|Running Time:||88 minutes|
|Genre(s):||Disney Animation, Adventure, Drama|
|Director(s):||Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff|
|Writer(s):||Irene Meechi, Jonathan Roberts, Linda Woolverton (Screenplay) plus others helping with story|
|Leading Actor(s):||Rowan Atkinson
James Earl Jones
Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Since the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Disney films have captured many audiences be they young and or old. After successful animated films earlier in the 1990s of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, the Walt Disney Animation Studios brought out in the summer of 1994, The Lion King however like all films development started many years prior to release, and was done concurrently with Pocahontas which came out on the big screen the following year. Research was done in 1991 in Kenya and despite set backs in some members of the original project walking away it got great praise from the critics for the use of computer animation, storyline and music.
Loosely based upon William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the film focuses attention on a young lion called Simba (lion in Swahili) in a kingdom of animals where the lions dominant with a supporting roll call of animals attending his baptism service.
The powerful images and opening title song of Elton John’s “Circle of Life” are memorable to anyone who has fond memories of this film as the newly born Simba is lifted high by the shaman Mandrill Baboon called Rafiki and greeted by the herds of elephants, zebras and other fauna. After the title card, the incumbent king Mufasa (James Earl Jones) explains to Simba about the kingdom he will inherit some day and the significance of the circle of life.
Jeremy Irons’ Scar feeling ousted by Mufasa and Simba desires to get his claws on the throne and preys on the innocence and vulnerability of the cub by getting setting up a mischievous plot to do so. After being thwarted after getting Simba to visit an elephant graveyard and attacked by hyenas but saved by the quick alerting hornbill Zazu, played by Rowan Atkinson to Mufasa, Scar sets another trap where Simba is lured into a gorge where wildebeest are meant to trample him.
Again Mufasa comes to Simba’s aid but as he attempts to save himself, Scar betrays him and throws Musafa to his death, the shock of his father’s mortality shocks young Simba who is guilt ridden by Scar in believing it was Simba’s fault after this accident and tells the now rightful heir to the throne he should run away in an act of cowardice to the events leaving Scar to rule.
Simba takes advice and runs but dehydrated and left for dead in the middle of the desert, he is rescued by a meerkat and a warthog, called Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella respectively). Together they look after Simba during his adolescence in their jungle habitat and teach him of their carefree lifestyle through the memorable Hakuna Matata (which literally does mean No Worries in Swahili) song.
Confronted by a hungry lioness, Simba uses his instincts to save Timon and Pumbaa but realises that the lioness is his childhood friend Nala. She explains the consequences of his disappearances and the pair develop feelings for one another and decide with the meerkat and warthog in tow attempt to recapture the kingdom from Scar who has made it a barren lifestyle after the now adult Simba is found by Rafiki who helps him feel inspired rather than guilt.
A battle commences upon the kingdom between Scar and followers including the hyenas and Simba, Nala, Timon and Pumbaa among others trooping for the right. Scar taunts and confirms that it was him who caused Mufasa’s death and not the accident he wanted Simba to believe in, an enraged Simba gets Scar to admit to the whole of the lion pride and pins the blame on the hyenas who do not take this kindly.
Simba shows great ethics and morals in sparing Scar his life but banishes his uncle from the kingdom. The deserted dry land is reinvigorated with life after a rain storm and Simba takes over the throne that is rightfully his. The movie concludes showing Rafiki rise the cub of Simba and Nala to the returning ensemble of other animals.
The story of this cub’s adventures can be seen in the less successfully produced sequel The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride which was a direct to video release as was the prequel/parallel story which shows Timon and Pumbaa’s version of events, the pair also had a cartoon series spin off. Also attached to the story is the musical which has had a lot of success both on the West End in London and on Broadway in New York City along with other theatre districts across the globe.
Work on creating a live action remake after the successes of The Jungle Book & Beauty and the Beast has scheduled a release of this in July 2019 which will celebrate it’s 25th anniversary. It is believed that James Earl Jones will retain his role as Mufasa however there will be changes made to some of the other actors.
For me, The Lion King is definitely one of the best Disney animation movies of all time. As mentioned above it got positive reactions from critics and fully deserved. The music of Elton John (with help from Tim Rice) and Hans Zimmer are near on perfect as they capture the audience and are memorable.
I would have only been around five years old when this came out in the cinema but stuck with me such a long time and certainly a prized DVD in my collection of which I would happily watch on any day I was feeling somewhat down beat or requiring a lift. I still also own a Simba plush cuddly toy which I bought at a Disney store when I was younger and also bought the soundtrack as one of the first CDs I endlessly played in my childhood.
The cast was fantastically chosen and helps make it feel more believable and magical at the same time even though Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella originally auditioned for other roles. One thing which stands out is the work done on the animation of this production and it is believed that the wildebeest stampede scene took three years to animate.
I would certainly recommend to anyone The Lion King if they wished to watch a Disney movie and wanted a feel good factor.
Note – at the time of this post, I have yet to go see the musical at the Lyceum Theatre in London, having only seen two musicals previously on the West End; We Will Rock You (Ben Elton’s showing based on the music of Queen) and Spamalot (a musical based upon Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie) which I loved both. The Lion King musical’s success is clearly as equal to these and many other shows that have stood the test of time. It has been running non-stop for the past sixteen years with many positive reviews in response to the songs, costumes and production and hopefully one day I shall get chance to add my own to that and share the experience on this website.