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A Second Look: The Lion King
In 1994, Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff released The Lion King, which was influenced by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Starring Matthew Broderick, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Robert Guillaume, Rowan Atkinson, Madge Sinclair, Whoopie Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings, the film grossed $968.5 million at the box office. Nominated for multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song (“Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata”), The Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song – Motion Picture (“Circle of Life”), the BAFTA Film Award for Best Sound, the Saturn Awards for Best Fantasy Film and Best Performance by a Young Actor, the Annie Awards for Best Individual Achievement for Artistic Excellence in the Field of Animation, the Grammy Awards for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture, and the MTV Movie Awards for Best Villain and Best Movie Song, winning many other awards, such as the Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Song (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”) and Best Music, Original Score, the Golden Globe Awards for Best Original Score – Motion Picture and Best Original Song – Motion Picture (“Can You Feel the love Tonight”), the Annie Awards for Best Animated Film, Best Individual Achievement for Story Contribution in the Field of Animation, and Best Achievement for Voice Acting, The Grammy Awards for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Musical Album for Children, and Best Instrumental Arrangement with Accompanying Vocals, and the Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Movie.
After a lion cub named Simba is tricked by his uncle Scar into believing he killed his father, he flees the Pride Lands and Scar takes over. However, Simba is saved from certain death in the wastelands by Timon and Pumbaa who live under the no worries philosophy of Hakuna Matata. However, Simba must soon decide whether to confront his past or continue a carefree existence.
Entertaining and employing grand visuals, The Lion King is a great film with an incredibly engaging story following a lion cub as he flees his home believing he murdered his father, allowing his uncle, who actually did perpetrate the murder, to take control. This allows Simba to spend the majority of his formative years escaping the past and living a carefree life of no worries with a couple of irresponsible yet loyal idiots. However, what this does is allow the film to present a fascinating message regarding the past and the choices made heading towards the future, with Rafiki simply stating that Simba can either run or learn from his past. This is wonderfully illustrated in the scene where Rafiki leads Simba to the ghost of his father telling Simba he’s forgotten who he is and then spelling the lesson out by swinging his staff.
However, despite the great message within the film, there are a few flaws that come about after Simba begins to confront his demons. When he goes to meet and face Scar, Simba is repelled by his uncle throwing everything back at him, including the accusation that he killed Mufasa and the reason thereof which starts to pit everyone against him. Further, it’s only after Simba gets Scar to confess that he actually did it that they all go back to his side. It’s a bit of a glaring flaw as the film is attempting to tell its audience that they shouldn’t run away from their pasts and own up to their mistakes, but then shows that no one will stand with them until they are proven to have not actually committed those mistakes. Despite the film being really well done all around, it makes for a bit of a confusing message.
Now, as far as villains go, Scar is pretty interesting considering he’s competent enough to conceive an elaborate murder scheme as well as set up a dictatorship that involves the lions and hyenas living together, but also that he’s foolishly petty. The brilliance of his plan seemingly ends after he’s taken power and once he actually does, has no idea what to do other than tell everyone else to deal with their own problems, such as the Pride Lands becoming barren when he becomes king. The fact that he has no idea what it really means to be a king is seen when he shouts at one point that he’s king and can do whatever he wants. Notably, Scar only takes responsibility when he assumes that he’s going to get away with confessing Mufasa’s murder and when that doesn’t go his way, he blames the hyenas. Scar is the epitome of the villain that continuously seeks power, yet has no idea what he’s going to do if or when he somehow attains it and then spends all his time blaming everybody else for his failings after coming to power.
Contrast this with Mufasa who was a wise and respected leader in the Pride Lands. He knows that bravery doesn’t equal foolhardiness, knows exactly what to say when both reprimanding his son as well as when instructing his son in the Circle of Life and takes care of all his kingly responsibilities. While the Pride Lands are barren during Scar’s rule, while Mufasa is king, the land is plentiful and the animals are happy, showing that he respects them and all of their places in the Circle of Life. In turn, they’re shown respecting Mufasa as they come to Simba’s presentation. Still though, he’s also a well-rounded character, considering that his trust in Scar is the flaw that leads to his inevitable death.