Guide to Disney #2: The Lion King

It’s the film that everyone’s seen. It’s the film that everyone says is the best. That’s right its…The Good Dinosaur! Only joking, it is of course, The Lion King!

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The Lion King was first released in 1994 and boasts a star studded cast featuring Mathew Broderick (Ferris Buellers Day Off, Inspector Gadget) as Simba, James Earl Jones (Star Wars) as Mufasa, Jeremy Irons (Die Hard with a Vengeance, Batman V Superman) as Scar, Rowan Atkinson (Bean, Johnny English) as Zazu and Nathan Lane (The People v. O.J. Simpson, Stuart Little) as Timone.

If you don’t already know the story. Simba is exiled from his pride of lions after being framed for the murder of his father and king, Mufasa. During his exile he meets two friends (Timone and Pumba) and grows with them as his old home is slowly destroyed by Scar who took over from, after killing, Mufasa.

The Lion King is a Great. There is no other way you could describe it. It’s such a good film that it’s spawned two sequels (The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride and The Lion King 1 1/2), a Broadway musical, two TV Show’s (The Lion Guard and Timon & Pumba) and is also set to be the next Disney classic that gets the ‘live action’ treatment (much like The Jungle Book in 2016).

What makes this film so good? Well, that’s what I’m going to try to find out.

First of all, the cast. The amount of A-listers in this film would be great for any film, but the fact that this is an animation makes it all the better. Voice work is a lot harder as the actors can’t use their own actions or expressions to tell their feelings, they have to convey it all via their voice. This really leads to some brilliant acting by Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones who use their distinctive voices to great effect becoming almost iconic as soon as you hear them. Quite a feat when you think Jones is already well known for being a certain other famous voice…

As well as the cast, the animation still holds up. This film is almost 23 years old and it doesn’t look a day out of place on my HD TV Screen. The animation is so beautifully crafted that you can see all the colours amazingly and in so much detail. The way the animals just come to life on the screen was incredible for its time and even now with animators being able to animate every single hair on a body, this all still looks stunning.

Of course, as it is a Disney film, it does have some songs. But the songs don’t feel out of place. They enhance the story. ‘Can’t Wait To Be King’ tells us what Simba thinks growing up will be like, and provides a stark contrast to what really happens. ‘Be Prepared’ is defining and spine-tingling to hear the voice of Irons booming out as he displays his plans of treason and domination. ‘Hakuna Matata’ shows us the free lifestyle Timone and Pumba have as well as showing us how they became friends and how they got to where they are now. Not only these songs but Elton John’s love ballad ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ plays perfectly over the romance between Simba and Nala just as Simba is starting to live as free as he can, with no worries.

The humour in this film is fantasic as well. Some of it is really really clever, such as Zazu singing ‘Its A Small World’ (a Disney nod to the ride in Disneyland featuring the annoying song) and some of it is also really silly, such as Timone dressing in drag and Pumba pretending to be a stuffed pig at a banquet.

The emotional connection to this film is incredible. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you how they felt when they saw Mufasa died. Having only been on screen during the first act, it just shows how powerful the acting and script is that it gives film viewers and immense emotional reaction to such a new character.

Overall the film is about redemption. It’s about learning the true meaning of life and learning to face up to your problems. As well as that, it’s a funny comedy, a cute romance and a great musical. It is all around a brilliant film, not just by Disney standards but by any standards.

I doubt there’s many of you out there, but if you’ve never seen The Lion King, you’re missing out. Grab yourself a copy, grab some tissues and some biscuits and settle in for 80 minutes of excellence.

The Lion King: 5/5

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