Flashback Review: The Lion King (1994)

After “Aladdin” came out in 1992 alongside Quentin Tarantino’s film debut “Reservoir Dogs,” Disney worked on their next big project. That’s right, the big one that arguably defines “The Disney Renaissance” is none other than “The Lion King.” Dating back to 1988, The Lion King was actually in development. At the time, Disney made a few hit and miss films in The 70s-80s. Not willing to make a grand scale animated epic, Disney scrapped The Lion King in favor of “The Little Mermaid” that helped resurged the studio’s reputation. Thanks to The Little Mermaid, “The Rescuers Down Under,” “Beauty And The Beast,” & Aladdin, The Lion King resumed development.

It took a whopping six years of making The Lion King. Disney hired Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little, its sequel, The Forbidden Kingdom) as director, recruiting high profile actors, seeking talented animators to bring an immersive world to life and hiring Elton John to write songs. After all that hard work payed off, The Lion was officially distributed worldwide.

The Lion King was released in 1994 (same year Pulp Fiction came out) It received critical acclaim from critics, families and movie goers alike. Besides praise, the film made a truckload of money at the box office. Elton John ultimately won an Oscar for “Best Original Song.” (Can You Feel The Love Tonight) The Lion King spawned a direct-to-video sequel titled, “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, a TV spin off focusing on “Timon & Pumba,” another direct-to-video film “The Lion King 1 1⁄2” involving the aforementioned duo’s point of view, crossover appearances in the “Kingdom Hearts” series, a Broadway musical based on the first film and a 2019 remake directed by Jon Favreau.

A prequel to the remake focusing on Mufasa & Scar is currently in development with Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) in the director’s chair. By the way, “Encanto” is already out.

It doesn’t matter if SPOILERS are present. Many of us 90s Kids/Babies who watched The Lion King growing up during The Disney Renaissance. Everybody sings the songs, bring up scenes and watched the Broadway version.

Mighty & Weak Qualities

Mighty: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cummings (voice of Winnie The Pooh & Darkwing Duck) & James Earl Jones all did an excellent for their respective voiceover performances.

Animation’s breathtaking hand drawn format aged like fine wine bringing character models, lighting, fluid movement and environmental locations to life.

Rob Minkoff did an amazing job directing the film.

Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar) orchestrated the music.

Elton John wrote every single memorable song. He sings the opening tune “The Circle Of Life” & his Oscar winning tune “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.”

I know it’s a cliche. My favorite song from the film is “Hakuna Matata.” It’s catchy and upbeat. Doug Walker/Nostalgia Critic can suck it. At least the song isn’t annoying like Peter Pan’s “Following The Leader” & Frozen’s “Let It Go.” Looking back at Hakuna Matata always puts a smile on my face. It deserves Bonus Points.

Humor as some legit laughs. Timon & Pumba stole the movie. There’s a reason why they had their own show. They’re arguably my favorite characters. To put the icing on the cake, Pumba regrets he farted.

Pacing didn’t take forever. I was invested from beginning to end.

The Narrative is influenced by “Hamlet” & “Lawrence Of Arabia.”

Primary Themes are Royalty, Pride, Coming-Of-Age, Destiny & Legacy. Each one is handled maturely.

There’s no forced romance between Simba & Nala. Their chemistry felt normal.

The Lion King inspired Black Panther’s solo movie. If you’ve seen both of them. There’s a parallel between the two in terms of plot and character driven elements.

Scar literally has a scar near one of his eyes. A reference to Tony Montana’s scar from “Scarface.”

Character Development involving Simba. As the story progresses, he goes from mourning his father not willing to fulfill his legacy as a king until he fully embraces his roots.

Like Jafar, Scar is a memorable antagonist. His scheme is to betray and take Mufasa’s role as king.

Scar meeting his end is one of the most satisfying deaths in cinematic history.

Simba has a happy ending. He has a kid. Then, he lets out a mighty roar he fulfilled his destiny as king.

Weak: Sorry folks. I didn’t cry over Mufasa’s death. I never cried watching any Disney movie.

I couldn’t find anything wrong. I’m giving The Cast & Crew an Extra Point for making a flawless movie as possible. The closest thing something animated related made me cry was Code Lyoko’s second season finale.

The Final Verdict: A, FOR APEX!

Even though Aladdin is my favorite animated Disney movie of all time, The Lion King is one of the best (if not the best) animated Disney movies ever made. Some of the positive stuff I’ve listed, indicates why The Lion King is a masterpiece. If you wanna introduce your kids, grandkids, nephews, nieces, godkids or organize a sleepover, I strongly recommend this gem. Reminder, a prequel to the 2019 remake is in the works.

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