The Lion King (1994)
One of the greatest films of all time featuring one of the greatest stories ever told on the silver screen, The Lion King is the very pinnacle of Disney’s Renaissance Era for it not only marks a creative high for the legendary animation studio but still remains the most impressive feature to have been fired from their cannon. An astounding masterpiece for viewers of all ages that’s perfectly balanced in every filmmaking department & continues to retain every bit of its magic despite being over 20 years old, there’s simply no denying that this unforgettable classic is without a doubt the greatest Disney film ever made.
Set in the Pride Lands of Africa, The Lion King tells the story of Simba; a young lion who’s to succeed his father, Mufasa, as the ruler of his kingdom but flees into exile after Mufasa’s tragic death when his uncle Scar tricks him into believing that he is the one responsible for the king’s demise. Growing up with two outcasts consisting of a meerkat & a warthog and embracing their carefree perspective on life, Simba is ultimately forced to confront his inner demons after an unexpected encounter with his childhood friend & soon decides to return to his homeland which has lost all its glory under Scar’s rule.
Directed by Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff, The Lion King opens on such a grand note that its prologue alone is much better than most features happen to be in their entire runtime. The whole story has an epic feel to it despite its grounded simplicity, every single scene unfolds so smoothly that its 88 minutes of runtime passes by like a soothing breeze, the numerous themes it deals with are handled with precise care & is presented in a manner that never hinders its entertainment factor, and then there’s this list of carefully carved out characters inhabiting this feature who end up adding even more richness to its story.
Each frame of its beautifully rendered animation is a work of spellbinding craftsmanship, not just for the way it is illustrated on the film canvas but for how deeply this element is embedded into the story plus the extensive role it plays in lifting up the whole narrative. Characters are brilliantly sketched too & do manage to express emotions amazingly well. Cinematography makes excellent use of colour palettes plus many of its key sequences benefit from vibrant use of camera angles. Editing provides a frenetic pace to the whole story & is at its best during the musical numbers, while CGI is seamlessly integrated into its hand-drawn imagery.
Although nearly every character in the picture has a well-defined arc & plays a key role in the story’s final outcome, what makes them so much fun is the pitch-perfect voice cast which infuses new life in these characters, adds further depth in their characterisation & provides them their very own souls. James Earl Jones who voices Mufasa brings a king-like imposing quality to his character, Matthew Broderick does well in the role of Simba, Jeremy Irons is absolutely thrilling as Scar while both Nathan Lane & Ernie Sabella who voice Timon & Pumbaa, respectively, steal the show with their impeccable timing & perfect chemistry and also provide plenty of comic relief to what is quite a grim tale.
Last but not the least, I’d like to talk about one of my favourite aspects in The Lion King i.e. its magnificent score. Composed by Hans Zimmer who was simply starting out back when this film entered production, the exquisitely arranged, masterfully orchestrated & Academy Award winning score elevates what was already an incredibly fascinating tale to such a grandeur level of epicness that it still remains one of the finest uses of music in any animation feature out there. And further strengthening its musical aspect are catchy songs written by Tim Rice & Elton John, such as “Circle of Life” which opens the story on a high note or “Hakuna Matata” which has since become a part of our pop culture.
On an overall scale, The Lion King is an extraordinary blend of a highly gripping story, deftly written screenplay, state-of-the-art animation, cleverly drawn characters voiced by wisely chosen cast, terrific use of humour, skilful camerawork, tight editing as well as an outstanding score plus sensational songs, all of which work in near-perfect harmony in order to set an entirely new benchmark for its medium. Also, it doesn’t matter whether you put this film into the genre of musical, comedy, adventure or drama because The Lion King will still be able to triumph as one of the finest examples in all of them, which is another element that further confirms the greatness of this Disney classic.
An emotionally stirring cinematic treasure that’s full of heart, passion & creativity from the very beginning to the very end and even today remains as magical an adventure as it was during its time of release, The Lion King is an unabashedly hilarious, occasionally melancholic, extremely intimate, thoroughly enjoyable, delightfully engaging, intensely thrilling, wildly entertaining & immensely satisfying fable about life, death, identity, responsibility & resurrection that borrows heavily from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet as well as the biblical tale of Joseph & Moses yet by the time it is finished, it is able to carve out its very own identity in the annals of cinema.
Marking the last great high for Disney’s Renaissance Era that came crashing down soon after the advent of Pixar Animation Studios which in a very short interval completely revolutionised the entire animation industry with its groundbreaking 3D animation, The Lion King is a work of cinematic perfection that still stands tall & remains unblemished by the test of time and, for the epic this timeless classic is in every sense of the word, will continue to do so comfortably for a very foreseeable future. Unquestionably worth your time & money, this crown jewel of Walt Disney Animation comes one hundred percent recommended to every cinema lover out there.