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A silhouette of elands grazing in the plains with raising sun in the background inside Mas
  • Writer's pictureBryce Chismire

The Lion King - 30th Anniversary Re-review

Five years ago, I looked over The Lion King, one of Disney's all-time greatest animated films. I always had a soft spot for it for its luscious animation, exotic backgrounds, upbeat songs, and genuinely soul-stirring music. Of course, I also understand that it underwent some questioning remarks from those who wondered if this movie had more flaws than people let on. Could that be the case?

 

Well, that's what I intend to do. In honor of The Lion King's 30th anniversary, I'll dedicate my first-ever re-review of The Screened Word to reevaluate this masterpiece of Disney animation. Because this is my first-ever re-review, I'll do my best to cover new territory without repeating myself too much.

 

After finally rewatching this film from beginning to end for this occasion, do you know what I found wrong or out of alignment about this movie?

 

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.



But I'm getting ahead of myself.

 

The story is set in the African savannah, specifically among the prairies called the Pride Lands, and within a place called Pride Rock, a young lion cub named Simba was born in a royal pride of lions and was destined to become the future King of the Pride Lands. He would have overseen every nook and cranny of the lands that make up his home and tend to the most sacred natural appendage, the Circle of Life. He was taught as such by the king and his father, Mufasa, who watched over the Pride Lands and kept Simba under his watch.

 

However, as Simba became excited about becoming a future king, his uncle, Scar, looked at Simba and Mufasa with pure jealousy and devised any methods necessary to do them in so he could take over the throne. And if you can believe it, he succeeded in doing that on Mufasa in one of the most harrowing Disney scenes in history. Once that happened, Scar left a heartbroken Simba to believe he was responsible for Mufasa's death and urged him to escape the Pride Lands so he would not have been blamed or persecuted for what Simba thought he had done.

 

So, while Scar unfortunately took over Pride Rock and sent his hyena henchmen, including Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, to govern the lionesses and have them hunt for food for them, Simba ran far from home and almost starved to death before being rescued by a pair of slackers, a meerkat named Timon, and a warthog named Pumbaa. After he came to, Simba, still feeling ashamed about what had happened, refused to tell Timon and Pumbaa why he ran from home. So, what did Timon and Pumbaa do to help him? Invite him to stay with them and exalt themselves in a lifestyle they summed up as Hakuna Matata, or 'no worries.'

 

As Simba grew into adulthood, he relished this lifestyle with Timon and Pumbaa when a familiar face confronted him. It was his childhood friend, Nala, who sought help – at least when she wasn't out hunting for Scar and the hyenas – and, along with the rest of the pride, thought Simba was dead after being told so by Scar. Simba and Nala started to catch up and develop romantic feelings, while Nala also had to break the news to Simba about what went on in the Pride Lands. So, this raises the question: does Simba have what it takes to muster the courage to bring himself back home and face the disasters that befell Pride Rock? Would Scar have held on to his newfound throne forever? And what would Simba have done once he found out Scar may have been up to far less good than he had ever anticipated since his father's death?



Throughout the 30 years that The Lion King had been around, it had taken the world by storm, becoming the highest-grossing animated film of all time shortly after it came out and went so far as to inspire a Broadway show that became a smash hit all its own, raking in almost $2 billion in ticket grosses and still enchanting audiences the world over even today. So that should tell you a lot about the kind of reputation The Lion King left behind and how much of a gem in the Disney crown it has been celebrated as.

 

But now, let's get down to brass tacks here. What is it about The Lion King that is so influential, and what did it do to earn its place as a celebrated Disney film in the eyes of animation aficionados everywhere? And how about as a celebrated film, period?

 

Well, to start with, one of the most potent parts of the movie lies in the music by Hans Zimmer. At that time, often dubbed the Disney Renaissance, many Disney films had their music and songs overseen by Alan Menken. Here, Hans Zimmer took over the composition of the music. And because he's had a record of composing other films before he took on this movie, you know he's bound to infuse some more grounded and equally epic essences into The Lion King. And for what he unleashed, his music conveyed every single emotion of The Lion King to a tee. When it was lighthearted, I felt the playfulness of his music kicking in. Whenever it reached a pensive state of mind, the music reflected the introspection within the characters. Whenever it was a matter of life and death, it reflected the urgency of whatever circumstances the characters dealt with. But when it became sad or expressed melodic ties to general African folklore, the music achieved magnificence with its soul-stirring crescendos. It is some of the most ethereal music I've ever heard in a Disney film, and considering how much I adore Alan Menken's music from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, that's quite a commendable effort to say of Hans Zimmer and his efforts in this movie.

 

Speaking of music, Hans Zimmer was not the only experienced musician who partook in The Lion King. Of all the other musicians participating in The Lion King to oversee the songs, who would have thought they'd rope in Grammy-Award-winning superstar Elton John to do the honors? He composed the songs along with Tim Rice, who was already an established lyricist on Broadway and also hot off the heels of winning an Oscar with Alan Menken for 'A Whole New World' in Aladdin. And for what these two came up with together, the songs are among the most iconic ever composed for a Disney film.


To start, I bought into Simba's otherwise starry-eyed excitement about becoming a king in the musical number, 'I Just Can't Wait to Be King.' As Simba and Nala frolicked about the African Savannah, boasting about what Simba thought he could do as the future King, Zazu had to waddle up behind them in an attempt to reason with them about what it means to be a king, even if he ended up becoming the butt of the joke instead. I bought into Simba's fantasies because the backgrounds and visuals emphasized what a child would've fantasized about as Simba did about being a king and what it would have allowed him to do. After all, where else have we seen red elephants in the movie when the elephants were the natural gray everywhere else?



Scar's villain song, 'Be Prepared,' is an incredible and boastful song highlighting Scar's aspirations to do anything within his reach to become the next king of the Pride Lands and that, when push came to shove, Scar would have guaranteed to provide for his fellow hyenas once he established himself as the rightful king that Scar thought he could and should be. The inner aggression and ominous essences throughout the song help propel it into being a high-caliber villain song that more than expertly displays Scar's ambitions and the needs and wants of his hyena henchmen in a stimulating fashion.

 

The love song, 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight?', is lyrical and elegant. Bookended by Timon and Pumbaa as they sang their woes about Simba leaving them, even if it was only out of platonic reasons, the rest of the song unveiled an amicable, unfurling relationship about to bloom between Simba and Nala as they got reacquainted and started to transition from being the best of childhood friends to love interests. But whether it's by Timon and Pumbaa or Simba and Nala, once again, there's a slight breeziness to the song that left me swooning over the 'romantic atmosphere' apparent throughout.

 

As a musical number, 'Hakuna Matata' is a joyous and upbeat song that addresses in all its lightheartedness the frustrations and solutions of dealing with the world's problems. It makes the simple argument that the easiest thing to do would be to not worry about it and that as long as you don't let these problems take over your life, you are free to navigate your life however you see fit. Some people found issues with this song, but I'll get to that very soon.

 

And finally, 'Circle of Life'.

 

What can I say? This song is hands down one of the most spectacular opening numbers I've ever seen in almost any movie. It is easily up there with such opening numbers as The Sound of Music for introducing the film in such awe-inspiring fashion. It is one of those songs that clues you into the musical essence and mere story of what you're about to see in just a few notes. It is that stunning. But it only gets better. The song conveys a charming and generically existential message about the values of life, how life is what it is, and that everything going on in nature goes as only Mother Nature sees it. Everything about the song is glorious, and it sets the mood in the grandest of ways to get us all squared away for every shred of beauty The Lion King would've had in store. Also, as much as I admire the Oscar-winning 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight,' there's something about the haunting melodies and existential themes prevalent in 'Circle of Life' that leaves me feeling like it's more deserving of the Oscar for Best Original Song.

 

Of course, what we hear of the songs in the movie isn't all we hear of them.

 

In the Lion King soundtrack, Elton John performed some of the movie's songs himself. Like many of his all-time best songs, he conveyed his musical pieces with the riveting vocals and melodic integrity that made him a household name in the first place.



With 'Circle of Life,' he further elaborated on Mother Nature's more mysterious tendencies while again reaffirming the beauties to be found in their translucent state of being. With 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight?' whereas Simba, Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa's take on the song sounded more like a conventional love song, Elton John's version carries more of a cryptic and legendary style of romantic modesties. Some twinges of this song even sounded like something out of a romantic epic. And with 'I Just Can't Wait to Be King,' he went all out in the ecstasies to be felt out of anticipating what is bestowed upon you. The movie version nailed down the childlike excitement, but this version nailed down just the excitement in general.

 

As for the characters, how are they?

 

Starting with Simba, I like how rambunctious he was occasionally, mostly when he was younger. Being the prince of the Pride Lands that he was, he formerly frolicked about as any child would have done, especially with his best friend, Nala. And by the time he was guaranteed the promise of taking his father, Mufasa's, place as the future King of the Pride Lands one day, he anticipated all the perks he thought came with establishing such a title with frivolous energy.

 

I noticed many people express misgivings about Simba's behavior as a child because of how rambunctious and impulsive he was. But you know something? What kid wasn't?

 

Plus, there were times when his frivolous tendencies came back to bite him, demonstrating that he was still a kid with some things to learn. And in some ways, he needed to watch where he headed and where he slipped before becoming victimized by them, even if most of it was because of Scar's plotting. Both times, they were when Simba was tempted to explore some places that Mufasa prohibited him from exploring, whether it was the Elephant Graveyard or the gorge where he could 'practice his roar.' The gorge was a vaguer suggestion, and Scar planted the idea of the Elephant Graveyard into Simba's head, even though he did not know that the Elephant Graveyard was among the shadowy parts of the land that he was prohibited from going to. So, there's a sense that Simba was still gullible and taken advantage of without him even knowing it, not that he knew that. And because of what he thought he had done after Mufasa died, it set him off on a journey, stagnant as most of it was, to get to the bottom of whether to come clean about his crimes and, above all, whether he committed them. So, it was a fascinating journey that I've watched Simba take, and the idea of him feeling troubled with either being fooled, reckless, or guilty of something he wouldn't have imagined being guilty of displayed him in a more multifaceted, fascinating light.

 

As for Nala, her character seemed rather simplistic. Initially, she was just as wild and rowdy as her best friend was and was prone to engage in risky adventures with him that they thought seemed exciting but were rather dangerous. But as she grew up, she became a confident lioness to the point where she became a good foil for Simba. Whereas Simba was desperate to want to refrain from involving himself with Scar and the Pride Lands again because of what he thought he had done, or at least what Scar told him that he had done, Nala expressed a subtle resistance against Scar while also finding the courage to encourage Simba to head back home, even if, again, she was not aware of all the drama that went on between Simba and Scar. Regardless, her willingness still shone through and added some respectability to her as a character for me.



Mufasa was undeniably a good king. He knew how to rule the Pride Lands with honor and authority. However, as a father to Simba, he demonstrated how he could exercise his role as king to put anyone guilty of the remotest crimes or misgivings in their place, such as with the hyenas at the Elephant Graveyard. Of course, assessing his relationship with his brother, Scar, he acknowledged his shady methods, but he wasn't without some sense of obliviousness, if not naïveté, concerning Scar. So that introduced a subtle but engaging dramatic angle because of what kind of good King Mufasa was, what kind of good father he was to Simba, and what kind of threat he unwittingly posed to Scar.

 

Mufasa's majordomo, Zazu, was also a witty but highly distinguished character. The idea that he served as Mufasa's right-hand bird – or right-paw bird – while also trying to put up to either Simba's antics when he was a kid or Scar's impertinence before and after he became the king demonstrates how he had to tolerate a ton of uncertainties being hurled in his direction, whether it was for comedic or dramatic effect.

 

As for Timon and Pumbaa, I personally found those characters admirable. Outside of serving as good comic relief, I admire how Pumbaa had the hearts and considerations of others, while Timon was a bit egotistical and always claimed to be the smart one in the duo. Sometimes, it led to his vanity clashing with Pumbaa's modesties. For me, they felt goofy, charismatic, had good chemistry, and became observant enough of what went on in front of them to know how to help those who have their trust, even a lion like Simba. I still don't believe that Timon and Pumbaa were primarily responsible for keeping Simba from fulfilling his duties as the future king of the Pride Lands since Simba never clued them in on what his duties were like back home. So, again, this stemmed from miscommunications that were delivered between Scar and Simba and miscommunications that were somewhat intentional between Simba and Timon and Pumbaa, but only out of uncertainty and guilt.

 

Come to think of it, that's another reason why I cherish The Lion King so much. It highlights how crucial it is to communicate appropriately and get the message across, whether through deliberate miscommunications on Scar's part or guilt-induced miscommunications and white lies on Simba's end. It all boils down to what was shared between the characters as everyone tried to get to the bottom of whatever dilemma was afoot.

 

The mandrill, Rafiki, was also fun to watch because of his mannerisms, yet his wisdom made him look as distinguished as Zazu. Despite acting and looking like he had a screw loose, watching him do his thing proved that there was a method to his madness, especially since he tended to Simba after christening him and introducing him to the wildlife of the Pride Lands.

 

As for the hyena henchmen, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed may have felt generic, but I admire how capable they turned out to be as henchmen and also as hyenas in their own right. Shenzi provided the most morale, so to speak, and brains among the trio, for she was the one who kept Banzai and Ed in check to fulfill Scar's wishes. Banzai was the brashest of the trio, always eager to lunge out for the kill and exercise his instincts as a hyena, whether for his satisfaction or that of Scar. And with Ed, he's simply a complete goofball with almost no comprehension of anything in front of him or his hyena buddies. He seemed like the delightfully looniest of the trio to me and somehow acted more like a regular hyena than his cohorts.

 

As for the villain, Scar? Where do I begin with him? The Lion King has three aspects that are so flawless that they make the movie for me. Scar, as a character, is just one of those three.



When you look at it closely, Scar's motivations seemed petty and self-indulgent: he wanted to seize the throne from Mufasa and Simba out of jealousy. But my God, his charisma, sarcasm, manipulation, egotism, and voice performance (I'll get to that soon) are all in a league of their own. The way he exercised his dastardly deeds made it feel so juicy and yet so deeply felt that I admired him both as a character and as a foe. Being jealous is one thing, but the methods he used to ensure everything went according to plan were so subtle and diabolical that they seemed genuinely frightening to the core. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that what many people thought were the problems of the movie were the reasons Scar is so phenomenal as a villain. He knew how to exploit the hero's flaws and turn them against them, just as he had with Simba and those affected by what he had Simba do without telling them about it.

 

Not only that, but like Nala, he also served as a good foil for Simba, mainly regarding royalty management. He was always jealous of Mufasa for ruling the Pride Lands. So, he successfully killed him and worked his way up to the throne. But when he put his newfound title into practice, he completely blew at being a king, for his rulership left many of the Pride Lands barren and its inhabitants starving, even his fellow hyenas. And why do I say this makes him a good foil for Simba? As I said in my last review, Simba thought being a king meant he could do whatever he wanted until Simba eventually knew better. Yet, Scar was always convinced that being a king meant he could do whatever he wanted, no matter what. So, I like how he was a mastermind and was at his most cunning when putting it into practice, only to demonstrate his lack of knowledge and expertise when proving himself as a king once he seized the throne.

 

I also found his relationship with the hyenas most curious. Whenever they weren't with Scar, they usually complained about how they would've eaten some animals in their sight or how Scar attempted to do his thing. I found that interesting because Scar looked at the hyenas like they were dumb and brainless and were willing to follow him as long as they did his bidding. However, even though it was never mentioned in the movie, 'Be Prepared,' as it played in the soundtrack, began with what might have been Scar's inner monologue as he contemplated what the hyenas could've done. He said…

 

I never thought hyenas essential.

They're crude and unspeakably plain.

But maybe they've a glimmer of potential

if allied to my vision and brain.

 

So that tells me that Scar knew that the hyenas were not stupid and could have seen through his deceptions if they caught even a glimpse of what he did that they thought was out of line. So, for all their hilarity and goofiness as dumb-witted henchmen, the hyenas were also natural hyenas who happened to be not as dumb as Scar wanted to convince himself they were.

 

Above all, Scar's actions did more than drive forth the movie's conflict. They played an innermost role in much of the characters' individual and collective dilemmas, as if almost everything we see the characters do throughout the movie directly or indirectly tied back to what Scar plotted or achieved. That's a freaking magnificent villain!



I should also highlight the voice actors because, man, they were all on fire in this movie. Their collective contributions to their characters make them the second of the three flawless aspects that make The Lion King so masterful.

 

Let's start with Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Simba. He was a recognizable child star and icon in the early 90s, and after getting his start on shows like Home Improvement, what he brought to the table in this movie was genuinely outstanding. He nailed every childish and childlike instinct that could be conveyed through Simba and embodied his rambunctiousness and arrogance while highlighting his insecurities. And once you see Simba mourning Mufasa's death after finding his corpse, Jonathan Taylor Thomas brought forth all the emotions to be experienced out of a child grieving his parents' death to a tee. He captured every grieving inflection that could be expected out of him perfectly.

 

Once Simba grew up, Matthew Broderick came forth to do the voice of Simba, and for what he alone provided to Simba, he excelled at bringing him to life as an adult the same way Thomas did when he was a kid. Like Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Broderick brought forth an inner-child-like essence to Simba, only in his case, it was similar to what he established as Ferris Bueller. But that's not all that Broderick conveyed in character. When Simba was cornered about his insecurities and had to rack his brains over what he confronted, whether in the past or in front of him, Broderick nailed down Simba's insecurities and problems with his past and present very well. His performance helped me get in touch with Simba's inner demons while he tried to stay where he was most comfortable, confronted the source of what Simba thought he did in the past, or upheld what he was expected to back home.

 

James Earl Jones hit a home run as Mufasa. He carried forth the prowess of a king and enough modesties and good-hearted instincts to unveil Mufasa's personality and not just his position. Whenever you hear his booming voice, you'd feel like you're listening to the voice of a king. However, you can also feel the tenderness of a father trying to reason with his son or some of his followers. He practically conveyed every aspect of Mufasa with grace and purity, and it cemented Jones' role as his other most iconic role outside of Darth Vader in Star Wars because of this.

 

The voice actresses who played Nala also did an excellent job. The actress who played Nala as a young kid, Niketa Calame, expressed enough childlike modesties to highlight her youthful intuitions while conveying a slight levelheadedness to Nala. Meanwhile, Moira Kelly brought forth all the levelheadedness that was apparent within Nala from the start and brought it into full play when she confronted Simba about why he hadn't returned home and why he had spent most of his life in the jungles with Timon and Pumbaa.


Speaking of whom, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella were just in a class of their own whenever they played Timon and Pumbaa. Their vocal chemistry brought countless comedic energy to these characters, and every time they talked to each other or with other characters, they had the time of their lives just letting loose as their characters. Outside of hitting it out of the park as a duo, they also worked individually as their characters, which returns to how well they worked together with what they had. Nathan Lane brought Timon to life with his comedic timing mixed with his cockiness. In contrast, Ernie Sabella brought Pumbaa to life with his more humble sense of humor mixed with his more sensible tendencies.



Of all the actors to portray Zazu, I never suspected Rowan Atkinson, AKA Mr. Bean and Blackadder, to have done so. But watching Zazu again, I admire how much professionalism and class he provided to Zazu. He conveyed his second-in-command ethics while also expressing some of his humorous quirks typical of a hornbill who'd become the butt of the joke more times than he'd have liked to count. I generally respected his comedic timing and performances, and I like how it all started with what I felt out of his performance as Zazu.


I am also fond of the voice actors who played the hyenas. Shenzi, the more sensible and levelheaded of the hyenas, was given such a personality thanks to Whoopi Goldberg. She was terrific in conveying Shenzi's sinister instincts while expressing another level of authority with her, like she knew when to rope her hyena buddies back into place before they went too wild. Cheech Marin was also terrific in conveying Banzai and his desperate personality. You can feel his reckless yet almost whiny edge whenever he portrayed Banzai, almost like a teenager ready for action. It was also funny whenever he had to deal with hyenas like Ed, whose voice was done by Jim Cummings, and he played this character with barely anything to say, just the wackiest and craziest of expressions you can imagine out of this hyena.

 

Robert Guillaume sounded like he wore his role as the allegedly eccentric Rafiki like a badge of honor. With his wild energy, upbeat attitude, good-natured humor, and wacky instincts, he brought Rafiki to life with his seemingly unknowing and wacky personality, except he conveyed it all with an undertone that slowly unveiled solid wisdom in his voice, kind of like what Frank Oz conveyed out of Yoda in the Star Wars movies. On the outside, Rafiki would've felt like just a wacky animal. But once you get to know him more, he'd completely surprise you with how knowledgeable he was as a family friend of Mufasa and his pride. So, he sounded like he had fun bringing Rafiki to life, too.

 

Last but not least, let's talk about Jeremy Irons as Scar. He breathed nothing but pure life into this studious lion. Everything he said, how he emoted them, and how he expressed them through Scar were the reasons I had fallen in love with him despite all his heinous actions. Much like Tony Jay with Frollo, he brought forth enough vocal charisma, devious instincts, and sly remarks to add delectable flavoring to this villain. I could feel Scar's cunning, authority, and power whenever he spoke. However, whereas James Earl Jones' voice carried the prowess of a king and the sensibilities of a father, Jeremy Irons' voice had the presence of a king but the slippery undertones of a traitor hungry for power. So, what does that say about Scar altogether? Well, long story short…



As for the third flawless aspect that cements The Lion King as a masterpiece? That would be the animation and backgrounds, which leap out of the screen with vivid expressions and colors that pop out at you. The characters' animation is smooth, elegant, distinct, natural, and grounded enough to feel like you are watching these characters roam about in the African plains.

 

And as for the backgrounds themselves, they are amazing. The landscapes, atmosphere, greenery, natural elements, everything about them just screamed pure Africana. They brought forth the most size to this movie, for they'd make you feel like you were transported into Africa's uncivilized and beauteous elements where the most wondrous of wildlife runs rampant. Piecing them together with the Circle of Life philosophy would help you appreciate the natural cycle and aspects of how life works in a new way. It's especially noticeable when it starts to feel a little barren, like with the Elephant Graveyard or on the outskirts of the Pride Lands. That was when you could feel their foreboding presence because of how dark, murky, and unforgiving they looked.

 

And when you look at how the Pride Lands came to be after Scar's rule, what he and the hyenas left behind would tell you right away how reckless his rulership had become, not only to the animals who lived there but also to the lands themselves. It may be because of the overeating typical of the hyenas, but that'll tell you right away just what kind of pathetic ruler Scar proved himself to be. Ironically, even the desert areas seemed to convey some life despite feeling more barren than the other environments combined. Something about the ground's colors and texture seemed bright yet colorful enough to leave you slightly intrigued enough to want to know what would happen to those who wandered there.

 

The homeland where Timon and Pumbaa lived also demonstrated such striking beauty as the Pride Lands did, except there, they just leaped forth with every semblance of vegetation, which makes you feel like you're wandering through a more exotic jungle. The backgrounds were even kind enough to reflect the romantic urges in Simba's and Nala's reacquainted love affair. So, they did an exquisite job of amplifying African nature to its most visually sumptuous and conveying the appropriate moods with the characters.



Getting back to Hakuna Matata, I've noticed many people complain that the song and the proposed philosophy are seemingly flawed, being that even though it guarantees you a way away from the world's problems and that it would safeguard you from harm, it turns out that's it's just that: it safeguards you from harm. While Hakuna Matata was not ill-intentioned - after all, it proposed the idea of finding some shelter away from life's problems, especially if they seem too overwhelming to handle - what we see with Simba shows that it can do more harm than good. And, yes, that is problematic, especially since Simba had some major issues he had to deal with back home regarding Scar and told Timon and Pumbaa about it.

 

Oh, wait. I remember now. Simba never told Timon or Pumbaa about his problems back home, did he? The closest he ever clued them in on his life back home, his problems, and what he ran away from went like this…

 

Pumbaa: What'd you do, kid?

Simba: Something terrible. But I don't want to talk about it.

Pumbaa: Anything we can do?

Simba: Not unless you can change the past.

 

…and that's it. Because of this, Simba's cryptic answer made Timon and Pumbaa assume that the problems Simba ran away from could be any problem, not unlike what Timon and Pumbaa might've run away from. Of course, Timon and Pumbaa were never specific about the issues they ran away from. The closest we ever got to that was Pumbaa being the laughingstock among the African wildlife because of his gas problem. With Simba, the issues he ran away from were huge. But Simba made them think that it was not something that should be worth fretting about when really, it is. It's like Simba thought to himself,

 

I cannot go back home again for what I did, so whatever it is you guys have, I could use some of that.

 

And as for what people say or insist Hakuna Matata is all about, and that it, well, endorses dodging responsibilities? Even though Timon said it was one of the benefits of Hakuna Matata…

 

This is the great life. No rules, no responsibilities … and best of all, no worries.

 

…he said so under the belief that it could be any rules and responsibilities not worth losing sleep over. And because Simba thought indulging in the Hakuna Matata lifestyle would help him not deal with his problems, I think Timon and Pumbaa would have looked at it differently if he had clued them in on what kind of responsibilities he ran away from. This begs the question: When would Timon and Pumba have caught on to Simba's problems back home and the type of lifestyle he left behind?

 

The answer is: not until Nala brought it up first during her and Simba's reunion. At first, Timon and Pumbaa thought it was just a joke, but only then did they comprehend the severity of Simba's problems back home, especially when they joined them on Pride Rock.

 

So, are Timon and Pumbaa to blame for Simba frolicking about with them for as long as he stayed with them? I still don't believe so. Even though they said that Hakuna Matata meant 'no worries' and living a life of leisure and luxury without needing to be rattled over the commonplace problems of the world, nor should they be worried about any rules or responsibilities they need to tend to while they're at it, I still look at Timon and Pumbaa like they meant to afford a lifestyle centered around what they themselves described as a problem-free philosophy. Besides, they possibly started the Hakuna Matata lifestyle as their way of coping with whatever problems came about, or at least, their ways of dealing with their problems. They took Simba's problems somewhat seriously, though, when they were finally revealed to them, especially since Simba made it look like it was about as commonplace a problem as what Timon and Pumbaa have dealt with before. So, all in all, I still think Timon and Pumbaa had their hearts in the right place, faulty as their solutions were.

 

Timon and Pumbaa's reactions to the idea of Simba being the king tell me that…

 

A.   They established their Hakuna Matata lifestyles to cope with and avoid problems that they couldn't fix or deal with. Whereas, when they discovered Simba's lifestyle back home as a king after hearing it through Nala, they realized that the problems and responsibilities Simba ran away from were way too big to run away from. And…

B.    Because those are Simba's problems as a technical king, they realized that for every issue that cannot be dealt with and should best be left alone, their questioning Simba about his problems as a future king tells me that even they know that some of Simba's problems back home can be salvaged, unlike what Simba made them believe his problems turned out to be after all.

 

So, rather than being overrated, I find Timon, Pumbaa, and Hakuna Matata more misunderstood.

 

Plus, the fault might be more on Simba than on Timon and Pumbaa. It's not so much about Timon and Pumbaa proposing a flawed philosophy and unknowingly entrapping Simba with it but rather about Simba being so guilt-ridden that he got the wrong idea about what he thought the philosophy proposed and ran with it.

 

It's funny. Some of the problems I've seen people have with Hakuna Matata may be what makes Simba such a fascinating character. And what's more, some of the issues I've seen so many people complain about regarding Simba's character or even the story may be why Scar is such a fascinating, exemplary villain from Disney.

 

However, this leads us to one other aspect of the movie that I found most compelling: its interpersonal dynamics.



We know too well the dynamics between Mufasa and Simba and those between Simba, Mufasa, and Scar. But I find Simba's dynamics with Scar and those with Timon and Pumbaa the most fascinating.

 

Think of it this way. Scar planted a lie in Simba's head and told him he was responsible for his father's death by bringing Simba out into the canyons so that Simba and Mufasa would die in the stampede. While Scar failed to kill Simba, he succeeded in killing Mufasa, but Simba never knew that, and he ran away from home under the false belief Scar left him with that he did indeed kill his father, as accidental as he thought it was. And because of his shame, he was never specific about it with Timon or Pumbaa, and he took advantage of Hakuna Matata's promises of fleeing from the world's problems, thinking it would've helped him. At first, he seemed content with this lifestyle. But when the past came back to haunt him, especially after Nala brought it up first, he was still unsure of what to say about what he thought he was guilty of, thinking it would have turned off Timon and Pumbaa, especially Nala. Why? Because he still believed what Scar told him, and all the interpersonal conflicts he dealt with for two-thirds of the movie were because of Scar's sense of manipulation, for he tricked him into believing that he killed his father when it was Scar who did it.

 

And then, when Simba finally decided to own up to his mistakes – at least, his mistakes of running away from home, if not the faults he thought he was responsible for – he voluntarily went back to confront Scar about it. But it took some significant hurdles for Simba to go through, such as how Simba should finally come clean about what he thought he was responsible for, only to be cornered by Scar in a last-ditch effort to finally kill Simba, and that's because he thought the hyenas had killed off Simba as Scar ordered them to do. And when Scar was in his gloating phase and whispered into Simba's ear that he was responsible for Mufasa's death, thinking it'll be the last thing he hears before he dies, it backfired on him tremendously. Instead, it prompted Simba to rally his strength, pin Scar down, and force him to confess, which instantly rallied Sarabi, his mother, and the other lionesses into action.

 

See, what happened was that the lionesses expressed evident contempt against Scar and the hyenas for dictating their lifestyles and ravaging the Pride Lands of its food source and water. Even some of the hyenas were starting to be at the end of their rope with Scar's overbearing methods of searching for food. So, once Simba talked to Mufasa in the clouds, or potentially his idea of Mufasa when he saw him in the clouds, he ultimately concluded that he had to go back and face his past. That tells me he was willing to return and face his past, come what may. Even if it meant he would've been caught in a hurdle because of his efforts, that still tells me he was willing to try. Sure, he did not know what kind of challenges he was in for, especially since there were other things about how his guilt complex came to be that he had to deal with. Still, it is respectable to see when you see Simba voluntarily want to face the source of his past to set things right and put things behind him for good.

 

In my opinion, it introduces a compelling display of internal and external conflicts between the characters in the movie. Watching them try to work them out between each other until they finally get to the bottom of what happened, who was responsible for what, and what must be done because of that makes for a fascinating display of emotions and inter-character dynamics.



To wrap this specific topic up, one of the motivations that prompted Simba to head back home to fix the mess, as Rafiki gave him, is a beautiful statement in and of itself.

 

The past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.

 

And I sure learned a lot as I watched the climax unfold the way it had. Whether that's the real message of the movie or not, it's an essential reminder of how crucial it is to confront something uncertain or confusing, if not off-putting, to resolve things and put them at ease.

 

Many people say that the message of The Lion King is to own up to your mistakes and learn from them, but somehow, I don't believe the "owning up to your mistakes" portion is the right way to look at it. If there were any mistakes for Simba to own up to, it would more likely be not the crimes he thought he was responsible before - that's what Scar wanted him to believe - but rather for the fact that Simba ran away from catastrophes with which he was connected, whether he was responsible for them or not. Besides, it does help that he returned home to own up to his responsibilities because then, it helped him discover the source of and get to the roots of his trauma and how Scar seized the throne to begin with, hence Simba's decision over whether to 'run from it or learn from it.'

 

For all the confusion and complaints about the Hakuna Matata lifestyle, Timon, Pumbaa, or the message's ultimate landing, what Simba went through to get to the finish line is so overwhelmingly intriguing that it doesn't matter. It's not the destination, it's the journey.



Some parts of the movie may feel a bit convoluted, especially where certain parts have been brought to the center of attention, like Hakuna Matata or the climax of the message. But I get the impression that it's been heavily debated because what everybody thought they felt about this movie aligned with how Simba and the other characters felt in these situations. If a movie has it where everything that went on felt as messy as it did because that's how Simba and the others felt about it when they experienced it, then that tells me the movie hit bullseyes in conveying realistic situations with realistic responses. On top of that, everything they were relaying about what they thought the movie meant, I don't think describing it would do it any justice. I think they were mainly going by what they felt from the movie, and that's where the movie also really strikes gold big time. The Lion King was masterful in making you feel everything you're supposed to feel throughout the movie, from the joys to the heartbreak, the slight queasiness, and the utter confusion that went on, and the feelings are mutual and universal.

 

And that's why The Lion King works so well. Getting to the core truths takes a lot of digging, but you can feel the subtle instincts pulling through in the character's expressions and decisions.

 

Now, you don't have to take my or anyone else's word for it. Just experience The Lion King for yourself, and you'll see what I mean.

 

Ever since I was a kid, I have fallen in love with this movie because of its bright colors, expressive energy, compelling characters, intriguing scenarios, and overall beauty of atmosphere. And the music reeled me in, too.


However, I eventually understood how huge an impact this movie had on so many people. Little did I know that throughout my college years - and the Hero's Journey course I took during then helped, too - I figured out what else worked so well about The Lion King that I had not anticipated to have unveiled about it: its influences.


 

Getting back to Simba returning home to face his past, Simba voluntarily returning home to face his past was a significantly massive step forward. However, the film still showed that it wouldn't guarantee that he'd have been out of the woods yet and that there were still some other challenges he had to go through before he could finally feel at peace with himself. And that's where Scar's last-ditch efforts to manipulate Simba and the lionesses kicked in. That's one last challenge Simba had to face before he could claim what was rightfully his and what Scar seized from him when he was a child.

 

Outside of adding a refreshing dosage of realism into the picture, that's a common theme in other mythological tales of heroes conquering evil. For all this time, I was amazed by Simba's journey into the African savannahs and deserts to find refuge, only to discover his true calling and return home to set things right.

 

More importantly, one of the biggest reasons this movie was such a masterpiece was that, unlike many of the Disney films that came before it, they were all based on fairy tales or novels, whereas The Lion King was primarily an original story. Let's ignore the 'Kimba: The White Lion' controversy and focus on the bigger picture. The Lion King was an original story with original characters in an exotic place, and one of the reasons it worked so well in terms of its story is because it took inspiration from several classic sources, including the stories of Joseph and Moses from the Bible, and more famously, William Shakespeare's Hamlet. If you compare these two, you'll notice how alike these two stories are, with the uncle killing the hero's father and the hero vowing vengeance upon the uncle for slaying him and taking over the throne. The influences are very apparent here. Even better, producer Don Hahn and the animators took several sources from The Hero with a Thousand Faces to help them form the story that would have made up The Lion King. And you know who else did the same thing?

 

George Lucas with Star Wars. If you're ever wondering what kind of likenesses The Lion King could possibly share with Star Wars, this is it. The Hero's Journey, as Joseph Campbell described it, contributed to the movie's long-lasting legacy and injection of pure, unadulterated aspirations of heroism and conquering evil. While The Lion King did a great job of adhering to the core beats of the Hero's Journey, it also threw in enough twists and turns to help keep the action and story fresh, not just in terms of conventional and traditional storytelling but also among Disney's sense of storytelling. That may be my college experience in me talking, but is it any wonder how The Lion King works as well as it does?

 

Of course, the movie’s general reputation went through some intriguing detours every once in a while.

 

On New Year’s Day of 2003, like Beauty and the Beast the year before, The Lion King was remastered and released into IMAX theatres in a Special Edition format. By that, I mean it was re-released on the big screen with a newly animated musical number added to the film. In the case of both movies, it was a song taken directly from their Broadway counterpart. Beauty and the Beast came forth with ‘Human Again.’ While its animation and voice performances do seem a tad different from how it was when the film first came out, it still did a great job of complementing the songs that ended up in the final cut of Beauty and the Beast and its story.

 

With The Lion King, the musical number implemented into the film was ‘Morning Report,’ sung by Zazu. Of course, whereas ’Human Again’ felt like an adequate addition for conveying more dynamics with the supporting characters worth shedding light upon, ’Morning Report’ barely added anything of value to the movie. All it did was recite Zazu’s pun-filled morning report from the original film except as a musical number. Ironically, Morning Report ended up being dropped in future renditions of the Broadway musical, probably because many other people caught on to how generally pointless the song was, especially when comparing it to the whole slew of iconic stage-exclusive musical numbers that studded The Lion King further than the movie did.

 

If they wanted to strengthen the film’s musical and narrative merits for the IMAX screens, wouldn’t ‘The Madness of King Scar’ or ‘He Lives in You’ have made for more appropriate songs to add to the film?

 

Be that as it may, though, I loved it ever since I saw it as a little kid, and revisiting it after so many years, I still fall in love with it as an adult. Whoever grew up with The Lion King can attest to the power of good storytelling, good animation, good music, good characters, good voice work, and a whole range of different vocals and instincts necessary to pull off the big stops and deliver one of the most powerful and emotionally fulfilling movies anyone would have ever seen. And after putting up with the embarrassingly blank-eyed live-action remake that came about by Jon Favreau, and with another potentially soulless follow-up on the horizon, that statement still holds true with the original Lion King. Everything the original Lion King did so masterfully is nothing a few convolutions would derail; whatever it did right, it did right. While others wouldn't be wrong to say the movie isn't perfect, I say it almost is, and its power as a movie reverberated with so many people no matter when or how they first experienced it.

 

I have been having a blast with The Lion King since I was first introduced to it, and I have held it dear to my heart for 30 years because of that.

 

All I can say is, long live The Lion King!


My Rating

A low A+



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