THE LION KING. Animation film voiced by Rowan Atkinson, Matthew Broderick, Niketa Calame, Jim Cummings, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Guillaume, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Moira Kelly and Nathan Lane. Directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. 89 minutes. Rated G.
This 2002 film has just been released with a 3D makeover.
In the jungles of Africa, in the Prideland, a baby cub, Simba, is born to the Lion King, Moufassa. All the animals assemble to honour the cub and he is anointed as future king. His uncle, Scar, is jealous and wants to kill both Moufassa and Simba.
Moufassa trains his son but Simba, believing Scar and not wanting to seem afraid is persuaded to go beyond the boundaries of the Prideland and has to be rescued by his father. Scar enlists the help of the scavenging hyenas and they cause a stampede where, once again, Simba is trapped. When Moufassa saves him and tries to climb the cliff to safety, Scar causes him to fall to his death. He then makes Simba feel guilty and advises him to run away.
Simba is found by a warthog and a meerkat (whose song philosophy is Hakuna Mutata, No Worries) who befriend him. With them he grows up but longs for his father. When Narla, his best friend chases Timon in the jungle, he learns that Scar has taken over as king and, with the plundering of the hyenas, has wasted the kingdom. The animals are starving. The old baboon counsellor finds him, shows him his true self and the image of his father within him, so he returns, confronts Scar and brings the kingdom to prosperity. His and Narla's cub is born and presented to the animals as the future king. The circle of life continues.
The Lion King has been the Disney Studio's most successful and popular animated movie. It led to a sequel and to the successful staging of the movie as a musical theatre event.
The story contains the right mix of family themes, royalty, adventure and danger, as well as comic characters and songs. The songs by Tim Rice and Elton John and Hans Zimmer's score were Oscar winners.
The drawing, especially of the variety of animals, is sometimes breathtaking. And many of the characters are particularly well drawn to suit the voices of the actors. This is very much the case with Jeremy Irons relishing his villainy and sardonic humour as Scar. Ernie Sabella and Nathan Lane are enjoyable comic relief as Pumbaa and Timon. Rowan Atkinson is the bird adviser. Whoopi Goldberg leads the hyenas and James Earl Jones well-recognised voice (that of Darth Vader) is Moufassa. Matthew Broderick and Moira Kelly are more conventional as the grown up Simba and Narla. (For parents seeing it again, they might like to ponder the influences of the story of Moses as well as that of Hamlet.)
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
3D version out September 22nd 2011.