YEAH MAN!!! This is my favorite Disney movie EVER! Like so many other people all over the world, I am madly in love with this film! It’s just incredible! It is an unbelievable film! It’s smart, it’s artistic, it’s entertaining, it’s emotional – it’s just a great movie! But what exactly makes it so great? Well, let’s find out.
ANIMATION: The animation is great! I love the way the designers capture the look of the Savannah in Africa! It looks so amazing and breath-taking! But the look of the movie is also influenced based on epic and mythological backgrounds, like something that would come out of a Greek mythological tale. That adds so much weight to the epicness this movie contains. That’s really the best way to describe the look of the movie: epic. It is so large and grand. The stampede scene has got to be the biggest and most epic scene ever put to traditional animation! I also love how real the animals are! Not only do they look real, but they move in a realistic way. When you see the lions walk, you see the bones in their bodies move as well! I love that detail! It’s just awesome!
SONGS/MUSIC: I LOVE the music and songs in this film! Before I get to the songs, there are two things to address. First of all, Lebo M., a South African musician, does not get enough credit for his contribution to the music of this film! It was because of him, his arrangements, and his choir that the songs and the score sounded like it came from Africa (…although we don’t know the exact country this movie takes place in – that’s confusing). The music would sound completely out of place if it were not for Lebo M., and he needs to be acknowledged more! Secondly, Hans Zimmer’s score is AWESOME! My word, it is so epic! I am in love with the score! If this score were a woman, I’d marry her! I love the “Lea Halalela” theme that plays throughout the film! It is beautiful! It is grand! It is epic! I love humming along to this score! But, of course, when people think of the music of this movie they think of the songs. These numbers, written by Tim Rice and Elton John, have definitely left a huge impact on so many people all over the world! ALL of these songs are wonderful, and they all stand out! Unlike the Disney films that came before and after this film, this movie doesn’t have one Number One song – ALL the songs are Number Ones! You instantly remember each of them at the mention of their titles! If I were to ask a large group of people to name me a song from The Little Mermaid or Aladdin, most of them would say “Under the Sea” and “A Whole New World.” If I asked that same group to name me a song from The Lion King, some of them would say “Circle of Life.” Others would say “Hakuna Matata,” and others would say “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” So, let’s go through them!
1) Circle of Life/(Reprise): My WORD, what a great opening! Again, it’s just so big and grand! It was such a smart move of the filmmakers to remove the dialogue from the opening and just use this song to speak for itself! Also, this song embodies one of the themes of the movie. It talks about the delicate balance of life and the appreciation for the circle of life. It is a great message, a great song, and a great opening!
2) Morning Report: The only reason I’m including this song is because a lot of people are familiar with it thanks to the Special Edition DVD released in 2003. I don’t like this number that much. It doesn’t add anything to the film, but it does take more of my time away from me. If you’re listening to this song in the Broadway play, the song works OK. That’s just the medium where this can work. In the movie? It makes no sense.
3) I Just Can’t Wait to be King: This is a very fun song. I always felt that this song gave us character development of a young Simba. Unlike Jasmine, Simba is proud of his royal position. In his young mind, he can’t wait to become king so that he can do whatever he wants. Many people have translated this as Simba being selfish and full of himself, but let me remind you that Simba is a kid when he sings this! He’s, what, 10-years-old? He’ll sing and fantasize over his future as he sees it now. What’s wrong with that? Let the kid have his fun and his fantasy. He’ll learn soon enough that things won’t go according to this plan. Simba is harmless! Leave him alone!
4) Be Prepared: So many people are in love with this song! They consider it one of the best Disney villain songs ever. I must say, I can see where they’re coming from. The song does show Scar plotting against Mufasa in the cruelest of ways. He even has a Nazi team of hyenas following him! How awesome is that? And, of course, following in the tradition of villain songs, this song sounds a lot different from the other songs in the film. This song is menacing and threatening. You know something is going down! This is a great song!
5) Hakuna Matata: This song is just a ton of fun. It does slow the movie down for a little while, but I can’t be angry at this song! It has a fun melody and an enjoyable catchphrase that an entire generation still recites today! I love this song! Anytime I hear it, I often walk swaying my head from side to side like Pumbaa and Simba did when they were walking on the log. I challenge you to do the same, it’s a lot of fun!
6) Can You Feel the Love Tonight: I do have mixed feelings about this song. As a stand alone song, it’s great! I can see someone falling in love to this number. It sounds wonderful. I love the message, I love the lyrics, I love the music, and I love the singers. This is a beautiful song! In context of the movie, however, this song has no point in being in the movie. How did a romance work its way into the story the movie set up for us? This was a coming of age story, and then we get a love fest out of nowhere. Not only that, but I don’t believe Simba and Nala are really in love. Look at how Disney conveys romantic love in other films. It’s not conveyed the same as it is in this film. I don’t think they’re in love, but I do think they’re in lust. Did you see that face Nala gave Simba as she’s laying on her back during the song?…Yeah, that says it all. But again, that’s in context of the movie. If you listen to the song on its own, it’s still a really good song.
ROMANCE: …I just talked about this, didn’t I?…Yeah, aside from seeing Simba’s child at the end of the movie, which fits within the Circle of Life theme, the romance contributed nothing to the film…But that face, though.
CHARACTERS: These are some of my favorite characters in a Disney movie ever! Since there are so many of them, I’ll just mention 5 characters.
1) Simba – I’ve gone on record saying that this is the Disney character I relate to the most. Yes, he starts out naïve and rebellious, but he matures. He learns about responsibility. He matures and becomes strong. He applies the ethics and morals and lessons his father taught him. He may be one of the most ethical Disney leads! I like that he has flaws, yet he learns from his mistakes. If Ariel is too flawed and Belle is too perfect, Simba may be the perfect balance between the two. He’s very relatable, and I admire that. I love watching his story arc to see how he comes to accept his position and responsibility. It’s something that so many of us go through everyday. Again, I see so much of myself in Simba. He’s a great character!
2) Mufasa – This guy is easily my favorite character in the movie! Why? Because he’s so powerful! He is strong! Even without him opening his mouth, you can look at him and feel the weight of his power and might. And then, once you hear his voice, the weight hits you even more! Mufasa is one of the strongest characters I’ve ever seen! He says my favorite line in the movie when his image appears in the sky. He said, “Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become.” OH MY GOSH – that line WREAKS with power! It just BLEEDS power! But not only that, Mufasa also displays himself as a kind and loving father. He disciplines his son, plays with his son, educates his son, and he protects his son. This makes him relatable to the audience because we see our parents in Mufasa, knowing that they would give us the same love and care Mufasa gave to Simba. This is also why his death scene is so emotional for us. If we didn’t get to know and relate to Mufasa, we would not have cried when he died. But he immediately became a true person, the person you didn’t want to go away. When he did, we balled our eyes out. Not to mention…he’s voiced by JAMES EARL FRICKIN’ JONES!!! YEAH!
3) Scar – I won’t say too much here since I already talked about Scar in my Top 10 Favorite Disney Villains list. I will say briefly that what makes Scar stand out from most Disney villains is he didn’t have any super powers or magic spells to cast on anybody. All he had was his mind. He’s very smart. You heard him say it early in the movie when he said to Mufasa, “As far as brains go, I’ve got the lions’ share…” He knew what to do to get what he wanted. He knew a young and naïve Simba would be curious and rebellious enough to go to the elephant graveyard. He knew Mufasa would save Simba from the stampede. What I don’t understand, though, is why he sent the same hyenas who couldn’t kill Simba and Nala is the elephant graveyard to kill Simba after the stampede. Didn’t he suspect that they’d mess up again? Aside from that, he really proves himself an intelligent villain, and I love hating him.
4) Rafiki – This is my second favorite character in the movie! Why? Because he’s both wise and funny! He’s a perfect blend of both! I love watching him talk to Simba about learning from his mistakes. He displays so much mystical and spiritual guidance, but not in a goofy and cartoony fashion. His wise personality is very believable – you believe someone like Rafiki really exists. He delivers, in my opinion, some of the funniest lines and moments in the movie; like when he tells Simba, “…You are a baboon, and I am not,” or when he hits Simba and
replies, “It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past!” That is absolutely funny, yet wise! I love it! I love Rafiki!
5) Timon and Pumbaa – Since these two have so much to contribute to both the story and the identity of this movie and franchise, it’d be wrong to leave them out. And, as you may imagine, I enjoy them. They’re not the funniest Disney characters ever, but they do keep me laughing and they do entertain me. I like their humor. I like how their humor doesn’t necessarily come from referencing modern pop culture. That was a huge thing for kids/family movies after Aladdin, and it got annoying. It was fine for that movie, but I don’t need to see it everywhere. These two are funny because of their personalities, characteristics, and the events that take place around them – not because they were watching Friends or Full House on television. I also like how they support our main character. When he’s on the verge of dying, they saved his life. When he needed a home, they took him in. When he needed to return to his home, they were right behind him. They never asked “what’s in it for me?” They never got in the way of anything or caused something bad to happen. They kept me smiling and singing. I like them.
STORY AND THEMES & MESSAGES: I know a lot of people say this movie is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but that’s not entirely true. The filmmakers were developing an original story, and in the middle of the process they saw connections between this film and Hamlet. After they decided Scar should be a member of the royal family, they realized this story paralleled Hamlet. The filmmakers were influenced by Shakespearean tales, however. They were also influenced by Biblical stories like Moses and Joseph. They were drawn to Greek myths as well.
As a whole, I really like this story. I like the pacing, and I like the sequence of events. There’s only one thing in the story I don’t understand. After the stampede, Scar finds Simba and tells him to “run away and never return,” and then, as I said earlier, he sends his hyenas to go kill him. Question: why didn’t Scar kill Simba himself? No one else was around, and he would have gotten away with it. None of the answers to this question I ever hear holds any water. “He didn’t want the blood of Simba on his hands.” Really? Because not only does he have the blood of Mufasa on his hands, not only does he get into an epic fight with Simba at the end, but I don’t think he’s above killing children to get what he wants. “He has lackies. It’s their job to kill him.” Yeah, because they did such a great job before in the elephant graveyard! “Well, it’s a fact that lions can pick up the scent of someone or something off their paws.” How many people know that? Do you really think a large number of people who love this movie knows that? In fact, did the filmmakers know that? I doubt it! The only answer I can come up with is that if Scar had killed him, then there’d be no movie. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s really lame! Anytime that becomes the answer to any plothole in a movie, that means that the movie did not have to happen. That means that this movie, for as epic and wonderful as it is, for as much as I love it, didn’t have to happen. Crap.
As for the themes and messages, there’s the obvious one about accepting responsibility, which I think is conveyed very well. I get a strong sense that this movie is saying something about fathers. In fact, the filmmakers were originally going to dedicate this film to fathers! I wish they had followed through with that, it would have been wonderful! Anyhoo, Mufasa, as I said before is an awesome father! He’s the best Disney father EVER! I love how he really disciplines his son for doing the wrong thing. He scolded him for disobeying him and putting his and someone else’s life in danger. That is a real father! In any other Disney movie, the protagonist would have said, “I’m 16, Dad! I can make my own decisions!” Not here! But Mufasa still loves his son! He will protect him from harm and he will hug him and play with him. This is what we need to see more of! This is the type of parent we need to keep seeing from Disney! It’s such a wonderful message! Fathers – parents as a whole are strong and loving!
I love the theme of the circle of life – caring for everything and the life they live, and celebrate the lives we live as well. Life will make you happy, life will make you sad. Life offers good and bad things alike. Under the right team, this movie could have been less story-driven and more character-driven, just showing the life of this lion. But one of my favorite themes in the movie is maturing and growing into the people we’re supposed to become. Simba is naïve and rebellious as a kid, and is not ready to be King yet, though he thinks he is. He still has so much to learn and do. This is conveyed when Simba finds his small paw print in his father’s large and massive paw print in the ground. I love that image!
There’s debate whether or not this movie promotes segregation. Everyone is in the pride except the hyenas. I always just assumed it’s because in the animal kingdom, hyenas are dangerous and they prey after the animals that live in the pride. I don’t know, maybe there is something there I’m not seeing, but that’s how I see it. Maybe I’d have to think about it more.
CONCLUSION: I love this movie so much! This isn’t just my favorite Disney movie, but it’s one of my favorite movies period! It’s so great! The story, the characters, the songs, the animation, the design, the writing – it’s all so good! Yes I take issue with the romance and Scar’s choice to have the hyenas kill Simba, and I don’t know where in Africa this film takes place, but this film is too great, too fantastic, too epic for me to turn my head away from it! I love it so much! I can’t wait to have kids of my own so I can introduce this movie to them! The Lion King rules!