Movie Review: The Lion King 3D
The Lion King
Animated, 89 minutes
Released June 24th, 1994 by Disney
I’m not going to summarize the movie in this review, because if you haven’t seen The Lion King already, I just feel sorry for you.
Warning: Don’t wear mascara to this movie if you have any emotional attachment to it. I teared up at so many moments. I can’t believe I forgot how frigging good this movie is. (SO FRIGGING GOOD, in case you forgot, too.) I felt like I was on the verge of tears the entire time. (Perhaps an exaggeration, but not by much. I’m not one of those people who cries during movies, but in the past couple of years Toy Story 3, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and now The Lion King have made me tear up.)
I went to a Saturday morning show, and it was packed with people my age who grew up with The Lion King during the golden age of Disney feature-length animation, and parents with their kids – many of whom were likely seeing it for the first time. It was such a responsive audience, for which I am grateful. Audience response is one of the reasons I go to the movies. You guys, everyone clapped and cheered after “Circle of Life!” There was that last drum beat (you know it), the title flashed in red across a black background, and the audience went nuts. People laughed at all the right moments, at things we laughed at nearly two decades ago and jokes I totally didn’t get when I was 11. I was riveted during “Be Prepared,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” hit me in a way it never did before.
The 3D is used really well, and the many layers of animals and landscape work with the medium. This is evident from the very beginning during “Circle of Life,” when the audience ooh-ed and ahh-ed every time a new herd of animals came into view. Zazu, Mufasa’s majordomo toucan, looks particularly good in 3D. His flying is very nicely done. And as someone who has tried to sketch moving lion cubs and their parents, I can’t help but be wowed by the animation. But that’s Disney done right. Disney animators set the bar a long time ago and this movie definitely pushed it up even higher.
I’ve studied Hamlet since seeing this movie countless times as a kid, and watching it now I was aware of the influences the play had on the story. (It makes me want to write about the themes of guilt and redemption in The Lion King.) Watching Simba stride up Pride Rock in the pouring rain to take his rightful place as king really pulled at me; you could read the struggle on his face, feel how heavy his feet must have felt, and the triumph of his roar was a magical thing that ripped right through you. When Rafiki hugs Mufasa in the beginning, I was struck by the thought that they were friends. Mufasa was not just feared for his strength and size, but he was respected, and LIKED. These are the things I didn’t fully understand when I was younger.
And Nala. What can I say about Nala? She’s that friend who calls you on your bullshit and doesn’t let you get away with lying to yourself. But she’s also got your back whenever you need her. She really is Simba’s best friend, because those are total BFF qualities right there. And then she goes and gives him Sexy Eyes, something that didn’t escape the notice of my contemporaries even though we were only in 5th grade when this came out.
Scar. Oh, Scar, one of the great Disney villains. I never realized how truly fabulous he is. GREAT animation. I wish I’d known Andreas Degas had animated Scar when he was sitting behind me that time in Animation History class.
Scar reminds me a lot of Jafar in the movement of his mouth, and Ursula in the movement of his mane and hips. I appreciate how much he sticks his pinky claw out. So debonair. He’s such a dandy – I love it. His mane has all the flair and nonverbal communication of a feather boa. Don’t question it. Just appreciate. No wonder there were no cubs born while Simba was gone.
It’s funny to note which voice actors I was aware of then, and now. As a kid, I knew that Mufasa was Darth Vader and Simba was JTT and Ferris Bueller. (Two teen heartthrobs = sexy lion, somehow.) Now I know Zazu is Black Adder, I saw Timon as Gomez Addams on Broadway, and Scar is Jeremy Irons, period drama extraordinaire. (And omg how did I NOT KNOW that Timon was Nathan Lane?! I’m ashamed of myself.)
I really miss this era of Disney movies, and I feel privileged to have grown up during it. I love the “spectacular spectacular” musical numbers, singing animals, and sing-along-able music.
I was pleased to see that I can still recite full chunks of the movie verbatim. I didn’t, because I was in a movie theater, but I am proud of this fact. #nerd