Movie Monday: Revisiting The Lion King

Lucy Stefani '21, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Looking for something to do over this Coronacation? Why not revisit a Disney childhood classic? The Lion King is probably one of the first movies I saw on DVD as a toddler. It was a film I certainly enjoyed but never fully appreciated until now. Although it’s a fairly simple story that’s been retold many times, it manages to be an engaging, emotional, and all around magnificent story about believing in yourself and choosing courage over fear. 

The very first scene of The Lion King is breathtaking — nothing short of spectacular. There’s so much to unpack in this scene that I could probably write an entire article about those first five minutes alone. It begins with the song “The Circle of Life,” which, on its own, is a beautiful song that uses swelling music and incredible lyrics to establish the tone of the movie perfectly. We see animals of every size, from the miniscule ant to the giant elephants, gathering to see the newborn king. With the grand sweeping panoramic camera angles, the viewer immediately understands the massive scope of the story about to be told. Then, that iconic moment occurs — Rafiki picks up the tiny newborn baby Simba and raises him up for all the animals to see. 

This is so symbolic for a number of reasons. We see this tiny baby lion with an uncertain look on his face being held before thousands of animals who will eventually be his subjects. The magnitude of the crowds of animals in his audience makes Simba seem so small. All of the animals have an enormous expectation for Simba to be their leader one day. They will rely on him to protect and govern them. The scene represents the foundation of Simba’s journey to prove to himself and others that he’s worthy of regal responsibilities. At the end of this scene, the heavens part and a light shines down on the baby king as the animals bow, closing with one last swell of music. It’s incredible to me that this brief scene establishes the entire plot, introduces the majority of the characters, and conveys such a beautifully emotional scene with literally no dialogue. It’s not even a sad moment, yet I find myself tearing up every time. 

Further into the story, the first thing that really strikes me is the father-son dynamic between Simba and Mufasa. There’s certainly loving and fun-filled elements to their relationship, but Simba also sees his future role as king in his father. The perfect example of this is when Simba disobeys his father, putting himself and Nala in danger of being killed by Scar’s hyenas. Mufasa obviously feels disappointed in Simba, and as they walk home that night, we see Simba look at Mufasa’s massive footprint. He places his significantly smaller paw on the massive footprint, symbolizing that he has big shoes to fill. Simba and his dad then proceed to have a heart-to-heart: Mufasa tells Simba that the great kings of the past are in the stars and that he will always be there to watch over Simba. This adorably charming moment makes their bond stronger and makes the infamous stampede scene even more heartbreaking. 

Mufasa’s death scene could be the saddest scene I’ve ever seen in a Disney movie. The look of betrayal in Mufasa’s eyes when Scar throws him off the cliff. The heartbreaking moment when Simba tries to wake Mufasa. And worst of all, the crushed and terrified look on Simba’s face when Scar tells him it’s his fault. All these elements create a perfectly devastating sequence. That’s all I can say.

Yet, the film takes an optimistic turn with the introduction of Timone and Pumba. The two characters play off of each other in a fun and hysterical way — it’s truly a joy to watch. As the movie goes on, we see Simba grow up into an adult lion and reunite with Nala, who urges him to return home and reclaim the throne of his father. Simba claims he can never return home, still fearing that he is responsible for his father’s death and afraid to face his past. There’s this great scene where Simba, in a moment of despair, looks to the stars and calls out to his late father. Mufasa appears to him in the form of a cloud and encourages him to remember who he is. This heartfelt moment of connection between Simba and his father gives Simba the motivation he needed to venture off to take back the throne. 

The finale of The Lion King is everything you want it to be. There’s an epic battle between Scar and Simba. Instead of killing Scar to avenge his father, Simba gives him a chance to live as long as he leaves Pride Rock. This moment represents the climax in the entire character development of Simba and Scar. Simba shows mercy even on the one who killed his father and destroyed his kingdom. Meanwhile, even when given a second chance, Scar still chooses to try and kill Simba. Instead, Scar falls off the rock, and is killed by his own hyenas. The movie ends with Simba triumphantly climbs to the top of Pride Rock and takes his father’s place, having completed his character arc. Simba began as the defenseless baby cub we meet at the start of the film, but ends as the strong, fearless king who protects his people. 

Overall, The Lion King is fantastic. With its near-perfect pacing, incredibly charming and fun songs, extremely talented voice acting, and well-developed characters, this film had me fully engaged from start to finish. This is arguably one of Disney’s best movies, conveying a deeply important message of discovering potential within yourself. I think this movie is definitely worth rewatching because I guarantee that you will experience it in a whole new way and it will leave you feeling moved and inspired.