Making its debut as one of the most illustrious jewels in the Disney Renaissance Era, “The Lion King” follows the journey of Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) a young lion cub who descends from favored son of a beloved king to being banished after his father’s tragic demise. Simba returns after growing up in exile and guilt to reclaim his birthright and take his place in the circle of life as the true king of the Pride Lands.
One of the predominant themes woven into “The Lion King” is death. There are two interpretations of death which are illustrated in the movie: physical death and metaphorical death. The significance of physical death is illustrated in the intimate connection between Mufasa, Scar and Simba and the role they each play as king. When Mufasa is king, his African kingdom is beautiful and vibrant with life and there is peace because Mufasa is the true king.
When Mufasa is murdered by his jealous brother after he saves his son from a wildebeest stampede, Scar crowns himself king of the Pride Lands, and the vibrant paradise becomes a desolate wasteland. One of the most unnerving aspects of Mufasa’s death is after Scar murders Mufasa, he finds Simba with his father’s body and there is no evidence in his character that he is emotionally affected by what has just transpired. He just states that his brother is dead and Simba is to blame for it and tells Simba to run away. Life is only restored to the Pride Lands after Simba defeats Scar and takes up his father’s crown as the rightful King.
The second form of death, the metaphorical death, is focused more on Simba. When Mufasa dies and Simba runs away, the part of him that was Mufasa’s heir metaphorically dies too. Scar strengthens this theory when he tells Simba’s mother, Sarabi, and the rest of the pride that both Mufasa and Simba died during the wildebeest stampede. Simba’s royal heritage is suppressed when he meets Timon and Pumbaa and they teach him “Hakuna Matata.” – in essence, that he doesn’t have to worry about anything. The part of Simba who is the true king is resurrected when Nala, Rafiki and Mufasa remind him of the legacy left to him by his father, and it is only after Simba acknowledges this and returns to take up his legacy as Mufasa’s heir that his true identity is restored.
A third theme which is present in “The Lion King” is the connection between Simba and his father, King Mufasa. In the beginning, Mufasa defends Simba after his jealous and egocentric brother, Scar, does not attend the presentation of Mufasa’s new heir. Later, father and son rise at dawn and Mufasa teaches Simba what it means to be King. When Simba gets in trouble trying to emulate the courage of his father, Mufasa saves him from imminent disaster and teaches his impetuous son that true courage is having the wisdom to only be brave when it is required. When Simba is struggling with the notion of taking up his birthright and acknowledging the painful memories of his long-forgotten past, Mufasa comes to him in the clouds and reminds Simba of his birthright, and what he has taught him, and this (along with a proverbial whack on the head from the wise baboon Rafiki) is what inspires Simba to return and claim his birthright.
“The Lion King” is acclaimed as being one of Disney’s most successful animated films. Since its inception, “The Lion King” was renowned for being the highest- grossing animated film in history – an honor that it held for nearly 20 years until “Frozen” transcended it in 2014. “The Lion King” received an Oscar for Best Music – Original Score by Hans Zimmer and Best Music – Original Song for Elton John and Tim Rice (Can You Feel the Love Tonight). The movie also won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, Best Original Score – Motion Picture for Hans Zimmer and Best Original Song – Motion Picture for Elton John and Tim Rice (also for Can You Feel the Love Tonight).
“The Lion King” is by far one of Disney’s most enduring animated films. The animation in this film is some of the most beautiful that Disney has ever created, and the emotionally charged storyline, along with an extraordinary cast of memorable characters, has allowed this film to become one of Disney’s most beloved masterpieces. This movie is highly recommended to anyone who loves Disney animation at its best.