The Lion King
A lion cub named Simba is the heir to the Pride Lands, but his scheming uncle Scar wants the throne for himself. He plots to murder Mufasa, the reigning king, and Simba with the aid of the hyenas, the lions' natural enemmy. After Mufasa is killed during a wildebeest stampede, Scar convinces Simba that it's his fault, so the cub flees. He grows up in exile, but eventually he returns to his homeland to claim his throne.
This was probably my second favorite movie as a kid, after The Little Mermaid. It's the first film I can remember seeing multiple times in the theatres during the initial release, and we played the soundtrack on every single family road trip for years afterward. Heck, even my dad knows the songs from this movie, and he's definitely not a Disney fan. When it recently came back to movie theatres in 3D, I knew I had to see it again.
Quick note re: 3D: While it was great to see The Lion King on the big screen again, I honestly don't think the 3D effects added much to it. For the most part, they were unobtrusive, which is good, but on the other hand if you don't really notice the effects why pay the extra money for it?
I think the opening “Circle of Life” sequence is the best beginning of any movie. I still get chills down my spine every time that sun starts rising. It looks amazing, the song matches the animation perfectly... A+ all the way. In fact, the music throughout the movie is top-notch. Tim Rice must have been at the top of his game.
Overall, I still think this is a great movie, and definitely one of Disney's best, but my cynical adult self is bothered by some of the little things that I never noticed as a child. For example...
OMG TIMON IS ANNOYING. My tolerance for humorous sidekicks seems to decrease with every passing year. I mean, I know I liked him as a child, but today Nathan Lane's voice is not unlike nails on a chalkboard. I was also disappointed by Matthew Broderick as the adult Simba...his voice is just so very bland. He's just so...boring.
While I'm thinking about adult Simba, does anyone else find it funny that he totally has the same floppy hairstyle that was so popular with teen idols around the time this movie came out? You know, that long, boyish haircut rocked by Jonathan Brandis, Rider Strong, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nick Carter and tons of others in the 1990s?
Is it just me who finds this amusing?
(OK, the Brandis photo isn't the best example, but don't tell me you don't see the resemblance.
Back to voices. Jeremy Irons is still really awesome as Scar, and James Earl Jones made Mufasa a big, powerful softie. Heck, with the exception of adult Simba I think the movie is very well cast.
Apparently, The Lion King was marketed as Disney's “first original story”. I don't remember this from when I was a kid, but watching the movie now I find that claim just a wee bit ludicrous. I mean, this is Hamlet with lions; can you really call that original? Or go to African mythology and read the story of Sundiata...again, the parallels are pretty clear.
Certainly, the biggest controversy about The Lion King were allegations that it ripped off a Japnese cartoon called Kimba the White Lion. It's detailed pretty well with side-by-side images here. I first learned about the accusations when I was in high school, around the time Atlantis came out and Disney was getting a lot of plagiarism flack for that film. The website cited above theorizes that Disney originally meant to do a re-make of Kimba, but were unable to get the rights, so they adapted the story into something original. That certainly sounds plausible to me; Matthew Broderick said in an interview that when he first took the role, he thought he was signing on to a remake of Kimba and a lot of the preproduction art features a white lion cub.
But whether it intentionally ripped off Kimba or it was, as Disney claims, a mere coincidence that The Lion King is so similar, it's still a really great movie. Kids love it, adults love it, everybody is happy!
Yeah, I took a star away because Nathan Lane's voice irritates me that much. Feel free to mentally tack that star back on if that's not a factor for you.