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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Lion King (1994)

#2 - 1994 Box Office: Gross $312,855,561

Life's greatest adventure is finding your place in the Circle of Life
"Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba." And with this Zulu chant, our film opens as every animal across the African plains comes to Pride Rock to witness the birth of Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), son of the current king and queen Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and Sarabi (Madge Sinclair).  Every animal is overjoyed by this addition to their circle of life except for Mufasa's brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons), since the birth of his nephew dashes any hopes he had of gaining control of the kingdom. In a scheme that feels somewhat Shakespearean, Scar uses his hyena minions to create a wildebeest stampede to kill Simba and Mufasa, leaving the kingdom (and Sarabi) in his hands.  Simba, however, wasn't killed in the stampede but is driven out of the Pride Lands where he grows up (now voiced by Matthew Broderick) among new friends Timon and Pumbaa (a meerkat and warthog voiced by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, respectively).  Scar's reign nearly destroys the Pride Lands while Simba lives with "No Worries" on the edge of the kingdom.  Will the pleas of childhood friends and a message-in-the-stars from his father's spirit be enough to convince Simba to return home and take back his kingdom?

Trivia (mostly courtesy of the IMDb)
  • The highest grossing motion picture of 1994 worldwide
  • The fourth highest US grossing animated film and the highest US grossing hand-drawn animation film
  • One of the bugs that Timon pulls out of a knothole during Hakuna Matata is wearing Mickey Mouse ears
  • The 2.5 minute wildebeest stampede took Disney's CG department approximately three years to animate
  • The Broadway production of "The Lion King" opened at the New Amsterdam Theater on October 15, 1997, has run for 5573 performances and is currently the seventh longest-running show on Broadway (as of April 17 2010)
  • This is the second movie in which James Earl Jones (Mufasa) and Madge Sinclair (Serabi) perform together as an African King and Queen. Jones and Sinclair were also King and Queen in Coming to America
  • While The Lion King is supposed to be Disney's first animated feature to be based on an original story, there is some controversy over the similarities between this film and a Japanese anime television show Kimba the White Lion
  • When writer Irene Mecchi came on board, she was told that the story pitch was "Bambi in Africa meets Hamlet"
Hakuna Matata Hakuna Matata...

Walt Disney Feature Animation studio films lost interest for me right after The Lion King. I've never seen Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Lilo & Stitch or Treasure Planet.  I did catch The Emperor's New Groove in theaters in 2000, but it wasn't until Brother Bear in 2003 when I started watching Disney films again and to be honest the quality dipped down.  Not counting Disney/Pixar films, the seven WDFA & Walt Disney Animation Studios films from the past 8 years that I've seen have an average rating of under 3 stars (and I'm sure the adorable Tangled helped bring up that average).  Do I love films like this and Aladdin simply because they came out when I was younger or has Disney dropped down in the quality of its films?  I'm sure I should try to see some of those nine films that came out in my decade of no Disney to see if they show any promise, but I feel a little jaded based on films of late.  These older great films have songs like "Circle of Life," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," "Hakuna Matata," "A Whole New World" and "Friend Like Me" and I feel like they were part of pop culture outside of the films (maybe I'm wrong having seen the films).  I'm pretty sure I've never heard "Colors of the Wind" (the Oscar-winning song from Pocahontas), "Go the Distance" (nominated from Hercules), "You'll Be In My Heart" (another Oscar-winning tune, this one from Tarzan) or any of the other non-nominated songs (well, I'm assuming Lilo & Stitch has an Elvis-filled, ineligible soundtrack, but I never heard their versions) and none of those films really hold any interest to me.  And seeing how poor Disney has done recently (with Tangled being the exception that proves the rule), I'm not running out to see any of them.  Do you really like any of these films?  Are there any I should add to my Netflix Queue?

Ponch's Rating:


  1. Mulan, Tarzan, and Lilo & Stitch are worth a watch. They weren't necessarily the most astounding soundtracks ever, but they were cute stories. I enjoyed them. (Although in the case of Tarzan, I grew up with Phil Collins and was unlikely not to like the soundtrack.)

  2. Do you like Phil Collins? I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins' presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group's undisputed masterpiece. It's an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. Christy, take off your robe. Listen to the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument. Sabrina, remove your dress. In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer songwriting, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. Sabrina, why don't you, uh, dance a little. Take the lyrics to Land of Confusion. In this song, Phil Collins addresses the problems of abusive political authority. In Too Deep is the most moving pop song of the 1980s, about monogamy and commitment. The song is extremely uplifting. Their lyrics are as positive and affirmative as anything I've heard in rock. Christy, get down on your knees so Sabrina can see your asshole. Phil Collins' solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like In the Air Tonight and Against All Odds. Sabrina, don't just stare at it, eat it. But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist. This is Sussudio, a great, great song, a personal favorite.

    Thanks for the suggestions... I'll try to check them out (eventually)

  3. I have fond memories taking my little sister and brother to watch Disney films all those years ago in Glasgow. She is now getting married and emigrating to Australia next week.

    Where does the time go

  4. Wish I knew... Wish I knew...