Director: Roger Allers
When Simba, the future lion king, causes his father’s death he, full of remorse and guilt, flees the scene leaving evil Uncle Scar to assume the throne. Little does he know that Scar actually planned his father’s death and that his lands have now become desolate and wasted. Urged by a collection of friends, Simba recollects his pride (pun not intended!) and remembers his responsibility to take his place in the circle of life.
Note: re-released in 2003, remastered in IMAX format with the song “Morning Report” added.
Disney film which suffers from some bland characters but benefits from a number of standout animated sequences and some memorable songs from Elton John. It starts great, has great bits in it and ends great.
This movie contains violence (some graphic), unpleasant and distressing scenes.
Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.
The film starts perfectly with one of cinemas most professional and impressive openings. The lack of character is noticeable for a short period thereafter thanks to some poor one-liners but the film makes up for this with some tremendous sequences. The most memorable is probably the wildebeest stampede which brilliantly uses top computer animation. The ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ sequence is also brilliant though the animation suffers a little from being photographed too close. The ‘Remember’ sequence manages to do the impossible, make James Earl Jones voice even deeper, more booming and more resounding. The final fight sequence is superbly animated, skilfully choreographed and the visual effects are very neat. The poor characters are, sadly, the main characters. Simba and Nala are both very bland and very weak and it is left to a menagerie of supporting characters to take the weight of interest. Timon and Pumbaa are superb, the three hyenas are pretty good and the monkey is great but it should be a criminal offence not to exploit the sensational comic genius of Rowan Atkinson. He is given a whole number of weak lines punctuated by one or two good ones and it is to his credit that his character, Zazu, is not truly unfunny.
The music is outstanding, Elton John’s songs are very catchy and used brilliantly. The best used is ‘Circle of Life’ which opens and closes the film to stunning effect. Elton John was, apparently, a little unhappy with how Disney proposed to use ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ but upon seeing the final version in the film he changed his mind. Musically, it is one of the film’s best momemts. Hans Zimmer complements and uses John’s tunes very well indeed and, while I do not feel he supplies a particularly unique score, it works really well throughout and is probably the single biggest contributor to the emotional impact of the movie.
The animation is generally good, much better than anything from any other studio at the time, but still not up to the standard of Disney’s efforts up to and including 1959’s Sleeping Beauty. Also, despite extensive live-action study, the animals do not always move convincingly, the character animation in the earlier classic The Jungle Book is far better (and it’s rather obvious to animation fans where it was traced for Scar). Moving the lions faces in three dimensions also clearly posed a challenge as facial features (Mufasa’s especially) some distort when they turn their head. As an amusing aside and as noted on the television sitcom Third Rock from the Sun the plot is very similar to Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
All these points, however, do not detract from the sheer entertainment value on offer. This film is a masterful manipulator of emotion with several tear-welling scenes, several funny bits and, unusually for an animated movie, several genuinely exciting sequences. As far as entertainment goes, this is one of Disney’s finest ever efforts and was rewarded by taking over 101 Dalmations (!) crown as the most successful Disney movie ever. It also became one of the most successful movies released ever and, for several years, resided in the top five all-time highest grossing films. In 2003 it was replaced by Finding Nemo as the highest grossing animated film in history.