Disney’s 1994 epic animated film The Lion King aged well in many regards, but it’s also not timeless.
The Lion King, with little exaggeration on Disney’s part, has often been regarded as Walt Disney Pictures’ perfect animated feature. Even by today’s animation and filmmaking practices, the film still towers over many modern animated classics almost 26 years after the film’s premiere. With that in mind, has “Disney’s perfect film” retained its glistening exterior after all this time?
While it’s true that the animated epic certainly stands the test of time for many reasons, some reasons seem to be stuck in the ’90s. The Lion King might still be the jewel in Disney’s crown by which other films are compared, but it might have gathered a little dust.
Dated: The Circle Of Life Message
“We are all connected in the great circle of life” is one of the most repeated phrases out of any Disney movie. While it’s a great, almost zen-like message that both kids and adults need occasional reminders of, it’s got a little bit of flawed logic. Based on what Mufasa says in the film, lions eat the antelope and the antelope eats the grass which was fertilized by bodies of dead lions. Isn’t that just survival of the fittest?
Timeless: The Opening
The sunrise, the sudden belting of the Swahili chant, the assembly of all African animals, to say the opening of the film is stunning is a gross understatement. Right from the first few seconds, the film grabs the audience’s attention almost immediately.
The opening of The Lion King is one of those rare occurrences in any film as it not only earns the audience’s attention, it straight up takes it and does not apologize.
Dated: Simba And Nala’s Relationship
This is something that has been addressed recently, but it still raises enough eyebrows to warrant a mention. If Mufasa and Scar are the only adult males in the pride, does that make Simba and Nala related? Granted, this would be closer to how an actual lion pride functions, but remember, this is still a Disney production. The studio wanted the lions to have more human-like relationships, but that doesn’t stop a questioning fanbase.
Timeless: The Animation
The Lion King is one of the most beautiful traditionally-animated films of all time, period. The designs, the colors, the scale, the presence, all are incredible and majestic. Any frame of this film could be a painting hanging in an art gallery, and fans have the Disney artists to thank for it.
Everything is so vibrant and rich in hues, no wonder Disney used it as inspiration for an entire theme park. Granted, it might look like a postcard version of Africa, but that’s part of the charm.
The hyenas are some of the most memorable villain sidekicks in the Disney lineup. Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin are great as Shenzi and Banzai, respectively, but as great as Jim Cummings is as an actor, Ed’s fiendish cackles get a little old after a while. To be fair, a hyena that communicates only via laughing is a clever idea on Disney’s part. But by the time the credits roll, the novelty has worn off.
Timeless: The Songs
Disney brought in the big guns when it came to scoring up this film. Hiring Hans Zimmer for the orchestral compositions, Lebo M. for the traditional African melodies, and Tim Rice and Elton John for the musical numbers was nothing short of legendary.
It’s the latter two of this collaboration that truly gives the film one of the greatest albums of all time. Elton John’s “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” won Disney several awards and has stayed on playlists ever since.
Dated: Mufasa’s Death
Mufasa’s death is one of the most traumatic moments in animated history. That being said, since it’s already been seen by legions of ’90s kids turned adults, its shock value has depleted. Not only that, but when he returns as a ghost at the third act of the film, it’s more or less comforting to some viewers. The stampede and the act of murder by Scar is still a bold move on Disney’s part, but time heals all wounds it seems.
Timeless: Rafiki’s Message
“The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” No wiser words have ever been uttered by man nor monkey in a Disney production.
It’s one of the most memorable mantras in any Disney movie, and understandably so. Rafiki might be a smidge eccentric, but as with most characters of his kind, his wild humor masquerades his profound wisdom.
Dated: Pumbaa’s Fart Humor
It’s common knowledge to most Disney fans that a certain warthog is responsible for Disney’s first fart joke. That’s all well and good, but like a few other entries on this list, the humor (unlike Pumbaa’s stench) wears off after a while. It’s funny for the younger viewers, sure enough, but now the joke has been overplayed to some of the older listeners. Now it’s a ball of gas burning in the ’90s.
Timeless: The Story
Is there a movie fan nowadays that doesn’t know the story of Simba and his saga to reclaim the throne? Forget Beauty and the Beast, this is a tale as old as time that Disney doesn’t want anyone to forget anytime soon. Second only to Frozen in terms of notoriety, The Lion King has a timeless narrative that will never leave the collected consciousness. After all, who doesn’t love a story of an underdog’s quest for redemption? Circle of life, right?
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