D50: The Lion King

The Lion King came out when I was four years old, and I still remember how excited I was for this. I mean, how could I not be, it was about lions, and what four-year-old doesn’t like lions? Anyways, it was the first event movie that I was excited about. I didn’t get to see it in theaters, and I had to wait until it came out on VHS. But even then, I knew that I was watching something great, and it is still the film that I’ve seen most of the time. Over the years, it was my favorite animated film, but eventually, as I saw more films, it started to go down. And looking at it now, I can see that, like every Disney movie it has its flaws. However, it is still a masterpiece.

I guess that my problem with this one is that the story is just so familiar. But then again, with the exception of Fantasia, all of the studios films are built around the most familiar themes, and some of them are even repeated in various films. But in reality, these films are not what they are about, but rather about how they are told through animation, and about the spectacle. And in the regard of making things fresh of the spectacle, it definitely succeeds.

Most important of all is the animation. While I’ve never been to the African savannah, from the footage I’ve seen, the animators captured it perfectly. They also captured the natural movements of the animals to a tee (except for, the exaggerated moments, of course). It’s not quite as beautiful as Beauty & the Beast, but it’s very close.

The animation of course, is also responsible for the spectacle of it all, of course, along with how the directors, Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers chose to tell the movie. The opening scene is unlike any other Disney opening, and makes the movie start out strong. Then there are other scenes like the stampede, Scar’s musical number, the final battle, and even the “Hakuna Matata” scene are the most epic things that Disney had done until that point. Helping with this is Hans Zimmer’s best score of his career. Speaking of music, Elton John and Tim Rice’s songs easily are the best in any of the movies from the studio. Yes, Stephen Menke has done a few great songs, but none of the movies he’s scored have had a soundtrack as great as this.

When it comes to the performances, they are universally good. Matthew Broderick as adult Simba is kind of weak since he doesn’t sound very king-like, especially when his father is played by the voice himself, James Earl Jones. But then again, it does fit the whole “I’m not fit to be king” arc. The best is obviously Jeremy Irons as Scar. When you hear scar, you don’t just hear some actor reading some lines for a quick paycheck. You can tell that he was pretty into the role. That, combined with the way the character is written makes Scar one of the best Disney villains.

I may have cooled off on The Lion King, but there is no denying that it is one of Disney’s top achievements (hell, even its sequels are great when compared with other DTV sequels). I’m sure it will continue to be my most watched movie, especially since it is coming out on blu-ray this year.

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