|Dangling baby scenes were made for 3D|
The Lion King stands out amongst Disney's animated films for many reasons, especially its plot. This is not an adaptation of a fairy tale or book. This is a completely original story, and any similarities you see to Hamlet, Biblical characters, or a long-running anime are
|"Come on, son. Let's eat one of our subjects."|
|Yeah, he looks guilt-ridden|
One of The Lion King's most famous attributes is the soundtrack, which featured songs written by Elton John, with lyrics by Tim Rice. Personally, I usually overlook the songs in most Disney movies --- they're okay, I guess, but nothing I'd put on my iPod --- but this soundtrack was hugely popular. It's actually the only animated movie soundtrack to become Diamond certified by the RIAA. So, how is it? Pretty solid. Despite my normal aversion to Elton John, I have to admit that I enjoy "The Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata;" the rest of the songs are fine, but those are the standouts to me. Even after all this time, the African chants that start "The Circle of Life" (and the film itself) still sound pretty cool.
The Lion King followed the immensely popular Aladdin, and (perhaps inspired by Robin Williams' popularity) featured the highest-profile voice cast of any Disney movie to date. The booming voice of James Earl Jones was perfect as the regal Mufasa. Jeremy Irons was even better as the dastardly Scar. This is one of my favorite villain performances (animated or otherwise) because Irons makes Scar seem so happy to be evil. It helps that he murders his brother and, in a masterly stroke, puts the blame on a child, but the fact that he obviously loves being a class-A jerk is what separates him from other ambitious killers.
|Actor name anagram game: Jeremy's Iron|
|Guess which one was funny? That's right, neither professional comedian.|
Direction in animated movies is a little strange, since it seems to be more of a leadership role than a singular artistic vision. Whatever the case behind the scenes, co- directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff did a very good job blending the bleak, dramatic story with kid-friendly humor and songs. Do you really need more than that from the directors of your Disney animated movie? I think not.
|If Simba remembered "The Circle of Life," his friends would be dinner|
There are some odd aspects to The Lion King, though. Yeah, I understand that this is a children's movie, so we won't be seeing Simba disemboweling Dumbo. Still, there are a few times where the lions reference eating other animals, even after we've seen anthropomorphized versions of the animals on-screen. That's an unusual amount of cognitive dissonance for a cartoon. I am also frequently amused by how nature responds positively to the heroic carnivores in this film, and so very, very negatively to Scar's team. After Pride Rock becomes a barren wasteland, what exactly does Simba do to turn it back into an Eden-like paradise? At a glance, I would assume the area needed new topsoil and irrigation, neither of which are in the wheelhouse of most lions.
|No offense, kid|
But who really cares about any of that? The Lion King is arguably the best late-period Disney movie, but it is also unarguably the line in the sand for the company; after this point, Disney animated films would lose their power and stature, while digitally animated films would rapidly ascend to the artistic levels (and beyond) of this very enjoyable kid's movie. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the 3D effects were okay --- fairly innocuous background stuff, mostly --- and the child-filled audience was pretty damn adorable to listen to. I don't know if I needed a singalong to "Hakuna Matata," but it's hard to get upset at so many fully engaged kids.