Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: The Lion King

Walt Disney Animation Studio's 32nd feature film.
Walt Disney Animation Studio’s 32nd feature film.

http://www.cornel1801.com/disney/Lion-King-1994/movie-film.html

My opinion right after watching film

My opinion right after watching the film is that it has never been one of my favourites or first picks, and it still is not. Something about this film always…….bored me, and now I realize what it is; Simba. The plot is really good and establishes the theme of Circle of Life, though I do think it gets a bit too choppy. A great film, sure, but I do not really see how this is the Magnum Opus.

Production

The idea for this film was conceived in late 1988 when they were promoting Oliver and Company. Katzenberg, Disney (Roy), and Schneider came up with an idea of a film in Africa. In November of that ear, a story called King of the Kalahari was brought to the company, and from then, it was confirmed. The story was going to be very different from the one we got now; with Timon and Pumba being Simba’s childhood friends, Scar being the leader of the baboons, and Simba turning into a horrible character after Mufasa’s death.

Around 1991/1992, the film was changed to be a musical, which caused conflicts amongst the crew, and caused some of them to leave. Disney’s B team was working on this film at the time, as everyone else was more excited for Pocahontas, as they thought the latter would be the bigger success. They took a trip to Africa in 1991 for inspiration in the drawings and the script.  The real development of the film started when Pocahontas did in 1990 (as in the 88 board meeting, Aladdin was chosen over The Lion King). In 1992, many changes were made to the film, which ended up being the final product that we have now.

Many of the workers did not want to be working on this film, and it was seen as a secondary project; like The Rescuers Down Under. They brought lions in the studio (like they did with Bambi in the 40s) to study animal movement and behavior.

Story

So the movie starts with the entire Pride Land going to Pride rock to meet Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Sarabi (Madge Sinclair)’s newborn son and future king Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick), and this all carries through the song of Circle of Life (which is the theme of the entire film), which is a good song. Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) walked up to the baby to put some fruit juice on him, and raising him for the entire Pride to see.

Uncle of Simba and distant brother of Mufasa, Scar (Jeremy Irons) missed out on his nephew’s presentation to the kingdom. Mufasa’s messenger Zazu (Rowan Atkinson) lets Scar know about Mufasa’s arrival, for him to be almost eaten by Scar. When Mufasa shows up, he demands his right hand ass kisser man to be let go. He is pissed that his brother was not at the event, and Scar retaliated by him being the first in line, before the hairball was born, and they have an exchange about not turning their back on one another. They almost fight, but Scar throws a passive aggressive remark of Mufasa getting the strength of the family, while he got the brains.

I love how you can feel the oozing tension and disdain between the two of them. They interact like siblings who have an intense rivalry.
I love how you can feel the oozing tension and disdain between the two of them. They interact like siblings who have an intense rivalry.

Years later, Simba runs to his father in dawn to obnoxiously wake him up for their lesson. Mufasa spends the morning teaching Simba about the rise and fall of a king, with Mufasa telling his son that he will fall tomorrow for Simba to rise, and also about the Circle of Life, and how everything has a balance and cycle.As Zazu explains to the older man about the status of the kingdom, they share another father-son moment, when Mufasa teaches Simba how to hunt. Mufasa has to leave to get rid of the Hyenas, causing Simba to go to Scar. It is so clear that Scar dislikes Simba in this little scene. Scar accidentally reveals to the cub about the Elephant Yard, and to never go there; knowing he will go there (he made a plan for the Hyenas to kill Simba there).

Simba runs to his satellite love interest who is only in 3 scenes friend Nala (Nikita Calame and Moira Kelly) who is getting a bath from her mother Sarafina (Zoe Leader) who was probably having a gossip session about how their prophet Mufasa is really good providing for them and the tribe; if you know what I mean. He is the only man in the tribe, and the sole male lion conceives with all the other female lions. Simba is forced to take a bath, and when he asks them for him and Nala to go to the “waterhole”, his mother agrees, only for Zazu to go with them.

You see, children in films in general fits in under 3 categories: 1. Unbelievably bland 2. Unbelievably obnoxious 3. An actual realistic, complex child Simba falls under the second category, and that shows in I Just Can't Wait to be King. He is ot overly irritating, but he talks about how he wants to be a "main event", and everythign about him. Poeple say that ALL children act liek that, but that is a stereotype to children, as I amd most of the other children do not act like this. I am glad they toned the obnoxiousness of Simba down after this.
You see, children in films in general fits in under 3 categories:
1. Unbelievably bland
2. Unbelievably obnoxious
3. An actual realistic, complex child
Simba falls under the second category, and that shows in I Just Can’t Wait to be King. He is to overly obnoxious, but he talks about how he wants to be a “main event”, and everything about him. People say that ALL children act like that, but that is a stereotype to children, as I and most of the other children do not act like this. I am glad they toned the obnoxiousness of Simba down after this.

Simba and Nala manage to ditch Zazu, and they play around aggressively, only for Nala to constantly pin him to the floor, They end up falling into the Elephant grave, and getting into trouble with the Hyenas. Zazu catches up to them, and the hyenas taunt Simba. Soon enough, Mufasa shows up to beat their ass. He is pissed at Simba for disobeying him and for dragging Nala into a dangerous situation as well. I do understand Simba wanted to do this to be brave, but COMMON FUCKING SENSE. He demands Zazu to take Nala home so he can teach Simba a lesson about the Kings being in the sky after they die, and that you are not brave for looking for trouble. They end up playing around, while Scar is planning their deaths, who is not pleased that they failed at killing Simba.

He has planned to kill his nephew for 2 consecutive days now. Has he been doing this from the day he was born?
He has planned to kill his nephew for 2 consecutive days now, and tried it for 2 consecutive days. Has he been doing this from the day he was born?

So Scar gets Simba to come with him to the gorge, and for him to wait there because his father has a surprise for him. I am confused; it seems like Simba and Scar see on another often, which is weird since Scar clearly hates Simba, and Mufasa knows that. Anyways, Scar has his hyenas on the grass fields to scare the crap out of the wildebeests to run into the gorge to trample BOTH Simba and Mufasa. The plan is successful, as Simba is running from the herd, and Scar tells Mufasa that Simba is in the gorge where the stampede is, leading the older lion to go there.

Mufasa manages to save Simba, and clutch onto a cliff for dear life, but his brother shows up and takes out the King with this quote “Long live the king”, throwing him off to his death by being trampled by all those wildebeests, with Simba screaming as he saw his father fall to his death. After the gorge is empty, Simba runs to his father to attempt to wake him up, only for Scar to show up and to blame everything on Simba.

PLOTHOLE. There is an issue with this. Scar BROUGHT SIMBA to the gorge, and TOLD HIM to wait there. He did as what he was told. How is this his fault? Simba is not that young to forget the events? This is not a small issue, because the rest of the film is based off of this error.
PLOTHOLE. There is an issue with this. Scar BROUGHT SIMBA to the gorge, and TOLD HIM to wait there. He did as what he was told. How is this his fault? Simba is not that young to forget the events? This is not a small issue, because the rest of the film is based off of this error.

So Scar tells Simba to run off (with the hyenas trying to kill him), and hat causes him to pass out and almost get eaten by vultures, to be saved by Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella). Oh lord; I am going to say that these two are not as funny as they were when I was younger. They keep him because it will be good to have a lion on their side -_-. So they get Simba, and get him to stay with them. He is soon revealed ot have learned the lesson of Hakuta Matata (no worries; leave your past behind, have no responsibilities), and spends half of his life with this lesson. So Simba is an adult, who eats worms, has no cares, and practically no personality from when he was a child or at all.

Timon and Pumbaa end up coming cross a lioness, who is extremely hungry, but is stopped when he get a fight with Simba (who went to protect his friends). Because he lost to a girl and got pinned, he realized that it is Nala. Timon gets jealous that their trio has turned into a quartet…to only turn into a duo, when Nala and Simba want to talk and hang out on their own. Pumbaa has no issue with this, but is convinced by Timon that their trio will be down to two; via the song Can You Feel The Love.

There is a big chance that they consummated their love during this song.
There is a big chance that they consummated their love during this song.

While all of that is happening it is revealed that there is a drought in the kingdom, causing many to die off, or leave the pride. Scar is not doing anything about it because he is king, and wants his title. So after Simba and Nala pulled a Lady and the Tramp Bella Notte move, they get into an argument about him abandoning his duties as a king, and he tells her to screw off because she does not understand something about an event, that…never happened the way he thought it happened.

Simba walks away from Nala to only bump into Rafiki; who he thinks is a nut. He practically tells Simba that his father lives in him, and that he needs to learn from his past after facing it. Mufasa comes from the sky (like he told him all the previous kings are there when they die) to tell him to go and fulfill his destiny. So he runs, runs, and runs to the Pride Rock, and to return when Scar and Sarabi get into an exchange about the Pride needing to leave the rock because there is no food, and Sarabi spitting out that Mufasa is twice the king Scar is, resulting in a slap in the face.

Simba goes to confront Scar, for his nerves to only settle in as Scar reveals that Simba is the “reason” why Mufasa is dead, causing for everyone to be shocked. Simba is about to fall, and Scar is ready for the kill, but he reveals moments before he is about to throw Simba off that he tells the young man that his old uncle is the reason why Mufasa is dead, causing him to leap and yell “MURDERER”. So here is how it goes down; the hyenas fight the lionesses, Simba and Scar go at it, and when Simba has the advantage, he tells Scar to leave, but only for Scar to throw s crispy fire dust at him, leading into an epic battle. Simba kicks Scar off the cliff, to be eaten by hyenas (to cower out of being killed, he blamed everything on the Hyenas).

Simba reclaims his throne, and his daughter Kiara is born a few days/weeks/months after.

I think the theme is good, and for the most part, it is pulled off very well. Most things that happen in the film has a reasonable explanation, but the plothole of Simba thinking it is his fault makes no sense. No way of getting around it. I do think the pacing of certain things were a bit too jarring, but  have seen a lot worse. I do not think this film is the best, and could have been a bit smoother in pacing and a bit stronger in characterization. I think it is a bit overrated.
I think the theme is good, and for the most part, it is pulled off very well. Most things that happen in the film has a reasonable explanation, but the plothole of Simba thinking it is his fault makes no sense. No way of getting around it. I do think the pacing of certain things were a bit too jarring, but I have seen a lot worse. I do not think this film is the best, and could have been a bit smoother in pacing and a bit stronger in characterization. I think it is a bit overrated.

Characters

The characters in this film are likable and do their job well enough. The cast work well with one another, but I wish some of the characters have better characterization.

Simba
Simba is……….eh. I could never really get into his character; even when I was little. He is the typical, spoiled child (which ALMOST becomes too much), but then in the second half, he becomes this passive, boring adult. I get that he is traumatized, but you do not lose ALL of your personality beforehand. I wish there was MORE to him than his plot. Not the best, and not a very strong or engaging  main character.
Mufasa
It is sad that he died. He is a clearly strong leader, and will get to scrapping if someone tests him. He admits that he does have fears, and likes things in the right order. He is a good lion.
Scar
Scar is a good villain. He is desperate to be a king, but it is clear that he does not have the traits to be one. When he becomes a king, he does not really do all the necessary things he has to do to run a successful kingdom , as he only rubs the title of the job, but not do the duties. He got what he wanted, and is overall lazy person, but is motivated by hate and jealousy to get what he wants.
Nala
She is in the film to be a satellite love interest. She is shown to be physically strong, and willing to have fun sometimes, but she has little to no importance in the film, and can be removed from it with little to nothing changing.
Timon
I never realized how over the top and irritating he is. He is actually pretty selfish. I could do without him.
Pumbaa
He is less over the top and more sympathetic than Timon.
Sarabi
She is the typical supportive mother. She has a lot of dignity which is shown when she is dealing with Scar.

Animation

The animation is pretty good too. The CGI has not aged as bad as its predecessors and successors in the era. The colors are really nice, and the backgrounds are not overly detailed but the perfect amount to give it the lush African feeling. It is the most consistent CAPS animation yet.

Music

The music is pretty damn good. I like the African theme, and they went ALL THE WAY with it, which is shown in the score and the songs. No modern day songs. It was interesting that they had some songs with the characters singing it, and the others are sung by musicians that are not characters in the movie.

Reception at Release

When the film was released on June 15th, 1994 (limited), and June 24th 1994  worldwide, it was HUGE. It had the 4th biggest opening EVER, and grew to make $312,855,561 domestically, and $455,800,000 overseas, causing them to make a RECORD BREAKING $768,600,000 internationally. Not to take anything from the smash success of this film,  but it came out of theaters………a bit before Pocahontas came out. I am not joking. 

Anyways, it received universal acclaim, just like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid. Many considered it to the the animated lion version of Hamlet, for being so deep, and many said that it was the Magnum Opus of the studio. They found Mufasa’s death very ballsy, and many thought that it was more mature than the previous films.

When it comes to the awards, it was nominated for 4 Golden Globes and Academy Awards (Best Song for Hakuta Matata, Circle of Life, and won for Can You Feel the Love). Like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, it won an Annie for Best Animated Feature. Just to sum it up, it was nominated and won a bunch of awards.

When it comes to the soundtrack, it is the first (out of two) to TOP the Billboard charts. It became a Diamond record as well.

Reception Today

Today, it is seen as the Best Disney film to many people at least until Frozen was released; though I do not know why. It was the highest grossing film of the canon (until Frozen about 4 months ago), and is still the highest grossing traditionally animated film. There are 2 sequels, a VERY successful broadway show. There was a TV show about Timon and Pumba, many rides on theme parks, and many games for it. It has been rereleased many times, boosting its box office to $900 million. It is pretty much the biggest cash cow in the company.

Final Score

Story: 7.5/10

Characters: 7/10

Animation: 9/10

Music: 8/10

= 31.5/40 = 79%

Next Time…

Review: July 28th, 2014
Review: July 28th, 2014
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23 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: The Lion King

  1. LOL. I almost died when you mentioned Frozen. But seriously, I don’t think any critic called Frozen the best. They probably said up there, maybe, but not THE BEST.

    But anyway, I kind of agree. Simba has always been kind of bland to me as well. To me, it’s pretty stereotypical, though. Simba’s royalty and the equivilant of a little kid. But I think The Lion King’s weakest point is Scar. Right after he kills Mufasa, he becomes SO LAZY. I mean, he doesn’t even kill Simba himself. WHY does he leave it to the hyenas? (Scar even said, “I’m surrounded by idiots.”) Then, he just lays down on his rear and lets the pridelands go to waste thinking that he can control everyone just because he’s “king.” My point is that he acts like a conniving genius at first and does literally nothing after. It also doesn’t help that Scar was defeated by his own henchmen, but I guess he kind of deserved it. Overall, I think that Scar may get a little too much recognition, just because he’s the first Disney villain to permanently kill a character. I actually think that Zira from The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride is a better villain (it’s also probably one of the only decent Disney sequels too). Her motivation (revenge) is stronger to me (one of her children is even killed at one point). She was also a tough ruler, and has bloodthirsty lionesses as an army. I admit that her death (falling off of a cliff) is kind off lame, but…I digress.

    Also, as much as I love the songs, I think that the tone is kind of ruined by “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” and “Hakuna Matata”(and Timon and Pumbaa’s presence in general). I don’t exactly see how the film itself is much more mature than The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. But the score is FANTASTIC and you’re right. It definitely has the African feel.

    Overall, I still love The Lion King. Who would have seriously guessed that this wasn’t even the project to be focused on, while Pocahontas was? I’m curious about the review for Pocahontas 😉.

    1. Yeah, Simba is just boring, and has no distinct character traits to make him stand out, and his personality literally changes for whatever the plot needs at the moment.

      I do not believe Scar is the best Disney Villain. I think him not doing anything in the second half shows how he is a bad king and only wanted all the power, but not the responsibility.

      I has heard quite a few call Frizsn the best WDAS film; bleh.

    2. I won’t argue that the tone is a little inconsistent, and maybe Scar becomes less interesting as the movie goes on, but I would somewhat argue on his recognition that is also due to Jeremy Irons performance and the fact that he almost single handedly kills the hero in the end, but Simba just has lucky advantage with kicking Scar off the rock.

  2. Beauty and the Beast comes out on top and The Lion King falls to #4! Exactly what I like to hear 😀 haha let’s see if you think any other Disney renaissance movie is better than a 85%…

    1. You will find out if any of them beats an 85. I forgot at the moment where I ranked some of the other Renaissance films, but it is lower than #4.

      I would probably watch almost every WDAS film over this film if I had a choice.

      1. “I would probably watch almost every WDAS film over this film if I had a choice”

        Even Atlantis, Dinosaur, Black Cauldron, Brother Bear, Chicken Little, and Home on the Range?

        Well, you did say “almost”.

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