Rated: G Reviewed by: Chris Release date: June 15, 1994 Released by: Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney's much anticipated animated film is the studio's first to be based on an original story, and what a wonderful story it is!
It takes place in the African wild and features the new little lion cub, Simba, and his adventures on the way to becoming King.
In a spectacular opening, the animal kingdom gathers around Pride Rock to celebrate the birth of the baby Prince. With drums sounding out an African beat in the hypnotic "The Circle of Life" snug by a full chorus, the scene is exhilarating.
When the old sage monkey, Rafiki (voice by Robert Guillaume) holds little Simba up for all the gathered animals to see, you can see the pride on his parents' faces (voices for mother Sarabi by Madge Sinclair and the impressive, booming, unmistakable talent of James Earl Jones for King Mufasa).
The lions try to teach their cub the heavy responsibility that will come once he is King. But, Mufasa's devious brother Scar has other plans for the little tyke. He slithers around his dark cave plotting, with his three hyena cohorts, the destruction of Mufasa and Simba, so he can become King himself.
Jeremy Irons lends his expressive voice to the villainous Scar. His low, lean body is almost snakelike as he creeps along the screen. Irons uses either a goading sarcasm or a mean, commanding tone to personify Scar's sneaky personality.
Scar uses every trick in his bag to get rid of his competition. He gets his wish, when he causes the death of Mufasa and convinces little Simba that he is responsible for his father's accident, making him run off to hide in The Forbidden Jungle.
Once away from home, Simba makes friends with Timon the Meerkat and Pumbaa the Warthog, two of the sillies characters. Their witty antics provide most of the comedy in the film.
Simba stays in the jungle and grows into a happy, frolicking adult lion (voice provided by Matthew Broderick). He finally returns home to save his beloved Pride Land from Scar's destruction.
Young children will probably be frightened by some things in this film. Disney Studios has always had some scary moments for little ones; remember the death of Bambi's mother and the wicked Queen in Snow White? Here you have red eyed hyenas; a wildebeest stampede (which is unbelievably realistic), eerie woods filled with animal skeletons and black, leafless limbs reaching out like long grasping fingers and Scar, not to mention the death of Simba's father - a lot for a child to deal with.
On a lighter note, besides Timon and Pumbaa, there's three hyenas that argue and roll around on the ground giggling in high pitched squeals, that are very funny. Two of the distinct voices for there frisky guys are provided by Whoopie Goldberg and Cheech Marin.
The animals are drawn with such precision and color, they seem to leap from the screen. Their movements are so life like, each animal having its own personality; little Simba is drawn crouching and unsure of himself, proud Mufasa is pumped up and tall with chest thrust forward and the hyena, low to the ground and ready for the kill. The animation with its attention to detail, is truly amazing.
The thing that impressed me the most, was the music written by Elton John and Tim Rice (Aladdin). Fast and fun songs like "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" and "Hakuna Matata," and especially, the rhythmic, majestic "The Circle of Life," make the film come alive and added immensely to my enjoyment.
Unfortunately, I can't recommend The Lion King to small children, but, to everyone else, this was a terrifically moving and entertaining experience.
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