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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 42: "The Lion King"

(Originally published on 10/21/22)


The Lion King

Run time: 88 min.

Release Date: June 24, 1993.

Where/when I first saw it: Liberty Theater, late summer/early fall 1994.

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, late Tuesday evening

There are some movies that peak very early, then never quite regain their momentum or power. Somehow, “The Lion King,” even after its triumphant opening sequence–among the best of all animated films–manages to maintain a steady flow of perfect moments and impeccable instincts for storytelling. Here, the Disney artists returned to the grand tradition of telling a story of animals after a trifecta of Disney princesses swooning over the men of their dreams. The characters here, all inventions out of thin air, are as memorable as any in the classic Disney traditions. Sure, it owes a lot to “Bambi,” “The Jungle Book” and even “The Fox and the Hound,” but it also surpasses them in many regards and sets a new bar. This is an animal story that pulls from Shakespearean drama and the blunders of new world orders. It’s also a lot of fun.

Yet, for all the effort it took to try and build from the ground up and not just take another fairytale off the bookshelf, “The Lion King” manages to fit in comfortably in this era of Disney films. The songs by Tim Rice and Elton John go a long way toward that, I suppose, as they maintain the template put together by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. We have the Broadway showstopper (“I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”), the Lite FM hit (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”), the villain’s intentions (“Be Prepared”) and the comic relief number (“Hakuna Matata”). Yet, these are not pale imitations. They’re equals in every regard. They pull the viewer deeper into the story, not distract them from it. Hans Zimmer’s score also effectively blends in with the landscape while acting as bridges between the songs for what is, essentially, an opera.

The animators have also upped their game a bit. The opening number is so lovingly crafted and precise with its movement and color. Every animal moving toward Pride Rock has a different rhythm, but the epic quality of the music and the way in which every shot and moment is framed make the entire sequence feel like a symphony worthy of its own segment in “Fantasia.”

What a perfect joy this movie is. The voice casting has never been better for this studio and the pacing is just right. There’s nothing I would change about it.


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