The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King (1994)
  • Time: 89 min
  • Genre: Animation | Adventure | Drama
  • Directors: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
  • Cast: Matthew Broderick, Rowan Atkinson, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg


A young lion prince is born in Africa, thus making his uncle Scar the second in line to the throne. Scar plots with the hyenas to kill King Mufasa and Prince Simba, thus making himself King. The King is killed and Simba is led to believe by Scar that it was his fault, and so flees the kingdom in shame. After years of exile he is persuaded to return home to overthrow the usurper and claim the kingdom as his own thus completing the “Circle of Life”.


  • Disney’s The Lion King capped a highly lucrative 5 years for the House of Mouse, who were, before The Little Mermaid came along in 1989 and turned their fortunes around, in real danger. It seems ridiculous to think that the studio that now routinely make billions of dollars a year with their Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm output, as well as their recent fondness for re-imagining their so-called ‘Disney Animated Classics’ series in live-action, could have ever been in danger of actually going under. Yet Mermaid made the millions, Beauty and the Beast (1991) won critical adoration, and Aladdin (1992) charmed, and the rest is history.

    I remember seeing The Lion King in cinemas back in 1994 with my mum, and not being particularly over-awed. I didn’t shed a tear when Mufasa was betrayed, nor was I singing the songs to myself in the car ride home. However, it felt like I was the only one, as the film’s popularity seemed to increase each year, with home release re-masters, soundtracks and a theatre production jamming every one of my senses, even now, 22 years later. It was because of this, and partially because I’m an old-school (1930’s-60’s) Disney loyalist, that I shunned The Lion King for all these years. After finally viewing it again, I wish I had a time machine to slap the 10 year old version of myself, as this is about as close to animated perfection as you can get.

    For anyone who has somehow never seen the film, The Lion King tells the story of King Mufasa (James Earl Jones), a respected and formidable beast who rules over the Pride Lands of Africa. The arrival of his new son and heir, Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick), is cause for celebration across the plains, except, that is, for Mufasa’s weak and envious brother Scar (Jeremy Irons) and his hyena friends (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings). When Scar’s plan to usurp Mustafa’s throne ends in tragedy, Simba flees with guilt and shame, finding unlikely friends in the slow-witted warthog Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) and motor-mouthed meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane). As Scar’s rule leaves Simba’s former homeland a hyena-ridden wasteland, will the would-be king fulfil his destiny and take back his crown?

    From the enchanting, wordless opening scene in which Simba is shown off to the crowd to the tune of Circle of Life, to the savage, expressionistic climax which sees hero and villain have their final showdown, I felt completely immersed in this world, regardless of the fact that I knew the story back to front. This is Disney at its most thoughtful, magical and hilarious. Perhaps taking a page from Studio Ghibli’s environmentally-aware book, the film shows a real respect for the natural world despite anthropomophising its characters and dabbling in pseudo-mysticism. Lane and Sabella shine as Timon and Pumbaa, two of Disney’s most beloved comedic side-kicks, who also get to belt out one of their most beloved tunes in Hakuna Matata. I’ll most likely never be convinced that Disney will manage to recreate the beauty and warmth of the likes of Dumbo (1940) and Bambi (1942) during their Golden Age, but The Lion King is the closest it’s ever come.

    Rating: 5/5

    Read more reviews at The Wrath of Blog

  • It really is a scary thought. The Lion King, a modern Disney classic, is almost two decades old. How we have aged all these years, while the tale of a young lion cub named Simba in his journey to reclaim his place as King of Pride Rock remains ageless.

    It’s a very unflattering contrast, but one we take with a pinch of salt as it goes to show how great The Lion King is. One of the best animated features to grace the silver screen, this Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff-directed film is a must-see for everyone, regardless of their year of birth.

    It would be utterly foolish to dismiss this great film as “something only kids watch in their spare time”. It is a simple but classic story: Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and Matthew Broderick) has to overcome the death of his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones), and challenge his evil uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) whose reign at Pride Rock has caused hunger and suffering.

    The film is clearly defined by its three-act structure: The glorious birth, the guilt-ridden fall, and the redemptive rise of a future king. All these are told vividly and engagingly in a briskly-paced 89 minutes.

    The Lion King features great voice performances, with special mention to Irons who creates a truly vile villain in Scar, whose character is as haunting a memory for kids as it is the sight of Mufasa’s soulless body in the aftermath of the stampede sequence.

    The five original songs in this Disney classic are integrated well into the film, with “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” being the most memorable. In the prologue, which is as beautifully conceived as any other opening sequence in animation, we hear “Circle of Life”, and indeed the film does aurally turn full circle as the soundtrack builds up and ends with the rousing chorus from the same song.

    Yes, I’d better mention the original score, composed by the brilliant Hans Zimmer, who apparently won his only Oscar to date with his stunning work here. The themes evoke the epic nature of the story, while at the same time responsible for building up the relationship between Simba and Mufasa, and underscoring the guilt and sadness after the former loses the latter.

    The film does not lose its power to compel no matter how many times one revisits it. In fact, you can even “watch” the film with your eyes closed, and the impact remains. The Lion King is an emotional journey unmatched, a symbiotic melding of image and sound. It is without a doubt one of the great films of the 1990s.

    Verdict: One of the greatest of all animated films, The Lion King retains its power to compel, and packs an emotional wallop so strong it brings both sad and happy tears to one’s eyes.

    GRADE: A+

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