The Lion King (1994) (G)
"The Lion King" is possibly Disney's greatest animated movie. It captures the life of an animal's world while throwing in human ideas of corruption and playing to the idea of an alpha male while hitting all the right notes to be a proper Greek drama.
Simba is the son of the lion king, Mufasa, who tells him that the land which he governs will fall to Simba when Mufasa dies. Immediately we are thrown into a world of human emotions in animals, but it is surprisingly convincing. We get deep philosophy that borders on both transcendentalism and Buddhism, but we also get the quirk and humor of a children's movie.
This is what makes "The Lion King" great, it pleases both adult and children viewers. There are lines in it that no child can get like: "He's as mad as a hippo with a hernia."—but hey, there's a talking bird, so who cares? While some vocabulary may slip over a child's head, the emotion that this movie carries is still impactful.
Scar is the villain of "The Lion King" and he is voiced to icy perfection by Jeremy Irons. In fact, the whole voice cast of this film is great—James Earl Jones as the iconic voice of Mufasa; Ernie Sabella and Nathan Lane as Pumba and Timon; Matthew Broderick as the adult Simba and Jonathan Taylor Thomas as his younger counterpart; Robert Guillame as Rafiki; Rowan Atkinson as a loyal bird servant to Mufasa; and Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin as two hyenas.
"The Lion King" is dark, playing off the idea of a royal family and all the troubles they go through. There's murder, imprisonment, banishment, and even somewhat of a harem. This is another reason while this movie succeeds, these very adult themes don't play out that violently or forwardly. It's smart enough to please the adult viewers.
Perhaps the most fun of the movie is the dynamic duo of Timon and Pumba as a meerkat and a warthog who befriend Simba. The catchy "Hakuna Matata" song comes from these two. All the songs from this movie are unforgettable like "I Just Can't Wait to be King" and "The Circle of Life". Elton John won an Oscar for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" and Hans Zimmer won one for original score...needless to say, the music is pretty darn good.
I mentioned this in my review of "The Jungle Book"—I really like the names of the characters. They don't try to American-ize the names, they are exotic enough to convince people that they are African and aren't too hard to pronounce...with the exception of Scar, that is. The voice cast is mostly American though, but that's to be expected.
The animation itself is seamless, possibly the best that the studio has yet to come out with.
"The Lion King" has all the right elements to be an epic, yet it's a children's movie. It's important to note that this movie is the highest grossing classic Disney animated movie.
"The Lion King" is not only one of the best animated movies, it's one of the best movies of all time.
Score: 4 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones