The Lion King (1994)

"Carnivores. Oy!" - Timon the meerkat

Disney has done it again!  Surprised?  Forget the cross promotions and
tie-ins-from-hell, the strengths of THE LION KING are many and you could
waste an entire afternoon going over the giddy delights of this
full-length animated feature. Rich imagery, colorful characters, and
timeless themes are just some of the reasons to roar about THE KING.

The story-- an agreeable blend of HAMLET, BAMBI, and THE JUNGLE BOOK--
introduces Simba, a young lion lad whose father, Mufasa, is king. But
when the king is crowned by his scheming brother Scar, young Simba is
led to believe that he caused his father's death.  Simba flees the
kingdom, instilled with the guilt that will inhibit his return as an
adult.  The cub pairs with a pair of jungle johns-- Pumbaa the wart hog
and Timon the meerkat-- who teach Simba the bare necessities, including
their philosophy of "no worries"-- a mantra that will prove quite
convenient for Simba to run away from responsibility.

And you thought this was just a cartoon.

THE LION KING borrows the best from "big three," incorporating the
anachronistic humor of ALADDIN, the somber splendor of BEAUTY AND THE
BEAST, and the youthful vigor of THE LITTLE MERMAID.  (Not to mention
almost *all* of BAMBI.)

There's action and adventure and, of course, music.  Glorious, sweeping
music from a score (by Hans Zimmer) that, oddly, is better than the
songs (by Tim Rice and Elton John). These tunes lack the obvious wit of
previous partners Alan Menken and Howard Ashman and, with the exception
of the "Be Prepared" (sung by Jeremy Irons), are little more
than agreeable filler.

The characterizations are some of the most diverse that Disney's done to
date. No humans are on hand, for a change, and no one flies solo ala
Robin Williams. Not even second-half scene-stealer Nathan Lane as Timon.
Best of the best is Irons as Scar, who takes his place in the
long-standing line of memorable Disney villains.

The film stumbles a bit in the art department.  Some of the segments--
such as a computer-aided stampede of wildebeests-- are breathtaking to
behold. Other, less-involved scenes use simple backdrops that are almost
eyesores by comparison.  The entire final sequence, for example, looks
almost unfinished.

THE LION KING is an enthusiastic sign that Disney still has room for
improvement. Sure, THE KING is a grand entertainment and is easily one
of the best films so far this year.  But add better songs and more
computer graphics and *then* we'll see something the likes of which
we've never seen before.  Featuring the voices of Rowan Atkinson, Mat-
thew Broderick, Niketa Calame, Jim Cummings, Whoopi Goldberg., Robert
Guillaume, James Earl Jones, Moria Kelly, Cheech Marin, and Jonathan
Taylor Thomas.  (Rated "G"/87 min.)

PARENTS:  King Mufasa dies a violent death in the film.  Should you take
the young ones to this?  To see or not see?  That is the question that I
cannot answer. (I cried in *every* scene.)

BOTTOM LINE:  Once again, one of the best films (so far) this year is
from Disney.  THE LION KING is grand entertainment. Go have a good cry.

Grade: A-

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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