Naaa timbetcha, babageesh bababa! Sa doom…
Few grown adults know the real lyrics to Circle of Life, but nonetheless we’ll belt them out until we’re transported back to our childhood and our first encounter with The Lion King.
Returning to cinemas 25 years after the original, a reimagined Lion King was always going to be a risky undertaking for director Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book, Chef). It’s steeped in nostalgia for so many people, and Elton John’s soundtrack has arguably been unmatched by Disney ever since.(Okay, Tim Rice and Hans Zimmer also helped make the magic, but we only remember Elton!)
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In 1994 Simba’s coming-of-age tale, and learning what it meant to be king and lead a pride, foretold young audiences’ own journey out of childhood and into the responsibilities of adolescence. Now as adults, we return to the story with a new lens to look through.
In one of the scenes that’s always been a personal favourite, Timon, Pumba and Simba debate whether the stars are big balls of gas, fireflies, or great kings watching on. It’s three buddies pondering the world, and it reveals the heart of the movie.
We see science, imagination and spirituality all intertwine, feeding The Lion King’s question of whether or not life is in fact a circle, or a line. Does our life feed into the experience of others and the next generation, or are we on our own track heading toward an inevitable and final end?
Selfishness Versus The Common Good
Ultimately Simba’s view rings true; we are not alone, and we are interconnected. The movie taps into the Bible’s reminder of the “great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12)” who cheer us on in following Christ. The Lion King expands our worldview from a focus on selfish desire, to communal good. We appreciate that Simba’s dad Mufasa didn’t just teach the boy how to roar and hunt, but to understand consequences, to show loyalty and love, and to offer generous leadership.
“Who knew The Lion King was a first-wave campaigner for veganism?”
Of course, Pumba’s bodily functions are still a highlight, but did no one notice Timon and Pumba turned Simba into a vegetarian?! Yes – it was so he didn’t eat them, but who knew The Lion King was a first-wave campaigner for veganism? Maybe it’s the real reason for hipster-ism and we just never made the connection. After all, The Lion King was the movie millennial babies grew up on. Get woke.
The visual effects are also outstanding. So good in fact, it’s hard to tell the difference between the life-like animals; is that Sarabi or Nala giving Scar the death stare? The realism means some of the expression of the characters falls flat – particularly when Nala and Simba sing ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ without the doe-eyed capacity of their cartoon predecessors.
That said, bringing The Lion King back has really paid off at the box office ($531million worldwide and counting). It’s also given families a film with no hidden agenda – but it needs to be said: those hyenas are even scarier when they’re made to look so real. Not for the under-10’s.
The Lion King is in cinemas now.