On June 15, 1994, people around the world were introduced to “The Lion King”, an awe inspiring fictional tale taking place on the plains of Africa.
Little did the we know how much a few lions, birds, a warthog and a tiny, smart mouthed meerkat would give us some of the best cinema that had something for everyone. Under normal animated movie viewing circumstances the kids went crazy, wanting every piece of merchandise available, singing catchy songs incessantly and upon getting the movie at home wanting to watch it over and over again. But The Lion King was different. Of course it has all the amenities a movie of the so-called Disney renaissance period you’d expect to find but it also has something for adults and parents as well. And that is carefully worded and hidden adult jokes and situations peppered throughout.
Depending on which article or recorded interview you’ve been subjected to, The Lion King is loosely based on Hamlet, Richard III, or even the tale of Moses and Joseph from the Bible. The choice is truly yours to make since perception is subjective. But I’m inclined to think it’s a little of all three.
The entire movie is steeped in what feels like something out of a Shakespearian tragedy leering from the background. Even as I watch this again, and chuckle at Timon and Pumbaa dressed in drag and doing the hula for a bunch of hungry hyenas, I know the darkness is there. Even back in ’94 watching it for the first time, there was a sort of sadness that stuck with me for days afterwards. But that could be attributed to me being a moody high school senior.
The Lion King was Disney’s first original animated script; up to that point their animated movies were taken from legend, myth and literature, which is fine. But the newness of The Lion King, it’s fresh dialogue and catchy earworm tunes such as “Hakuna Matata” in my opinion, is what sets it apart and still does today. Trying something new can be a daunting task, a gamble if you will, not to mention scary as hell. Sometimes the gamble pays off and this one most definitely paid off for Disney, and let’s be honest, it still is.
In so many previous classic Disney animated movies people would just up and start singing to make a point, or to show joy, sadness or just because. In The Lion King, lyrical songs are used to move the story along rather than just taking up time and space. The Golden Globes and Oscars took notice of this as well, garnering The Lion King with no less than 4 nominations between the both of them.
Here we are 25 years later and The Lion King still “rules everything the light touches”. There have been two television shows: one about Simba’s second child, and the other a show about adventures involving Timon and Pumbaa. There have been two direct to video movie releases, personally I loved The Lion King 1&1/2, and it was like watching the original but from a different point of view. And of course there is Broadway and the countless musical shows done around the world and still done at Disney Parks today.
The Lion King doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down. A highly anticipated CGI remake of the film, directed by Jon Favreau, is scheduled for a release in the United States on July 19, 2019. It is set to have a stellar voice-acting ensemble, including James Earl Jones who will reprise his role as Mufasa.
The teaser trailer was released a few months ago, with just basic iconic images from the original animated movie, but computer generated. With just a few true to life images and Mr. Jones quoting a few lines, those 45 seconds shook me to my core, gave me goose bumps and hope that we’ll be reviewing The Lion King again in another 25 years.
The Lion King Synopsis:
This Disney animated feature follows the adventures of the young lion Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), the heir of his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Simba’s wicked uncle, Scar (Jeremy Irons), plots to usurp Mufasa’s throne by luring father and son into a stampede of wildebeests. But Simba escapes, and only Mufasa is killed. Simba returns as an adult (Matthew Broderick) to take back his homeland from Scar with the help of his friends Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella)
Voice Cast: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Niketa Calame, Ernie Sabella, Nathan Lane, Robert Guillaume, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cummings, Madge Sinclair
Categories: Movie Anniversaries