The Lion King: A Beloved Disney Animated Classic

Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) in Disney's The Lion King.

With a photo-realistic adaptation on the way, beloved Disney animated classic The Lion King celebrated 25 years last month.

Once upon a time, filmmakers John Musker and Ron Clements passed on doing The Lion King.  Their loss is Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff’s gain.  While the duo went on to give us Aladdin, they felt that nobody wanted to see a movie about lions in the jungle.  How did this work out?  Not only would people see it but people would buy the sequels and see the stage play.  Disney would be the winner regardless of how things would end up playing out.

The cast is absolutely perfect especially Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella).  The two voice actors really do embody their characters.  For a villain, Scar (Jeremy Irons) really has quite the personality.  If there’s a heart and soul to this film, it has to be Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Rafiki (Robert Guillaume).  When Simba (Matthew Broderick) is lost as an adult, it is Rafiki who places him back on his path towards Pride Rock.

It always hurts to watch Mufasa die no matter how many times I watch this film.  One must emotionally prepare themselves for the moment.  There is really no other choice when it comes to the matter.  I place his death up there with Bambi’s mom and Littlefoot’s mom.  Then again, this is a Disney film so a parent must die.  This is an unfair unwritten rule of Disney films.  I know!

The Lion King

This is the first Disney film that is more or less original.  It is not based on a book.  One can certainly sense the influences of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  We can go further than this and include Joseph and Moshe’s stories from the Hebrew Bible per filmmaker commentary.  Joseph was sold by his family while Moses left Egypt when he killed an Egyptian.  This makes perfect sense upon looking at Simba’s story!  What we see transpire between Scar and Mufasa can certainly linked directly to Hamlet.  Brother kills brother.  The act would result in him becoming the king.  Simba is not plotting revenge in his time away from Pride Rock so this is a striking difference.

There isn’t anything I would really change upon looking back.  Maybe Mufasa not dying but we need this for Simba to grow as a character.  The musical numbers are perfect.  The score is beyond perfect.  Even with rewatching the film to prepare for the photorealistic remake, I’m still not emotionally ready to watch Mufasa die.  Can anyone really be ready?  I’m certainly not but to each their own.

In a perfect world, The Lion King would have been nominated for Best Picture.  Had the Best Animated Feature category been created, the film would have been a surefire winner.  Hans Zimmer took home the Oscar for his perfect score while Elton John and Tim Rice won for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”  For what it’s worth, the duo had a solid chance with two other songs nominated, “Hakuna Matata” and “Circle of Life.”  We might not be able to chance the past.  However, this does not prevent us from appreciating the film for what it is.  And what it is is a damn fine movie.  A beautifully animated film.

The Lion King isn’t just the best film of the Disney Renaissance but the best animated film of all time!  To believe that a pair of filmmakers thought nobody would want to see it…

DIRECTORS:  Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
SCREENWRITERS:  Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton
CAST:  Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings

Walt Disney Pictures opened The Lion King in theaters on June 24, 1994.  The film is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.  Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.