The Lion King (1994)
Riding off of the success of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, The Lion King somehow manages to escape unscathed by critics and fans alike. Even more shockingly, the main writer of Beauty and the Beast is on the writing team of The Lion King. The screenplay is so bad that it immediately questions whether her work on Beauty and the Beast was a fluke.
The Lion King traces the life of Simba, an undeserving heir to throne who somehow becomes deserving by befriending the manipulative Timon, getting hit in the head by a stick-wielding baboon, and hallucinating his dad up in the clouds. Scar, on the other hand, becomes hyena meat after trying to feed them. Oh, the irony. It’s a shame Pride Rock had to experience what has to be one of the worst droughts ever during Scar’s rule, otherwise the plot wouldn’t require Simba to become king and regain control of the weather.
Worst of all, The Lion King basically rips off Bambi, removing a layer of originality some people like to associate with The Lion King. In the wake of Ashman’s death, the Disney crew of Beauty and the Beast would never work as a whole again after Aladdin. The A-team worked on Pocahontas. The B-team worked on The Lion King.
Even insiders believed The Lion King would tank. The Lion King‘s unprecedented success was about as unlikely as the absurb amount of rain that accompanies Simba’s reign. Even then, the lion king never convincingly finds his roar.
Kevin’s Favorite Moment: Scar kills Mufasa
I have to strongly disagree with Kevin. He raises some good points about questionable plot elements and characterization used in The Lion King, but even acknowledging these, I consider the film a resounding success. As we learned with Frozen two decades later, a fantastic soundtrack will forgive a lot of other deficiencies in a film, and The Lion King‘s soundtrack is, pound-for-pound, Disney’s best ever (all five numbers are all-time classics).
But I also quite enjoy the story and the sense of adventure. The animation is lush and stunning, the spiritual-mythical sense of gravitas adds drama, and the plot is full of winning moments. The retelling of the Hero’s Journey makes the story feel timeless, and I still love this movie.
Verdict: Properly Rated
Dan’s Favorite Moment: “Why won’t he be the king I know he is, the king I see inside?” transitioning into the chorus of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”
Final Grade: D+ (68%)—a film that misses all its chances for redemption.
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