Friday, July 23, 2010

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 32: The Lion King

Series Intro: This is Part 32 of a multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors.

Official Title: The Lion King
Release: June 15, 1994 (A Summer release)
Running Time: 89 minutes
Estimated Cost: $45 million
Estimated Revenue: $783.84 million
Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Plot Summary
The birth of a male heir, Simba, to the lion kingdom of The Pride Land, brings all animal subjects to celebrate King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi’s joyous occasion. Time jumps a bit as Simba is a young cub. He travels around Pride Land with Mufasa training him in the ways of being king; and forbidding him from entering a shadowy valley.

Simba, and his betrothed Nala, ditch their babysitter (hornbill Zazu) after Simba’s uncle – Scar – tells Simba that the valley is home to an elephant graveyard. While there, Scar has his hyena henchmen attack Simba (for Scar wants to be the heir to the throne), but Simba, Nala and Zazu are saved when Mufasa enters.

Not discouraged, Scar tries again to kill Simba and Mufasa, by starting a wildebeest stampede, which doesn’t do it’s job, so Scar gets his paws dirty by throwing Mufasa into the stampede. Scar encourages Simba to run away so he doesn’t get blamed for the death of the king.

Simba meets up with Pumbaa (a wart hog) and Timon (a meercat) and after they perk Simba up with their Hakuna Matata (no worries) life philosophy time jumps again and Simba is now a young adult. Nala, also grown, finds Simba and between her and Rafiki (the monkey who oversaw Simba’s birth) Simba is convinced to return to the Pride Land and dethrone Scar and his band of hyenas.

Simba and Scar battle, and Scar is tossed off of Pride Rock into a pit of angry hyenas. Time jumps again and Rafiki is once again on the top of Pride Rock, this time overseeing the birth of Simba and Nala’s son, the next heir to the throne.


Circle of Life
I Just Can't Wait to Be King
Be Prepared
Hakuna Matata
Can You Feel the Love Tonight

I can’t believe how wonderful the music is again. At this point, WDAS has had four great musicals; and puts us half way through the Renaissance.

Plot Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Calling on almost all of the previous Renaissance directors was a good call to rewrite the ending of this movie. The plot of this animated classic (although highly influenced by Hamlet and controversially influenced by the anime Kimba The White Lion) was WDAS’ first completely original story.

Animation Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I’m kind of getting upset with WDAS with their reliance on CG effects. I understand that it is much more cost effective, but it seemed almost a bit lazy in this movie. While the wildebeest scene was great for its use of many different animals on many different travel paths, the hyenas in “Be Prepared” are barely more than CG skeletons walking in a nondescript CG environment. However, WDAS’ traditional animation continues to make great leaps and bounds!

The Test of Time:

To this day, Lion King remains the highest grossing traditionally animated movie! Lion King is in the top ten longest running shows on Broadway; has a long running acrobatic show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in WDW; has a movie attraction at The Land Pavilion in Epcot; spun off two direct to video sequels; had a television series based on Pumbaa and Timon (who are WDW’s unofficial spokes-animals for public safety).

I saw this movie in theatres!

Through the Modern Lens

There was not a Princess in sight (although Nala becomes the queen, she was never a princess)! As WDAS continues to struggle with modern audiences accepting their movies and trying to branch away from the princess theme (thanks to the marketing department over saturation of the line) they needn’t look to re-titling their works and shelving fine movies, but look backwards, what made Lion King the best animated movie of all time? It wasn’t based on anything! It was new(ish).

Off my soap box now.

Watching this video (yes the last one I needed to watch on VHS), I was surprised how violent it was. Not to say I disapprove of the violence that is portrayed, but the on screen death of Mafasa would never be created by WDAS today. Koodos to WDAS for pushing the boundaries of what a “cartoon” means.

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