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LAF’s Wonderful Week of Disney begins next week and it begs for an homage to a Disney classic celebrating a momentous milestone. This year marks the twentieth birthday of The Lion King. This statement alone would be enough to send most into a massive nostalgia trip, looking back on all the great memories the film left with us.
For many, the tragic death of Mufasa early on in the film remains one of the saddest moments ever in a children’s movie, and Jeremy Irons’ chilling performance as Scar gave many of us goose bumps in our youths, especially in his villainous statement-of-purpose, “be prepared.”
First, something must be said this is not a kid’s movie. Any who have seen the film as an adult should agree. It is a kid-friendly movie whose full impact will only be felt by adults.
With a script based on Hamlet mixed with some remarkable and disturbing imagery in the final confrontation and in the elephant graveyard – not to mention the traumatizing aforementioned death of Mufasa – this is a film with grownup content.
The Lion King was initially expected to fail. Pocahontas was also being made at the time, and most of Disney’s veteran animators, believing that the project would be more successful, signed on with that team. Lion King was animated by a team consisting primarily of young, new animators, who gave the film a visual flair that set it apart from other Renaissance films – a statement which is hard to qualify, but the colors in the unrestored version are far more striking and mood-setting than in earlier films like Beauty and the Beast. When Pocahontas made less than a third of the money that Lion King did, this brighter style was adopted for most of the rest of the Renaissance films.
Everyone has their favorite song, whether it be the worry-free “Hakuna Matata” or the iconic “Circle of Life,” and we all know the familiar “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba” (the opening song’s Zulu lyrics). The images of life around Pride Rock remains one of the most beautiful Disney animated scenes ever made.
These moments are perfectly animated and voiced. Memories such as Simba’s final showdown with Scar and the entire romantic sequence set to “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” Makes this film one of the most enduring films in the minds of children from the ‘90s.
In another twenty years, this movie will still be fresh in many of our minds. We will show it to our children and grandchildren, and encourage them to share it with theirs. The musical will probably still be on Broadway, and Disney will keep re-releasing re-mastered versions, and the memories created by this movie will find new life in new generations. And the circle of life will begin again.