By Maryann O’Connor
It’s a problem free philosophy… Hakuna Matata! If only it were that simple for Simba, son to Mufasa and Sarabi and heir to the kingdom of Pride Rock.
We meet the happy family of lions on the day when all the animals gather to witness the ‘unveiling’ of their future king, little lion cub prince Simba. We are to understand that, even though plenty of the animals there are willing to kill or eat each other, everyone has the utmost respect for their prey and the circle of life. Respecting your food and surroundings is extremely important if you want to get on in life, King Mufasa tells his infant son.
Simba has a problem free childhood with BFF Nala until his jealous and egotistical uncle Scar engineers a wilderbeest stampede designed to kill both King and heir. Simba survives but his daddy doesn’t – a rare sighting of death in a Disney movie (where the dead character does not rise from the grave in subsequent scenes), cue crying in the cinema and questions of: Mummmmy, what’s wrong with Simba’s daddy?
Scar convinces Simba that Mufasa’s death is his fault, a result of his selfishness and urges the cub to run away, believing that the harsh desert or the hyenas will finish his young nephew off. Scar is then free to rule Pride Rock with his band of similarly deceitful hyenas. Simba must make his choice: run away forever or take his rightful place in the world.
The Lion King is a mammoth amongst Disney films so it is not a surprise that they would choose to remaster/convert to 3D and re-release it. The re-release was a brilliant idea, the conversion to 3D: not required.
The Lion King does not benefit from getting the 3D treatment at all. I have heard it said that the colours were noticeably darker: I did not particularly notice this but similarly I did not notice anything astoundingly different from my last viewing of The Lion King. The 3D experience is getting a reputation: distinctly underwhelming whatever picture you choose to see.
James Earl Jones is unmistakeable as King Mufasa, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick are both loveable as cub/grown up Simba and Jeremy Irons is effortlessly snarky and sinister as Scar. Rowan Atkinson and Whoopi Goldberg are funny as Zazu and the head hyena but Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) pip them to the comedic post as the meerkat and warthog who take the despondent lion cub under their wing (or arm, or trotter?)
Robert Guillaume was my personal highlight; you can’t fail to be enchanted by his eccentric and warm portrayal of the philosophical baboon Rafiki (Asante sana squash banana!)
Good casting but the story is so great that it was probably impossible to get it wrong. The award-winning soundtrack is just about as famous as the picture itself, with the rousing ‘Circle of Life’ coming in within the first 2 minutes, exalting you to be amazed and breathless at the spectacle of all those species of animals bowing to their future Lion King.
As with all Disney films,The Lion King is heavily laden with moral lessons but these are actually quite good ones to focus on: namely, facing up to your responsibilities and having respect for all living creatures.
Just as important is the reminder to keep a beady eye on your family members. Not all of your mortal enemies will have a talking mirror and a long, flowing black cape.