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MovieMeditation presents...
total movie count ........... viewing day count
265 .......................... 310


November 7th

—— 1994 ——
______T H E______

—— animation ——

To many people, critics and fans alike,
this is Disney's greatest masterpiece...

The Disney Animation Studios has calmly and confidently climbed Pride Rock, in a way, which would make even Walt Disney himself proud, by reaching higher and greater than ever thought possible… This might not be my most beloved Disney film in terms of favorites, though it is indeed close, but it may be the most bold, broad, beautiful and objectively majestic masterpiece ever released by the studio. In terms of technical achievements, story elements, music and lyrics, visual appeal and expansive atmosphere, ‘The Lion King’ might just be Disney’s rock solid crowning work. There are plenty of people who would agree that this is their greatest work yet, but despite of being a childhood favorite as well, somehow it still seems to live up to every little expectation, every single time, inside my ever-evolving cinema heart –beating even stronger, partly because of the professionally crafted feel of the movie, with a cast and crew delivering their very best – paired with a great and ambitious story just to amplify the already amazing achievements all around this film…

Disney did so many things with this release and went completely beast mode several places throughout, turning every pending challenge into just another prey to be hunted down – no matter the size or ultimate effort needed. Also, despite of having a memorable moral, which tells the audience not to go into the dark, uncertain, unsafe, and unprotected areas of our world, Disney themselves definitely went there and dominated it all like the animation dictator of the 90s they certainly were. There are a lot of things, which adds to the overall greatness of the film, and part of that greatness is due to the persistent patience and prolonged process of studying animals and spotting locations. All this payed off, in one of the greatest opening scenes of all time, animated or other, when the whole entire savanna slowly comes to life, set their designated course and come together at Pride Rock to celebrate their coming future king. The beautifully build structure of the scene is paired with absolutely breathtaking animated visuals, also accompanied by an epic musical intro piece inspired by African language and culture. Just hearing the iconic opening song and seeing the yellow-red sun slowly rise in the horizon, simply sends chills down my spine… And having the whole scene expand and elevate itself, quite literally, as the newborn is lifted far above the masses just as the scene peaks to greatness and the big title on black background tramps onto the screen like a wild animal, THE LION KING … now, that’s how you do an opening scene, ladies and gentlemen.

Every animated classic made in the Disney Renaissance era was based on previous and well-known material, with the lesser one being ‘Rescuers Down Under’, which was only based loosely on the novels by Margery Sharp and kind of fell short of the ambiguity of this animated era. ‘The Lion King’ takes a giant ambitious leap, with a script that is inspired by biblical elements and influenced by ‘Hamlet’, written by world-famous English poet, William Shakespeare. Whether adapted, based or influenced by someone as great as Shakespeare, I personally think it was a brave and very interesting approach to take, which furthermore adds a lot to the feel and scope of the movie. The plot is not written without Disney’s well known directional ‘doppelganger models’, where the same themes, tropes and elements are intervened into the story as it goes along, but nevertheless, it still walks a proper path for an animated film, daring to be really dark at times and having some bite, but balancing it all out again with clever cut-away scenes, compositions or added comedic relief characters or sequences. All of this really shapes the Disney we know and love, but with a more mature angle to it, with added lightness throughout to make it easier for children to tolerate. Speaking as a bitter film critic, I could have used a little less Timon and Pumbaa, both in terms of plot and presence, but admittedly they are likeable and arguably Disney’s best comedic relief characters and collective duo created as of yet.

The story about Simba growing into a destiny that is already chosen for him – as well as all the expectations and dangers that come with being the son of a king – is a really solid fundament for a finely told and finely tuned film. As for the rest of the family, as well as other animals around said family, we really get some good tension and talk about jealousy, expectation, pressure, pride, greed and even politics – as well as the obvious dramatic duplicates of Disney, such as love and bravery and the likes… Simba goes through many phases throughout the movie, starting kind of startled or simply surprised and overwhelmed by the coming responsibility, though he quickly turns slightly obsessed and even arrogant about it. He becomes irresponsible because of his inner curiosity and tendency to explore and learn as the youngling he is. Simba’s father tries to teach him things the “easy way”, by training him to stand up for himself and telling him what to do, when to do it and when not to do anything at all. He respects his father, clearly, but he has much to learn, and that aspect of it he will learn the hard way.

Later, as we all know and hate every single time we watch this film, he loses his father to Scar’s jealously and greed, in one of the best scenes of the movie, only to be blamed for it all. Taking responsibility for his father’s death takes its toll on him and not until he meets Timon and Pumbaa does he snap out of it by meeting somebody who are optimistic and not the least care-free about the world – quite opposite his own heavy burden as a coming king. And in the jungle, suddenly he lives like a king, figuratively in this matter, out in the grand green jungle with no responsibility and his past in the past and future in the present – just enjoying life as it happens, no worries at all… Hakuna matata, you know. Unfortunately, things are all dug up again once Nala shows up to bring him back to Pride Rock and save the savanna from Scar’s dictatorship. But Simba has moved on and left that part of his life behind; partly because he thought that they had left him behind too, for the blame of Mufasa’s death. Rafiki, the wise and wacky monkey, makes him realize otherwise and Simba completes his character arc as a proud, responsible, changed lion, who are ready to stand up for his family and set things straight. But as we all know – and excuse the pun – Simba is about to walk right into the lion’s den…

So here is how it all goes down… the opening scene is epic and breathtaking, the following scenes are calm, character-based and dramatic, then there are some comedic scenes of careless fun combined with present danger, until the point of no return hits, where Simba is blamed for his father’s death and the movie takes a turn for the worst, only to be pulled up again by the brightest part of the movie, literally and figuratively, out in the wide and colorful jungle with Timon and Pumbaa – admittedly though, one of the best songs ever written and sung by Elton John, plays out right here, so there is definitely balance to it too. Then the movie climbs towards its climax, with Simba coming to a realization and running for the rescue of Pride Rock. Here, we get a grand climatic finale, which does have outburst of humor, but mostly goes a rather dark route, with Simba facing off against Scar in an impressive and imaginative cinematic battle of the century. This sequence is visually really well done, in my opinion, with the story elements elevating the already impressive scenario, by having Scar’s own personality, politics and future plans turn around on himself in the end.

And at last, all the epic extravaganza has ended, or so it seems, until we experience one of the most bad-ass sights in cinema history, as Simba walks up the Pride Rock, in slow-motion, and with the epic score by Hans Zimmer pouring out of the speakers, as Simba grands true meaning and purpose to Pride Rock, by name, and as a united home and rightful place for him as king, leader and living legend among all animals on the savanna…