Turn Back the Clock
The Lion King
Distributed By: Walt Disney Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When The Lion King first hit the theaters in 1994, I wasn't overly enthused. Although I found the animation to be excellent, I wasn't overwhelmed by the storyline. Now, over a decade and a half later, I find I can appreciate the film a lot more. The other day, I needed to watch something that didn't discuss the gloom and doom of the recent events involving Hurricane Sandy. So, I decided to pull out my recently purchased copy of The Lion King on DVD.
In the Pride Lands of Africa, a new heir to the kingdom of animals is born. Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Sarabi (Madge Sinclair) have introduced their newborn son, Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), to the animals of the Pride Lands. Although Simba's birth is celebrated by most, there is one who wishes he had never been born. Scar (Jeremy Irons), brother of Mufasa, has a secret desire to be king which has now been robbed of him by the birth of Mufasa's son.
Angry and jealous, Scar vows to take the role of king as his own, joining forces with the hyenas Shenzi, Banzai and Ed (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings) to set a trap for Mufasa and Simba. When Mufasa perishes while saving his son, Scar places the blame of the king's death on Simba. Unable to shoulder this burden, at the advise of his beloved Uncle Scar, Simba runs away from the Pride Lands and is presumed dead by the pride. Scar rises as the rightful heir to the kingdom, bringing along the spotted hyena pack and raising them to a status much higher in the Pride Land animal heirarchy.
Meanwhile, an exhausted Simba is found and befriended by meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane) and warthog Pumba (Ernie Sabella). The two help nurse their new friend back to health, teaching him the carefree ways of hakuna matata, the duo's motto. Simba learns to survive on meals of grubs and other bugs and enjoys a worry-free existence with his friends as he grows into a lion. It is at this age that he is found by old friend Nala (Moira Kelly) who has wandered near his home in search of food for the starving pride.
When Nala attempts to persuade Simba (Matthew Broderick) to return home as rightful heir and ruler, Simba refuses, still suffering guilt over his father's death. It is only after a visit by the shaman Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) and a vision of his father that Simba realizes he must return to the Pride Lands to save his kingdom from the excesses of Scar and his hyena pack.
The story of The Lion King is a lesson in growth, facing one's fear and overcoming nearly insurmountable obstacles to achieve one's destiny. When Simba turns his back on his destiny, although he leads a seemingly enjoyable life, he turns his back on his family and all his father has taught him. Responsibility, although not always easy to shoulder and fraught with obstacles, is an important part of life and one that cannot be escaped for long.
The art and beauty of the Pride Lands of Africa are amazing thanks to the folks in charge of animation who went the extra mile for this film, visiting the African savannahs and having renowned wildlife expert Jim Fowler visit the studio with a number of animals from the savannah to offer sketching opportunities for the artists on the project. The superb animation of the artists at Disney Studios is supplemented by computer animation, especially in scenes like the wildebeest stampede. The colors of the savannah are breathtaking and one could tell that the animators worked hard to get the movements of the lions and various other animals in the film just right.
The music of The Lion King was brilliant with a musical score by Hans Zimmer and songs created by Elton John and Tim Rice. The Lion King Soundtrack produced a number of award-winning and nominated songs, including Circle of Life, Can You Feel the Love Tonight and Hakuna Matata. I loved the soundtrack of this film and am the proud owner of a copy of my own which I sing along with quite often and loudly, much to the chagrin of all around me who don't choose to join in on the fun.
My version of The Lion King on DVD contained a bonus feature film, The Lion King: A Memoir by Don Hahn. This twenty-minute featurette allows us to take a look at the creation of the film from its inception. We learn how the team came up with the idea, what ideas were scrapped, the savannah trip and invitation extended to Fowler to bring savannah animals into the studios for a more authentic representation by the artists working on the project, the behind the scenes story of the music and more.
The music, the art and the moral of the story of The Lion King all combine to create an enjoyable Disney animated tale that will remain a classic for years to come. This is a Disney tale that you will want to pass down from generation to generation.