The Nineties were a great time for many people, grunge rock, boy bands, pop stars, philandering heads of state, and Edward Furlong. But one other company also thrived during this period, Disney Animation. Disney was going through what many have called to this day to be the “Disney Renaissance”. In this period Disney produced a plethora of memorable hits including The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, Hercules, Beauty and the Beast (which would go on the best the first animated film ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture) and among them all, The Lion King.
The Lion King was built on familiar parts, including the Biblical stories of Joseph and Moses as well as Shakespeare’s Hamlet however it presented the pinnacle of hand drawn animation for the age as well as memorable songs. The Lion King has transcended most of its contemporaries and solidified itself as a bona fide classic.
The story surrounds the ambitious young cub Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) who is the son of the King of the Pride-lands Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Simba is constantly under the watch of the careful Zazu (Rowan Atkinson) and he longs for the day he no longer has to wait to be king. Simba’s uncle, Scar (Jeremy Irons) however, has other plans, and seizes the throne for himself and murders Mufasa, throwing Simba into exile to be left for dead. Simba is rescued and partially raised by Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella) a meerkat and warthog. Simba grows up (now voiced by Matthew Broderick) and begins his quest to achieve his destiny.
The voice actors are great in this film, voice roles are often an opportunity for non voice actors to phone it in and get an easy paycheck (i.e. Hugo Weaving in Transformers) but everyone seems involved here and having fun, especially noted thespians like Irons.
The music and songs are also great, catchy and memorable. Elton John and Tim Rice worked very hard on this soundtrack, and it pays off. None of the songs seem excessive or for show. The memorability of these songs is also to be noted, as the Millennial generation still hums “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata”.
The animation is also incredibly well done, and still holds a candle to even the computer generated fair of today. It is truly something to behold, and almost comes off as art. It is a shame there are not any major hand-drawn animation movies in the works.
Essentially this movie is one of the greatest animated films of all time, It stays timeless and enjoyable even after 20 years of existence. If you haven’t seen it (and you’re wrong if you haven’t). Watch it, or watch it again. It is truly something to behold, a “Diamond edition” is already out on Blu Ray but it would not surprise if an anniversary release was in the works.