Friday, 5 October 2012

Film review: The Lion King

Title: The Lion King
Release Date: 7th October 1994
Rating: U
Principal Cast: James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons

  Walt Disney's 32nd animated classic about a young lion cub named Simba who tragically loses his father and then runs away, only to return when he is fully grown to overthrow his evil uncle Scar and become king.  Hmm, sound familiar?  Yes, as Disney describes it 'Bambi meets Hamlet' and they're not far off.

Obviously this film isn't a faithful adaptation of Shakespeare's masterpiece but it does share a similar bare bones plot.  Maybe this helps the film and maybe it doesn't, I'm not here to get into all of that.  What I'm here to do is look at the animation, the story, the characters and the music and see how they all fit to create one of the most well known Disney films and certainly one of the most successful.

So, the animation itself.  Well, Disney by now had long stopped using rotoscoped backgrounds and characters (101 Dalmatians being one of the last films to use it) and had instead moved to the more clean and polished animation that we can see in The Lion King.  Now a little known piece of trivia about this film:  The wildebeest stampede is actually CGI, not hand drawn (I mean, could you imagine trying to draw that all by hand? Nightmare!)

You could have the best animation in the world but if the story itself wasn't strong then it would be a lot of wasted effort.  As I've mentioned previously, the story is basically a child-friendly version of Hamlet.  Even if you've never read Hamlet, if you've seen the Lion King then you know the basics.  Even though it has been altered to make it, well, a cartoon and therefore suitable for children, there are still some moments that can cause a shock. Mufasa's death, Simba and Scar's fight and the chase through the Elephant Graveyard to name a few.

The characters themselves fit nicely into the regular Disney profiles; Simba is the noble hero, Nala his kickass wife, Scar the villain, Mufasa the loving parent and Timon and Pumbaa are the comic relief sidekicks. Of course, this doesn't mean that they aren't interesting characters, in fact they are some of the more likeable Disney creations who have more personality than a few of the early princes and princesses.

As with all Disney films, the music plays its part to evoke our emotional response to the events. With songs written by Sir Elton John and a score by the amazing Hans Zimmer, you'd be hard pressed not to shed a few tears or feel the relief as Simba rights his uncle's wrongs.

All of this blends together to create a film that is well deserving of its place in the Disney Animated Canon, it's one of the best classics and every child should at least know of it. It's amazing that a film as old as this can even now captivate and teach children a valuable lesson.

"Hakuna Matata"

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