Released in 1994, Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff may very well have created the best animated film of all time with The Lion King. A storyline adapted from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this film displays matters of family, self, and society that are as old as the Earth itself. Grossing $968 million overall in the year of its release, The Lion King was the number one film of 1994 worldwide. This is not usually the case for G-rated animated features, but this film’s success can be attributed to its outstanding methods of conveying the deep lessons at the essence of human nature.
On the African plains, Mufasa (James Earl Jones) is the King of Pride Rock, ruling over all of the other creatures of the region. His son, Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas/Matthew Broderick), is the heir to the throne, much to the chagrin of Mufasa’s
brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons). As Scar’s nefarious schemes threaten the foundation of Pride Rock’s stability (Character vs. Society Conflict), Simba must learn at a young age the unfortunate realities of life’s obstacles and brutalities. Through these difficulties, Simba is transformed from an innocent, naïve lion cub, into a courageous, brazen leader of his territory. Supported by compatriots of diverse personalities like the whimsical, carefree meerkat, Timon (Nathan Lane), the boisterous warthog, Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), and the noble lioness love interest, Nala (Niketa Calame/Moira Kelly), Simba’s character arc is a truly magnificent example of what it means to grow into one’s maturity and responsibilities (Character vs. Self Conflict).
Driven by the outstanding Oscar-winning original score from Hans Zimmer and memorable musical numbers written by Tim Rice and Elton John (including the Oscar-winning “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”), The Lion King features state-of-the-art animation relative to the time period. The animals of the African savannah are brought to life, giving them human-like qualities relatable to the audience. The Blu-Ray disc that I viewed also had bonus material available, including a sing-along version, behind-the-scenes featurettes of the music production, and clips giving insight into the storyboard
process of the film. With this being my first viewing of The Lion King, I look forward to possibly revisiting some of these special features and getting a glimpse into the development of this masterpiece.
Although this film is rated G by the MPAA, there are some pretty intense and emotional moments that might be too extreme for young viewers. The main antagonist, Scar, is a very intimidating villain, also accompanied by his mischievous hyena goons. There is a dark, threatening tone in scenes focused on these characters, perhaps warranting a rating of PG. However, the themes and messages communicated by the story are made even more powerful by the ominous aura created in certain points of the narrative. Overall, there was not a single wasted scene that I could find. I was enthralled throughout the entirety of the film. It is a difficult balance to strike between appealing to younger audience members as well as those who are more mature, but The Lion King walks this fine line with precision and expertise.