killing older sibling for the crown has been done nearly to death by this point, The Lion King takes a rather refreshing new stance at it.
While there is plenty of humanization in the cast of characters, there are still a lot of nods towards how these animals behave and act in the wild. Case in point, when Scar openly insults both Mufasa and Simba before walking away, Mufasa gets all up in his face asking him if that’s a challenge. Mufasa allowing Scar to remain in the Pride Lands was not done entirely out of love towards his brother, but with pity as well as only one male lion may rule a pride at a time and Scar, by his own admittance, lacks the brute strength necessary to become a king by conquest.
Even the hyenas are, somewhat, true to form despite the grand amount of complaints made to their overall portrayal during Scar’s villain song. Hyenas are one of the more unique species of animal in that they are not only a matriarchal society, but are actually quite large as far as group size in concern. An average clan of hyenas, particularly the spotted hyenas featured in the film, is about eighty members at minimum but do generally forage/hunt in smaller packs like what we see Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed do in the film.
Oh, one other particular thing about the film that I feel worth noting is that, much like Jodi Benson is for Ariel, there is one particular character in the cast who has, for the most part, been voiced by the same voice actor since the original film. That character in question: Puumba, which, I don’t know why, still amuses me to this day.
As to my choice in song, there’s little to no contest. “The Circle of Life” defines the whole entire franchise and is easily one of the more recognized phrases excluding hakuna mata. The song itself is one that I’ve yet to find an equal in as far as melody and lyrics are concerned but visually? There is no equal and likely never will be at least until such a time as this film is remade into a live action adaptation.
Overall, I give The Lion King a solid ten out of five stars. A visual masterpiece that will stand the test of time and a story that can watched over and over again by people of all ages. It is also a franchise that’ll likely continue for several generations to come as well, seeing as there is now yet another new tale to tell in in the form of The Lion Guard…