Monday, January 14, 2013

The Circle of Life

The Lion King
Directors: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
Voice Talent: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Moira Kelly, Robert Guillaume, Cheech Marin, Rowan Atkinson
Released: June 24, 1994

Oscar nominations:
Best Score - Hans Zimmer (won)
Best Song - "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" by Elton John and Tim Rice (won)
Best Song - "The Circle of Love" by Elton John and Tim Rice
Best Song - "Hakuna Matata" by Elton John an Tim Rice

I don't remember what movie it was, but I was at the movie theaters (with my mom probably), about a year before The Lion King was released and one of the previews they showed was for it. It wasn't a trailer in the traditional sense, but the opening "Circle of Life" scene where they play that song and all the animals are coming out for Simba's first appearance after being born and bowing to him as Rifiki holds him up. (Have you ever noticed there are no other wild cats besides lions there? I guess the leopards and cheetahs were jealous the lions were getting all the attention!) Then the song ends with a big boom as the screen goes dark and the title shows up in red letters. One of the coolest title cards ever. My mom and I were like, "Whoa, that was cool!" That had definitely got our attention and apparently everybody else's as it is the highest grossing animated Disney movie. I saw it twice in the theaters: the first time with a friend and her brother and the second time with my mom.

The Lion King is a simple story. It starts out happy, becomes sad, and ends triumphant. Young Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas who was at the height of his popularity with Home Improvement) is destined to become the next King of Pride Rock. His father, Mufasa (voiced by none other than James Earl Jones) is the current King and teaches his son valuable life lessons. His brother, Simba's Uncle Scar (voiced by Jeremy Irons, who shares a birthday with me!) is not fond of Simba because he is jealous he is going to become King. For two lions who are brothers, Mufasa and Scar do not look alike at all. Mufasa has a solid bulk to him and has a healthy and beautiful mane of red hair and golden fur while Scar looks like skin and bones and has a mangy black mane. Maybe they are half-brothers? Well, you know Disney, they have to make the villain as obvious as possible! Simba wants desperately to be brave like his father and grow a mane and roar and almost gets himself and his friend, Nala, killed when they go somewhere they shouldn't.

Scar tells Simba he has a surprise for him, a surprise "to die for". The surprise turns out to be a trap when Simba is in a gorge and a herd of wildebeest are about to trample him. He is saved by his father, but Mufasa is killed by Scar, who tells Simba, who didn't witness Scar pushing his father off the cliff, that it's his fault that Mufasa is dead. Simba, ashamed of what he has done, runs away where he meets Timon, the meerkat (voiced by Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa, the warthog with gas problems (voiced by Ernie Sabella). Simba grows up with them until he and Nala are reunited and she tells him how Scar has taken over Pride Rock and how awful everything is. Simba refuses to go back and help and acts like a selfish brat (kinda like he was when he was a cub and disobeyed his father about not going to the elephant graveyard). Eventually he gets some sense knocked into him - literally - by the baboon, Rifiki (voiced by Robert Guillaume - Benson!) He defeats Scar and Pride Rock becomes his kingdom.

I think this movie did very well because it appealed to both boys and girls. Usually Disney movies seem like they're more targeted toward girls like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, with their main characters being a female. That said, The Lion King is not my favorite animated Disney movie. That honor would go to Beauty and the  Beast. It's not even my second favorite. That goes to another movie I have not reviewed yet, so I will reveal what it is when I do! It's probably my third favorite - I keep going back and forth on whether The Lion King or The Little Mermaid should get that spot.

The music is very solid. Usually in Disney movies, there might be one - maybe two -  songs that I don't particularly care for and they're just like, meh, but all five songs in The Lion King - "The Circle of Life", "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", "I Just Can't Wait To Be King", "Hakuna Matata", and "Be Prepared" are all really good, solid songs. Elton John did his own renditions of the first three songs. Usually only one song from a Disney movie is covered by a famous artist, but The Lion King had three, two of which were on the radio.  "Be Prepared" is my favorite villain song from any Disney movie. I also really like the villain song from Anastasia, but that's not a Disney movie! "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" is a really cute song and I like the African-style music in the background. My favorite part is when Simba sings, "Everybody look left, everybody look right. Everywhere you look, I'm standing in the spotlight!"

And with the success of the movie, which turned into a successful Broadway play he really is!

Even my own cat has a connection to The Lion King! 

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