“The Lion King” stars Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Rowan Atkinson, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, and Robert Guillaume. Released on June 15, 1994, the film is about a lion’s journey to become king of the Pride Lands.
The film was directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. Minkoff is known for directing films like “Stuart Little”, “The Haunted Mansion”, and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”. It served as the 32nd film in the Walt Disney Animation Studios library. 25 years ago, Disney created a small animated film that took the world by storm and became one of the most successful 2D animated films of all time. That film was “The Lion King”, a splendid mixture of comedy, drama, and music. It started off as a risk for Disney, but upon its release, that risk lead to a huge reward. The film received numerous praise from critics and audiences and became a box office smash. That success spawned a massive franchise that includes two direct-to-DVD follow-ups, two television shows, video games, merchandise, and a Broadway adaptation. It even garnered a 3D re-release in 2011, which I gladly went to during that time. Just goes to show how much this film means to me and everybody else on this planet. Before I attempt to visit the upcoming remake from Jon Favreau, I decided to revisit this animated classic that’s been a part of my life for a couple of decades and see if it holds up well in my adult eyes. Spoiler alert: It held up well.
Influenced by the lives of Joseph and Moses, from the Christian Bible, and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the film follows the story of Simba, a young lion who is inspired by his father Mufasa (Jones) to become the next ruler of the Pride Lands. However, this doesn’t sit well for Simba’s conniving uncle Scar (Irons), who was first in line to become king until Mufasa’s son was born. So what does he do about it, you ask? He kills his own brother, manipulates Simba into thinking that he’s responsible, and forces him into exile. Oh yeah, that’s one way to handle a problem like that. Simba is then raised in the jungle by two bug-eating outcasts: a meerkat named Timon (Lane) and a warthog named Pumbaa (Sabella) who has a troublesome gas problem. Upon reaching adulthood, Simba learns a valuable life lesson from his childhood friend Nala (Kelly) and his shaman baboon Rafiki (Guillaume) before returning to his home to challenge Scar for the throne. Like the other classic Disney animated films of the 1990s, “The Lion King” is a suitable selection for all ages. Many kids will appreciate the film for its pacing, the colorful animation, and its lovable characters, while the adults, on the other hand, will adore it for its memorable story and its blend of comedy and drama. These things alone were the main reasons why it’s one of my favorite films of all time. After looking at it again from a new perspective, I’m happy to say that my thoughts didn’t change. What I loved about the story was that it’s a coming-of-age tale that starred talking animals rather than humans. It represented the growth of Simba from being a carefree lion cub to being a grown lion with a healthy amount of honesty and wisdom. It also showcased two different kings: One that is filled with kindness and honor (which is Mufasa and Simba) and one whose heart is filled with jealousy and slyness (which is Scar). I thought this type of representation was handled really well in terms of storytelling and characters. The story still shines in being inspirational and unforgettable because of how it represents adolescence in a way that both kids and adults can understand while maintaining the purpose of being a well-paced and entertaining cartoon. The characters and the animation were also the things that I loved about the film. Not only were the characters well-developed, but they’re also funny and memorable, ranging from the adorable Simba to the villainous Scar. What made these characters work was not just the designs, but the voice cast, with my main highlights being…well, everyone, including Broderick as Simba in his adult form and Jeremy Irons, who delivered his most unforgettable performance in his career as Scar. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella also did a fantastic job providing the voices for Timon and Pumbaa, one of my favorite comedy duos in film history. As for James Earl Jones as Mufasa…what can I say about him? He’s flipping James Earl Jones, the guy who did the voice for Darth Vader and the CNN intro. That’s how good this talented actor is. The animation is the next thing I want to talk about because my God, it still looks beautiful even to this day. The folks at Disney always know how to make the animation style as stunning as their stories, and “The Lion King” is still, without a doubt, one of the prime examples of that fact. The animation works extremely well for its vast settings, the musical numbers, the characters, and the intense sequences (including the wildebeest stampede scene, which mixed 2D animation with CGI). I also have to give credit to Hans Zimmer, Elton John, Tim Rice, and Lebohang “Lebo M” Morake for bringing the music and the songs to life. All of the songs that were in the film, including “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, are so spectacular and appealing that they’ll get stuck in your head for months. That happened to me a long time ago, and they still haven’t gone away. The musical score by Hans Zimmer and Lebo M was also incredible in capturing the feel and emotion of being in Africa. I really loved what these two did for the soundtrack, and I hope that they work together again on a different project in the near future.
Overall, “The Lion King” has the right amount of pride in its soul to provide an experience that’s visually striking, thought-provoking, and heartwarming. From its stellar storytelling to its gorgeous animation, the film still holds a special place in my heart as not only one of my favorite animated films of all time, but also one of my favorite films in general. It has been adored by families and film lovers for 25 years and will continue to be adored for 25 more. Long live the lion king.