The Lion King stands as the pinnacle of Disney animation.
The Lion King follows the life of Simba, a young cub living in the Pride Lands, destined to be king, as he goes through a powerful, heartbreaking, symbolic and inspiring journey. Dealing with themes about family, destiny, death, responsibility & friendship, The Lion King does not shy away from the heaviest themes a children film can tackle. Treating its audience as capable and mature, The Lion King explores death through the eyes of a child, explores feelings of guilt, resentment, jealousy, rage, forgiveness and maturity in a beautiful and timeless way.
The first 45 minutes of The Lion King cover Simba’s life as a child. As the prince of the entire land, Simba is overconfident, curious and eager to step into his father’s shoes. Played by the legendary James Earl Jones, Mufasa is royal, powerful and a true king of the land. Wise and stern, Mufasa teaches Simba many of the life lessons that prepare him to be King. This makes for the film’s most heartwarming scenes and builds up to its most heartbreaking. As Scar, brother of Mufasa and jealous of the throne, plots to kill both Mufasa and Simba, the film takes a dark and somber tone. Backed with the beautifully rich score of Hans Zimmer, the scene of Mufasa’s death and Simba’s mourning stays with the audience even 2 decades since the film’s release.
The second half of the film covers Simba’s adulthood. Growing up in self exile after Scar trucked him into believing his father’s death was his fault, Simba is far removed from the royal heritage and throne that is his birthright. Instead, he joins Timone and Pumba, two best friends who live with their own code. The film at this point takes a fun turn. Much like how Simba has shied away from his responsibility in guilt, the audience is made to forget the past as well, singing songs and having laughs alongside this new trio. Soon after, Simba is reunited with his best friend and future Queen, Nala.
Nala tries to convince Simba to return home. The two fall in love and fulfill part of their destiny to be together. The Lion King is full of amazing songs that weave in and out of Zimmer’s score. Can You Feel The Love Tonight is one of the highlights that bridges Simba past and his future through Nala. The Lion King is a film that tells Simba’s complete story. It is at this point that the film harkens the audience back to the heartbreaking childhood of Simba and the death of Mufasa as Simba learns life can not be Hakuna Matata when your destiny is to be King. After a powerful moment where Simba is given one last vision of his father and advice from Rafiki that he accepts his destiny and goes back to take his throne and save his pride.
Simba goes back to challenge Scar, bringing the plot and Simba’s arc together for a final confrontation with the man who killed his father and ruined his life. Backed with his best friends and the love of his life, Simba feels much more confident, echoing his father. This is especially potent when both Scar and Sarabi, Simba’s mother, mistaken the adult Simba for Mufasa himself. After a powerful moment of Scar revealing he killed Mufasa, a war breaks out which eventually leads to Simba overthrowing Scar and taking back his throne. A scene that will stay with me forever, Simba walking up the same throne that his father did, after all his trials, tribulations, tragedy and growth, Simba looks up to the sky one last time at his father and let’s out a roar, signaling himself as King and completing the Circle of Life. It is a moment that sends goosebumps as Hans Zimmer’s perfection score and beautiful animation create one of the most stunning scenes in cinematic history.
The Lion King is a masterpiece. To speak on it personally, this film released the year I was born. I watched it at a very young age and had fallen in love with it ever since. Scenes that were heart wrenching as child continue to be heart wrenching as an adult. Scenes that were inspiring as a child continue to be inspiring as an adult. It is a film that I will always cherish in my life and stands in the highest tier of films for me. A film that has impeccable animation, a legendary score, iconic songs, brilliant voice acting, deep and resonating themes and most of all a beautiful story, The Lion King is the greatest animated film ever made. The Lion King is the KING of Disney animation and its magic continues to live on.