“It’s the circle of life and it moves of all,” as Disney takes on the story of Hamlet while also teaching about wilds of Africa in what may be the pinnacle of Disney animation “The Lion King.” Simba is a lion cub who will one day be kind of the Pride Lands. But when his devious Uncle Scar sets a plan in motion, a stampede nearly kills Simba and does kill his father, Mufasa. Simba runs away at the behest of Scar, but after Scar’s terrible reign forces Simba’s childhood friend Nala to leave the Pride Lands in search of food, she finds Simba and, with the help of Rafiki, convinces him to return home and save his pride from Scar’s treachery.
This is one of the best reviewed films of all time, not just Disney films, but films. It is almost universally loved and adored. There are those that don’t like it, of course, but this is one of those films where its supporters seem to outnumber its detractors by about a million to one (that may be an exaggeration, but you get my point.) It features some of the best music, written and performed by Elton John; a magnificent story, as I mentioned it’s a childlike retelling of Hamlet; and its character all find a way to draw you in, whether it’s Simba, Mufasa, Nala, Scar, Rafiki, Timon or Pumbaa.
As I mentioned, this has some of the best music in the Disney canon. Following the impeccable work of Ashman and Menken on “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” and the work they started that Tim Rice picked up on “Aladdin,” it’s very understandable to think the next film’s music won’t be as good. But when you have Sir Elton John, you know the music it going to be great. From “the Circle of Life” to “Be Prepared” to “Hakuna Matata,” he knocked it out of the park. Every song helps drive the plot while also being fun to sing along. I don’t know if it’s the best music in the Disney canon, but it’s got to be up there.
This seems to be where the Disney Renaissance peaked. It made the most money of any Disney Renaissance film in theaters at more than $968 million worldwide. That’s $400 million more than the second most financially successful film of the era, which is “Aladdin.” Following “The Lion King” the returns started to diminish until bottoming out during “Hercules” and rebounding slightly for “Mulan” and “Tarzan.” It was always going to be hard to replicate the success of “The Lion King,” and they never really did until “Frozen.”
Much like “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” this is easily a film that is a lot of people’s top five Disney movies. I ran an NCAA bracket style informal poll on my Facebook page a few years ago and “The Lion King” made it to the finals before falling to “The Little Mermaid.” It’s immensely popular and it’s easy to see why. This film is like “Hakuna Matata,” because when I watch it, I have no worries.
Ranking: 5 stars
What did you think of “The Lion King?”