It is a universal fact known amongst my friends, that if they mention any film of the past hundred years, I will probably never have seen it. I am unashamed to admit that this also includes any and all Disney films (excluding Cinderella 2 and The Lady and the Tramp 3, where I had no idea what was going on due to my lack of knowledge of the original films.) The greatest shock however, came when I told my pals that I had never seen the classic that is The Lion King. There was shock, amazement and a great amount of tears when this blasphemy against the great gods of Disney was revealed. I immediately decided it was time to right this great wrong, and brave the modern classic.
For those of you whose childhoods were apparently as deprived as mine, and so not to provide too many spoilers, The Lion King follows the life of a small vocally-talented lion cub called Simba whose father, Mufasa, is King of Pride Rock. Due to the actions of his evil uncle Scar, who wants to become King himself, Simba is driven from the kingdom until forced to return to claim his rightful place.
“At times I found myself glad I hadn’t watched Lion King when I was younger, as it would have inevitably left me in tears”
In some ways, the film was exactly how I’d expected it to be. There was singing, odd animalistic dancing and bottom waving, whilst the star of the show was a crazy baboon. However, it was a shock to see how overtly moralistic the story is. For me, the film created a distinctly philosophical view towards life, and containing very mature themes for a children’s film. Death, destruction, dictatorship and danger were all prevalent. From the Nazi-esque march of the hyenas under the new King Scar, to the surprisingly poignant scenes between Mufasa and Simba after the wildebeest stampede, at times I found myself glad I hadn’t watched Lion King when I was younger, as it would have inevitably left me in tears. Is Disney sure this is a story for children? To me, it appears far too sinister.
The animation was also slightly odd and clunky. At times clumsy to the point of annoyance, occasionally beautifully memorable, with stunning landscapes depicted in the background, and at others weirdly hallucinogenic. The bright swirling colours, use of African animals’ wacky markings and constant movement meant for at least half of the film, I felt sure I was experiencing lion-related illusions dancing across my television.
My cynical side also made an appearance whilst watching, and I found myself asking questions which, for me, were problematic obstacles in my enjoyment of this film. Prime examples include; can lions actually cry? But surely lionesses have more than one cub in a litter? Why are Timon and Pumbaa so annoying? Surely Simba would have eaten them by now if he’d been starving in a desert? And why does Simba’s singing voice sound like Michael Jackson in his younger years?
Overall, The Lion King was a surprisingly mature film, which grappled with intense themes. From slow-motion feline fight scenes, to vital life lessons, The Lion King combined (in a round-about way) the genres of rom-com, animation, crime thriller and murder mystery, to create a poignant and ultimately feel-good film. It also taught me a great many things; namely that Scar’s fantastic one-liners can be used for any real-life situation. So next time my friends comment on my lack of film expertise, I can respond in a knowledgeable way “I’m surrounded by idiots,” before heading off to sing along to some Elton John.