Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Lion King Review: An Over the Top Dissection

Directors: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
UK Release Date: 7th October 1994
Running Time: 89 minutes
Starring: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane

General Overview

If you have not heard of or watched The Lion King then you are certainly missing out.  It is an American animated Disney film set in Africa. All of the characters are animals that are naturally found on the vast continent.  We have watched this film many times and grew up with it; it is one of the only films we have watched on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray and at the cinema in 3D.  The film features an impressive soundtrack complete with songs composed by Tim Rice, Elton John and Hans Zimmer. The general consensus is that The Lion King is a children's film but we disagree with this film. Cleverly,  The Lion King conveys humour, life morals and emotions for multiple audiences; children and adults.

Film Structure 

The films structure is typical Disney.  Following the same base storyline that most Disney films have embedded within their scripts. The best way to describe this is with a flow diagram:

It is quite easy to fit this template to other Disney films such as Aladdin (1992). What is interesting is that they share the same base plot and both films were very successful. Now there are two ways to interpret this information. The first is that it is the holy grail of script writing. This storyline works and can be repeated from movie to movie with only minor details changing (setting, small parts of the plots, characters). The second is that other contributing factors made these films good and the base structure is only a small part of this, for example the soundtrack.  In our opinion we believe it is a mix of both interpretations.  Due to the success that these early 1990's Disney films achieved, it proves that the base structure worked and combining this with an excellent soundtrack made them hugely popular. Traces of this structure can be seen in movies everywhere and we do not claim that this is where this film structure originated at all but we are just applying it and analysing it for this film.

Life Lessons

The Lion King is primarily known as a children's film. It provides a great story with loveable characters that children can relate to.  Entwined within this are morals that can be learnt from the film.  One theme is friendship shown when Simba meets Timon and Pumbaa.  Simba, an outcast now, is alone and vulnerable but Timon and Pumba take him with them - looking after him as he grows into a young adult.  This is  a great notion for children to learn and understand.
"Hakuna Matata. It means no worries." - Timon and Pumbaa.

It also teaches any young viewers that family are important. You can withdraw inspiration from others including those close to you.  This is evident when Simba sees his father, Mufasa, in the clouds and also in a reflection of himself.  This gives him the self-confidence and belief needed to go back to where he belongs and face his enemy, Scar.  This is also a great lesson for children to learn. To stand up to adversity, to believe in themselves and others around them. The Lion King is an excellent example to children while also providing great entertainment.



Multiple Audiences

The film does not just convey messages for children.  In an earlier part of the film, Mufusa (Simba's father and mentor), is killed.  This is something that the majority of children would not understand to the extent that the older audience would.  We watched The Lion King throughout our childhood and it is only when we have viewed it more recently that we feel sad and emotional while watching this scene.  We believe this is because now we are older, we can relate to it in a way where it means something to us.  We were astonished at how this scene makes us feel considering when we were younger we would happily sit through the whole film without thinking any more of it.  This makes The Lion King a film that can be understood by both a young audience and an older one.


One aspect that makes this film even more appealing is the comedy that flows throughout.  The jokes mainly come from characters Timon and Pumbaa but also the hyenas - one of which is voiced by Whoopi Goldberg.  While the younger audience can relate to many of the jokes made, slipped in along the way are a few other jokes/dialect that are directed more at the older audience.  Here is the transcript of our favourite from the film:
Pumbaa: Hey, Timon, ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?
Timon: Pumbaa, I don't wonder; I know.
Pumbaa: Oh. What are they?
Timon: They're fireflies. Fireflies that, uh... got stuck up on that big bluish-black thing.
Pumbaa: Oh, gee. I always thought they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.
Timon: Pumbaa, with you, everything's gas.
It does not seem that funny on face value but it did tickle us here at M+F Reviews.  We found it quite clever and shows the contrast from how a young person could understand the stars at night to an older person who knows what they are. It is a representation of what we have been aiming to explain in the earlier parts of this review - the film caters for two audiences.

Soundtrack Overview:

That's enough talk  about film structure and what audience the film is projected at.  The soundtrack of The Lion King is a masterpiece.  Tim Rice and Elton John composed the majority of the soundtrack while Hans Zimmer did the same with the film score. There are a range of songs, from high upbeat ones, to love songs that have become classics.  The soundtrack is without doubt one of the first things that comes to mind when anyone mentions The Lion King.  If you have not heard any of the songs here is our top three:
  1. Hakuna Matata - Elton John, Tim Rice (performed by others)
  2. Circle of Life - Elton John, Tim Rice (performed by others)
  3. This Land - Hans Zimmer


We recommend The Lion King to anyone who has not seen it and also for those of you who have seen it to watch it again.  A great animation, with amusing characters and script. Not only that but it offers deeper meanings for those who watch, whether you are young or old.
M+F Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by M+F Reviews.

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