The Lion King (1994): Hamlet, Furry Edition

More than a few animated classics have been ‘remade’ in the last few years. And by remade, I mean ‘butchered by live-action adaptations’. Dumbo, Beauty and the Beast, and Mulan are just a few examples. But not one of them are so offensive as what happened to this movie.

The Lion King is widely regarded as one of the best animated movies of all time. It’s a well-deserved reputation. The animation is truly timeless, the music is downright iconic, and the story is almost perfect in its execution. It’s just as enjoyable today as it was when it first came out nearly thirty years ago.

Unlike the already dated remake. But that’s a topic for another day.

In the Pridelands of Africa, the king, Mufasa, raises his son, Simba, to be king. But Mufasa’s brother, Scar, wants the throne for himself and he’s more than willing to kill his brother and nephew to get it. Will the unknowing Simba live long enough to fulfill his destiny? And more importantly: will he have the will to do so?

It’s your classic coming-of-age story. It isn’t especially complicated, but it more than makes up for that in its execution. Perfect for a kid’s movie.

All of the characters are downright iconic, and for good reason. Mufasa is a wise and genuinely lovable father figure, and his death hits like a train. Simba is a spoiled but likable brat, and you can’t help but feel bad when he goes through some truly traumatic stuff. Best of them all is our villain, Scar; he’s just so passive-aggressive that he becomes delightful, while his manipulative cunning makes him truly threatening.

Everyone else is… okay. Like, they all do their job in the plot really well. But compared to the main three lions, none of them are particularly interesting. That’s not a bad thing, per say, it is a kid’s movie after all, but it is a point worth mentioning.

I do like Rafiki, though. I’ve got a soft spot for crazy-but-wise mentor characters.

Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to talk about in regards to the plot. It’s exceptionally simple; it’s literally Hamlet, but for a younger audience. If it weren’t executed almost perfectly, that would be a problem. But it is so well-executed that any narrative issues that do crop up are so minor that they basically don’t exist.

The same point can be said about the presentation. This movie looks every bit as amazing now as it did over twenty-five years ago. All of the environments are drop-dead gorgeous (or depressingly barren, but mostly gorgeous) and the characters just ooze personality in every single frame. We get some of the greatest scenes in all of animation in this movie, like the wildebeest stampede scene.

Even better is the music. The score is absolutely perfect, fitting every single scene like a glove. It works together perfectly with everything to create a perfect harmony of visual and instrumental presentation.

As for the actual musical numbers, I could take them or leave them. Be Prepared is an amazing villain song and Circle of Life is as iconic as you can get. None of the songs are bad. But I’d take most other Disney musicals before I took the Lion King if we were talking strictly about the songs.

Luckily, I watched the version without the ‘Morning Report’ song. Bet you guys don’t remember that one.

Everything about the Lion King is amazing. It’s a true cinematic classic through and through, easily one of the best animated movies of all time. It isn’t perfect in every way, but it is truly timeless.

Imagine being so stupid as to try and remake that in live-action. Couldn’t imagine.

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