By now, most rational thinking adults have reluctantly admitted and come to grips with the fact that Walt Disney was, among other things, a twisted, racist jerk who nowadays, mostly serves as easy fodder for Cracked articles and hack writers such as yours truly.
However, another thing that everybody who’s ever seen a Disney movie as a child (and you have seen one, unless you’ve been living in North Korea all this time) must admit to absolutely adoring at least some of his companies` goddamn movies. Blatant racism aside, he set the blueprint for every single animated movie from Snow White to this piece of shit.
I, to this day, fucking love Disney movies. I made it my personal mission to view any piece of Mouse House-related film I could lay my grubby, unwashed 5-year old hands on. Pinocchio, Peter Pan, the Jungle Book… I ate that shit up.
However, in my juvenile mind, one movie towered above the rest… A movie that had the kickass soundtrack, awesome art, and graphic violence that I had come to expect from Disney without all the asshole humans.
I am speaking, of course, of The Lion King.
Now, astute readers and anime fans will point out that The Lion King is a stolen product. Many links to the Japanese cartoon, Kimba the White Lion are present in the plot and imagery.
To these devoted Japanese (and socially stunted non-Japanese) cartoon fans, I say, you`re probably right. The similarities are pretty damn convincing. Unfortunately, we’re never gonna officially find out if the Walt Disney corporation swiped this tale, (Hint: Yes.) as Disney’s lawyers are ruthless enough to topple countries, if they are so inclined.
Anyhoo, plagiarism aside, The Lion King remains, by far, my favourite Disney movie of all time. While not the best movie I’ve ever seen (That would be either Star Wars, Chinatown, Django Unchained, Terminator 2, The Empire Strikes Back or Pulp Fiction) it is the one movie that will consistently cheer me up when I lock myself in my room to bemoan my crippling social awkwardness.
So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, give it up for…
Directed By: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Genres: Animated, Musical, Drama
Based On: Hamlet (William Shakespeare) Kimba the White Lion (Osamu Tezuka)
Starring: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair (RIP) Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cummings
Legacy: Depressed kids, retarded sequels, a weird-ass musical, and the knowledge that no matter where we are, James Earl Jones will always be watching over us.
Plot summary: The movie kicks off with a sunrise in an African savannah, where the animals, big and small, begin a mass exodus to Pride Rock, a structure that I find very hard to believe was totally a result of erosion and not, say, hyena slave labour. (Holy shit that would explain a lot!) at Pride Rock, there lives a pride of lions who live under the watchful eye of king Mufasa (voiced by Darth Vader) and queen Sarabi (Madge Sinclair) who are about to present their young cub and heir to the throne, Simba. The two new parents are joined by Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) a baboon/witch doctor who proceeds to smear ceremonial red fruit juice in the cub’s forehead, a move which led to several childhood-shattering Urban Dictionary pages. He then carries the little fella over to the very edge of the rock and DANGLES HIM OVER THE FUCKING DEATH DEFYING DROP to present him to the other animals (who are apparently hoping to witness a spinal injury, the sickos.).
Wait a minute, where have I seen this before…
The animals, so moved by this gesture of terrible parenting that would make Edward Furlong proud, bow down to the probably terrified cub, blissfully unaware that this little fucker gets carte Blanche to devour them, because circle of life and stuff.
The movie then displays its title, presumably so those who mistakenly thought they were watching Pulp Fiction could leave the theatre with their dignity intact rather than wonder why the lions aren’t having long, rambling discussions about burgers and shooting each other’s faces off.
The next scene takes place at the bottom of Pride Rock, where Scar (Jeremy Irons), Mufasa’s brother and former heir, is delivering a bitter, self-pitying monologue about his now damn near nonexistent chances of becoming king to a mouse that he plans to devour whole. Snow White, this ain’t.
Before he can swallow the poor rodent, he is interrupted by Zazu (Rowan Atkinson), a hornbill who also serves as the king’s major domo. He promptly tries to eat him (Christ, they might as well have had Hannibal Lector voice him.). The only reason Zazu’s miserable existence is saved is because Mufasa shows of at that moment… And he is pissed off.
Apparently, while Scar was (presumably) writing emo poetry in the Rock, or something, he also missed Simba’s presentation. When Mufasa confronts him about this, Scar responds with jealousy and disdain for Simba, while delivering a thinly veiled threat to Mufasa. Despite the crowd pleasing prospect of having Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones fight to the death, the brothers part without incident.
Fast forward to a later point in time, and Simba (Voiced by flash-in-the-pan teen idol Jonathan Taylor something or other) is now a feisty cub, who wants nothing more than to see the kingdom with his dad. Mufasa gives him a tour of the Pride Lands and explains the circle of life, and how there exists a delicate balance between blah blah blah it’s the Force with African animals.
Unfortunately, Zazu stops by to spoil their fun. After a brief “let’s kill the birdie” hunting lesson, he tells Mufasa that hyenas have been spotted in the Pride Lands. Mufasa bounds off (Presumably to go all William Wallace in those motherfuckers) and Simba is taken home.
Once home, Simba finds his uncle Scar (Yeesh, how fucked up of a parent do you have to be to name your kid Scar?) and, completely unaware of his uncle’s burning hatred of all that is good in the world, innocently gloats to his unstable, jealous kin about his future as king, because 4 out if 5 doctors agree: kids are some retarded motherfuckers.
Scar not so innocently tricks him into going to the elephant graveyard that Mufasa explicitly told not to visit. (Because who’s he gonna trust? His beloved father or his creepy emo hermit uncle?) Before venturing out to find the graveyard, he gets together with his best friend, a female cub named Nala (voiced by Niketa Calame), who strangely enough, is betrothed to him, which flies in the face of everything we know about lions. A song and dance routine (My personal least favourite if the movie, though it still kinda kicks ass.) ensues, which, as it turns out, is all an extremely elaborate plan to ditch/murder Zazu, their chaperone.
The two cubs then arrive at the elephant graveyard, which, it must be noted, is awesome in its creepiness. Before they can further explore, Zazu, who somehow survived being crushed by a rhino, tries to usher them out. Simba loudly mocks Zazu’s common sense, which attracts three very hungry hyenas, Shenzi (Whoopi Goldberg), Banzai (Cheech Marin) and Ed (Jim Cummings). They proceed to attempt boil Zazu alive in a miniature volcano and chase Simba and Nala throughout the graveyard. The two fall through a piece of decaying elephant skin and into a dead end. Right before the hyenas eat them, Mufasa shows up in the nick of time and beats the living shit out of them. Angry that Simba had to be a disobedient little punk; Mufasa angrily takes him and Nala home. While this unfolds, Scar watches it all from his perch.
What follows is the second most touching and (upon repeated viewings) most heartbreaking scenes in the entire movie. While Zazu takes Nala home, Mufasa explains to Simba the difference between being brave and being a retard who does stupid things so others think he’s brave (albeit, in better language than I put it). What follows is the most adorable play fight ever (I didn’t even know lions could give noogies) and Mufasa tells Simba (after Simba asks if they’ll “always be together”)
(If you didn’t feel your eyes start to water, then you no longer get to describe yourself as a human being.) that the stars are the great kings of the past, and no matter where he is, his dad will always be there to guide him. The non-jaded viewers out there may wanna stop watching at this point.
We are then taken to what seems to be the shittiest part of the pride lands, where the hyenas are licking their wounds after the ass thrashing that Mufasa handed to them. Scar appears, and it is revealed that he sent the hyenas to kill Simba and Nala. (One would think that he’d use better hit men then Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin, but one would be wrong)
Scar then outlines his next plot, (through song and dance, as all great plans are outlined) which involves him killing the king and Simba in one go. He also praises himself repeatedly and displays a hyena army that could conquer most Central American countries. Oh, also, he stages a military parade that would make Kim Jong-Un proud.
The next day, Scar takes Simba to the gorge and tells him that his father has a “marvellous” surprise for him. While Simba practices his pathetic lion cub roar on what must be the most harassed chameleon in Africa, Scar gives the signal for the hyenas to attack a group of wildebeests who are grazing at the top of the gorge. When Simba notices the hundreds of buffalo who are fleeing into the gorge, he finally does what any sensible person would do and runs for his life.
While Simba’s busy somehow outrunning the wildebeests, Scar alerts Mufasa and Zazu of Simba’s situation. They immediately rush to help him. Mufasa dives into the wave of wildebeest while Scar viciously smashes Zazu into a wall, knocking him unconscious. Wow, everybody just really hates this fucking bird, huh?
Against all odds, Mufasa manages to pluck Simba out of the fray and carry him to safety before being knocked back into the stampede. After several torturous moments, Mufasa leaps onto the walk and laboriously climbs up. Satisfied for his father’s safety, Simba moves to higher ground. However, Scar is waiting for Mufasa, and instead if helping him out, drives his claws into his paws (I’m a poet and I didn’t- fucking kill yourself) whispers “long live the king” and flings him off the edge. Simba sees him fall (But not Scar) and screams one of the most agonic “NOOOO!” s I’ve ever heard.
After the herd finishes its rampage, Simba cautiously heads down to find his dad. He eventually comes across his-miraculously still intact after being trampled by wildebeest- body.
I’m gonna go ahead and say this: If you were in no way saddened or depressed by this next scene, then you have no heart. I will even go so far as saying that you are a terrible human being that I wish would die and we will never, ever be friends. There. You have no reason to continue living now.
Simba, fearing the worst, wanders up to Mufasa and tries to wake him up. Realizing that his dad’s not getting up, he desperately cries for help before curling up to die beside his father. There. Your childhood is now ruined and you have Walt Disney to thank for that.
While said childhoods are being torn to shreds, Scar shows up. He passive-aggressively frames Simba for the death of the king and tells him to exile himself. Simba follows this advice, but Scar decides to cut his losses and sends the three hyenas to kill him.
Simba is chased by the hyenas to a cliff which drops into an impossibly huge gathering of spiky plants. Fearing death by mauling over death by poky flowers, Simba makes the plunge, somehow survives, and vanishes into the desert. Upon his return to Pride Rock, Scar tells the lionesses that Simba has died to, and that he (Scar) will take over the throne, and promptly lets the hyenas take over the place.
Meanwhile, Simba has collapsed from dehydration in the desert and is being circled by vultures. (Are we sure thus movie wasn’t directed by Stanley Kubrick?) Right before the birds can tear into him, though, he is saved at the last minute by the comic relief: Timon (a meerkat voiced by Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (a warthog voiced by Ernie Sabella), whose idea of a good time is to have vultures start pecking at a carcass and attacking then, rather than just saving the victims before they become vulture food. Fuck, this movie’s depressing.
Anyhow, upon seeing the unconscious lion cub, they take him to an oasis and revive him. After waking up, Simba promptly tries to leave because either he lacks the mental capacity to drink water while he gets the chance, or he’s suicidal. Timon and Pumbaa stop him to relentlessly badger him about his past, at which point he says that they’re nothing they can do as long as they can’t change the past.
Because there are no magic Deloreans in African deserts, this seems like the truth, right?
Wrong, because as Timon and Pumbaa put it (in sing and dance, of course) Hakuna Matata!
While that may look and sound like the name of what you assume the name of every genocidal African dictator, it actually roughly translates to “No Worries” in Swahili. (Because the international community clearly needed more would be Ferris Bueller mottos) A bouncy pop number follows, explaining to Simba the pure joy of not giving a fuck. (Also, eating bugs, which kind of goes hand in hand with not giving a fuck, come to think of it) Also, Simba swallows a cute looking grub whole and Timon bites live beetles’ head off.
As the song progresses, Simba matures into an adult lion (surprisingly keeping the song’s beat after all those years) who now has a giant red mane and is voiced by Matthew Broderick. You can bet your ass I’ll be trying to squeeze in as many Ferris Bueller references as possible now.
Back at P.R. , it appears that, fir someone who wanted the job so badly, Scar has done a fucking terrible job of running the place, as all the grass and animals are gone, and it looks like Mogadishu. Scar has apparently also gone batshit insane, as evidenced by the fact that he plays with animal skulls, keeps Zazu prisoner in a rib cage to sing him novelty songs, and loses his fucking mind when anyone mentions the word Mufasa.
At the oasis, Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa are relaxing and stargazing. Timon and Pumbaa theorize on what exactly stars are. Timon thinks they’re fireflies, and Pumbaa thinks they’re giant, burning balls of gas. Simba chimes in with the story his father told him about the kings of the past looking down on them, after which Timin and Pumbaa promptly laugh in his face. Somehow depressed at having one of his fondest memories of his dad ripped to shreds, he wanders off and slumps into the ground, shooting dust particles and such into the air. Said dust particles float aimlessly through the air until Rafiki the baboon witch doctor snatches them out of the sky, as he does every day, apparently. By sniffing these fucking feathers, or whatever, he is able to tell that a) Simba’s alive and b) his exact location. Apparently, baboons are a lot more intuitive then we give them credit for.
Meanwhile, while Timon and Pumbaa are doing a kick-ass duet version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, Pumbaa rudely wanders off (right before the song’s best part!) to hunt a beetle. The (rather chill-looking) beetle gets away, because Pumbaa’s a shitty hunter, and poor Pumbaa is rewarded for this by having a fucking lioness try to rip his larynx out.
Luckily for him, Simba intervenes, and the two lions duke it out. Despite Timon loudly encouraging him to “go for the jugular” Simba gets his ass handed to him. However, he is familiar with this particular brand of ass kicking, and finds out that this particular lioness is his old buddy, Nala, now voiced by Moira Kelly, who you know from approximately zero movies besides this one. (They should’ve picked Mia Sara.) After the play fight and the excited introductions, (Pumbaa is remarkably forgiving.) Nala excitedly tells him that since he’s alive, he’s the king, which surprises Timon and Pumbaa. Simba and Nala promptly wander off alone and fall in love while the obligatory Disney love song plays. Also, Nala gives Simba this look at the end of the song, (Which you can look up your own damn self, as I don`t feel like sorting through all the fan fiction porn.) which probably given conservatives all the fuel they needed to fire their anti-Lion King Crusade. (Instead, they chose this bullshit)
After the (presumed, but highly implied) fuckfest, Nala once again asks Simba to come back to the Pride Lands and explains that since Scar took over, there’s no food and water, and the hyenas took control. After hearing the dire situation the lionesses are in, Simba heroically declines, saying Hakuna Matata. Because we didn’t already wanna punch this little pussy in the face ever since he grew to full size. When Nala reminds him that it’s his goddamn responsibility, Simba points out that she’s starting to sound like his father. Nala replies that “At least one of us does”. This is about when the shit goes down.
After Simba tells her that she doesn’t know what he’s been through, Nala asks her to just fucking tell her what crawled up his ass. He promptly suggests that she go fuck herself and goes off to mope around in the plains like the sissy little butch he has revealed himself to be. (On the other hand, listening to Matthew Broderick try to be angry is pretty damn hilarious.)
Simba mopes around the plains, bitching and moaning about his life in general, when he meets Rafiki, whom he doesn’t remember. You’d think that seeing the maniac who dangled you over a death defying drop jabber nonsense at you in Swahili would induce some form of PTSD flashback, but you would be wrong.
Rafiki harasses Simba for no apparent reason (and and possibly drops acid with him considering what comes next) before name dropping Mufasa, which gets Simba interested. When Simba informs him that Mufasa is very, very dead, Rafiki offers to show him to Simba. After chasing Rafiki through a creepy-ass forest, they stop at a pond, where Simba looks to see that his reflection has been replaced with Mufasa’s. Then, to top off the weird as hell day he’s been having, he looks up to see Mufasa’s enormous ghost appear in the sky. Mufasa commands him to grow a pair and to remember who he is.
After the ghost disappears, Simba decides to head back to Pride Rock to take down his punk-ass uncle. Upon hearing this great news, Rafiki beats him with a stick.
At the oasis, Nala, Timon and Pumbaa puzzle over where Simba went. Rafiki appears out if nowhere to tell them that he’s returned to the kingdom. Cue inspirational footage of Simba running through the desert.
The three of them catch up to Simba, who is surveying the shithole that was his childhood home. After promising to help him, Simba uses Timon and Pumbaa as live bait to get past the hyena guards. By far the funniest scene in the movie follows, which is completely unexpected, considering the whole “live bait” implication. On an unrelated note, how does a meerkat in the Serengeti know what “dressing in drag” means?
Simba catches Scar in the act of beating the shit out of his mother. After Scar snivels like a coward for a bit, he remembers that he is voiced by Jeremy Fucking Irons and suavely accuses him of killing Mufasa, which Simba stupidly admits to? Scar then pushes Simba off the edge of Pride Rock and leaves him hanging over the edge, while he monologues. He then reveals to Simba that he was the one who killed Mufasa. (Which, apparently, no one suspected until now.)
Granted superhuman strength by this revelation, Simba vaults right back up and chokes out Scar until he admits to the lionesses that he killed Mufasa. All hell then breaks loose. The lionesses kill the hyenas in droves, Rafiki goes Bruce Lee on some mother fuckers, Timon and Pumbaa rescue Zazu from the three celebrity voiced hyenas in what may be the coolest scene in the movie, and Simba chases Scar to the top of Pride Rock.
Scar reverts back to Bitch Mode, begging Simba for his life, claiming that the hyenas made him do it and pleading that he not stoop down to the level of killing his own family. (Apparently, lions can’t sense irony) When Simba orders him to go into exile, Scar flicks ashes into his eyes and attacks him. What follows is the most disappointing fight scene in Disney history, which is no more badass than an Animal Planet documentary. The fight ends with Simba kicking Scar over the side of the Rock. Scar gets up (without a broken neck or back, somehow) and runs into the hyenas. He is relieved to find himself with his mindless drones again…until he discovers that they remember that he sold them out to Simba. However, not being as savage as you may think, and loyal to their friends even if their friend did a very stupid thing, the hyenas help Scar escape in order to set up a plot for the inevitable straight to DVD sequel.
Wait, that’s not it, what was the ending again? Oh, yeah, instead if the charming shit I mentioned, the hyenas EAT HIM ALIVE. Some family movie, huh?
After this lovely G-Rated introduction to military coups, a rainstorm washes away the hyena and Scar remains. Simba’s faithful subjects gather round to watch him painfully limp up Pride Rock. The audience is then given an earful of kickass heroic Disney music followed by the most startlingly terrifying lions roar you will ever hear.
Fast forward ahead, and all is awesome in the Pride Lands. The vegetation is back in full force, the sun is shining, the animals are back, and the hyenas have been chased off and/or slaughtered. Said animals are gathered around Pride Rock as they were at the beginning of the movie, saluting Simba, Nala, Timon and Pumbaa as they sit at the top, soaking it up. While “Circle of Life” plays on, and under the watchful, um, eye of James Earl Jones’ voice, Simba and Nala present their newborn cub… Who they then proceed to let Rafiki dangle off the edge.
Fuck this shit. Children’s movie, my ass.
I know it sound like I’m criticizing this movie the whole way through, but that`s just the way I review movies. It`s much easier to make jokes about bad and/or ridiculous parts in movies, because it`s almost like they write them for you.
Anyway, the first thing that stands out to me about the Lion King is the graphics. They are a testament to the fact that having hand-drawn animation is not always less preferable to computer animation. The opening sequence, especially, is absolutely gorgeous and really captures the epic feel that I bet the creators were going for. The one computer animated scene (The wildebeest stampede) is just icing on a very tasty cake.
I mentioned the whole Kimba/Simba plagiarism controversy in the intro. While plagiarism is unacceptable in all forms, and I don`t think that Disney should be exempt from explaining themselves just because they`re Disney, I think they do deserve some credit for making this idea appealing to American audiences. Think about it: If you were Disney, would you produce a movie that had the pitch of: Lion cub`s father is murdered, so he feeds his killer alive to hyenas? I didn`t think so.
One minor quibble I have about the movie besides the whole plagiarism thing is the voice acting. I`m not complaining about the voice acting herself, per se. James Earl Jones and Jeremy Irons steal all their scenes as Mufasa and Scar, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella and company were not slouches. (Though Matthew Broderick could sound dead inside occasionally.) It`s just that they seemed to kind of overdose on big-name actors. The only real career voice actor on the cast was Jim Cummings, and he played the retarded hyena.
Possibly my favourite thing about this movie, though, is the soundtrack. Disney pulled all the stops in this category. They hired the great Tim Rice to compose the music, who needing a composing partner, hired…ABBA!
Thankfully, one of ABBA was busy working on some Scandinavian musical, so Rice hired the even greater Elton John to help him out. The duo wrote all the songs in the movie, (With Sir Elton chipping in with two beautiful versions of “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”) While Hans Zimmer directed the instrumental score. It`s like they were TRYING to make every single other movie soundtrack sound like a Nicki Minaj album.
Overall: My favourite Disney movie. Very little to complain about, though the plagiarism bothers me. Setting that conveniently aside though, Lion King is a gorgeous, epic film, and if any of you haven`t seen it, then get your ass to iTunes (Or Pirate Bay, whatever. (Cheap bastards) and watch the shit out of it.