BY THOMAS WOOD
From 1989 to 1999, Disney had what many would call a renaissance. After disappointing movies released years prior, Disney made a significant comeback and produced a decade of classic family films. One film released during this time was The Lion King. Many still claim it’s their favorite Disney movie, and it garnered enough attention to justify a live-action remake in 2019. Does this movie hold up almost thirty years later?
The movie stars Simba, a lion cub of King Mufasa. Simba is Mufasa’s successor to the throne, but everything goes wrong when Mufasa’s brother, Scar, kills Mufasa as a result of a successful assassination attempt. Simba isn’t nearly old enough to rise to the throne, so Scar assumes the role of king over the Pride Lands. Scar is undeniably evil, and rules as a tyrant rather than a benevolent king. Simba flees the kingdom and enters a rainforest in which he meets Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and warthog respectively. Over many years, these two teach Simba how to live on his own and help him get back on his feet. Over this time, we see Simba grow up and look more and more like his father. However, one day, the peace is broken.
Simba’s childhood friend, Nala, finds Simba in the rainforest and begs him to return to assume his role as king. Eventually, Simba obliges, and with advice from his friends, he’s able to usurp Scar and restore the Pride Lands to their former glory. All is well—until the sequel, that is.
The Lion King is an incredibly unique Disney movie because of its time skip. Many Disney movies have a similar event, where an inciting incident happens to the protagonist as a child but isn’t solved until they’re an adult. However, The Lion King is unique in that it has a full plot for both young and old Simba. What’s particularly interesting is how Simba’s problem solving skills develop and evolve as he grows. Faced with tyranny at such a young age, Simba ran from his problems at the end of the first arc of the movie. He had not the means to usurp a king nor his underlings. However, after he’d grown older, he was able to realize that with the help of his friends he may be able to accomplish such an impossible task. It’s not often in a Disney movie that you can see so closely how age and wisdom can factor into the protagonist’s decision-making ability, and The Lion King does that extremely well.
The songs in the Lion King are exemplary, too. They do an amazing job of setting the tone of a scene and they make a viewer feel the exact emotions I’m sure the directors wanted. “Hakuna Matata” and “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” are a few of my favorites, since they have a sort of upbeat tone that fits the movie well. Even the ambient songs fit the movie’s demeanor, providing an extra vibe in the background that can’t be rivaled. All in all, the movie has an incredible sound design.
Being produced in the Disney renaissance, the movie also has an unmistakable style. There are many shots in the movie that are outright breathtaking, some of which include the overview of the Pride Lands and the view of the crowd gathering under the mountain overhang to see the newborn Simba. Every little thing in this movie oozes personality, so it’s easy to see why it was a quick success when it came out.
Overall, the Lion King is an incredible movie. The sound design and art are awe-inspiring and the plot isn’t anything to be sneezed at. There are very few issues with the film– if any– that might hinder its ability to succeed. It’s clear to me why The Lion King was an instant classic on release, and it holds up excellently even to this day.