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Disney and The Lion King

The Lion King Critics Reviews
The Film
Simba
Mufasa
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Nala
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Sarabi
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The Lion King III Simba's Heir Ver. 1.4 (Story)
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The Lion King IV Dark Ruler Ver. 1.4 (Story)
The Lion King V : The Final Clash Ver 1.4 (Story)
The Lion King VI Human Encounter Ver. 1.4 (Story)
Scar's Revenge (Story)
The Best On Broadway (Story)
Redemption (Story)
How Shenzi and Banzai Met (Story)
Relations (Story)
The Scarring of Taka (Story)
Zira and Timon (Story)
Fond Memories (Story)
Scar's Revenge (Story) Rene Gorydon
Roy E Disney
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The Lion King Broadway CD Reviews
The Lion King Fan Reviews
The Lion King Critics Reviews
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The Lion King Movie Pictures

One of the best Dinsey films!, 9 February 2005
Author: ladyslinky from United Kingdom

This has 2 b 1 of my favourite Disney movies of all time along with the Little Mermaid!I first saw it in primary school when I was 6 and loved it and am still touched by it 2day!The songs are gr8 along with the animation. TLK tells the story of young lion cub Simba finding his place in the gr8 circle of life, as his wicked uncle Scar has a secret plot to still his future throne. My favourite song in the film is Just Can't Wait To be King! The film includes the voice talents of Whoopi Goldberg, Jeremy Irons and Matthew Broderick. The sequels to this film are also quite good, whereas other of Disney's sequels such as Cinderella 2 and Mulan 2 are rather trashy. I would recommend the Lion King for anyone who has not seen it. A 10/10 for me Amz x

Perhaps geared toward younger audiences, but always a favorite, 6 May 2003
Author: Liz (lizsd3@yahoo.com) from Baltimore, MD

"The Lion King" is the story of Simba, an ambitious, curious young cub who is destined to take over the throne of his father, Mufasa. Mufasa's jealous brother Scar wants nothing more than to be king, so he arranges a stampede that kills Mufasa; then he convinces Simba it's all his fault. The young cub runs away, leaving behind his home, his mother Sarabi, and his friend Nala. He meets a warthog named Pumbaa and a meerkat named Timon, with whom he grows into an adult, until the adult Nala finds him and convinces him to challenge Scar for the throne.

Critics have since described "The Lion King" as being geared toward younger kids, but for whatever reason, it's always been a personal favorite of mine. The story is nothing unique, but the way it is told makes up for it: beautifully-drawn animals against the backdrop of the African Serengeti. Children and adults continue to be delighted by the footage of real lions being brought into the studio for sketching. The opening scene, set to the song "Circle of Life," shows just about every animal imaginable making the trek to Pride Rock, which will help kids learn about lots of different African animals.

The music by Elton John and Tim Rice only makes this movie better. Their early offering "Circle of Life" was a godsend for the production team, who had been faced with a tough question: since all these animals are much furrier and cuddlier than they are in real life, how do you explain that the cute lions eat the cute zebras? It is is not only a beautiful song, but it helps explain the reality of the "circle of life."

The animation and colors are what really make this movie, though. No other setting will lend itself quite so well to the use of all colors - particularly the greens and blues - as the Serengeti does. The 2002 release of "The Lion King" on IMAX/giant screen was a visual bonus, because the sweeping palette of colors is even more incredible on the larger screen. The movementPerhaps geared toward younger audiences, but always a favorite, 6 May 2003
Author: Liz (lizsd3@yahoo.com) from Baltimore, MD

"The Lion King" is the story of Simba, an ambitious, curious young cub who is destined to take over the throne of his father, Mufasa. Mufasa's jealous brother Scar wants nothing more than to be king, so he arranges a stampede that kills Mufasa; then he convinces Simba it's all his fault. The young cub runs away, leaving behind his home, his mother Sarabi, and his friend Nala. He meets a warthog named Pumbaa and a meerkat named Timon, with whom he grows into an adult, until the adult Nala finds him and convinces him to challenge Scar for the throne.

Critics have since described "The Lion King" as being geared toward younger kids, but for whatever reason, it's always been a personal favorite of mine. The story is nothing unique, but the way it is told makes up for it: beautifully-drawn animals against the backdrop of the African Serengeti. Children and adults continue to be delighted by the footage of real lions being brought into the studio for sketching. The opening scene, set to the song "Circle of Life," shows just about every animal imaginable making the trek to Pride Rock, which will help kids learn about lots of different African animals.

The music by Elton John and Tim Rice only makes this movie better. Their early offering "Circle of Life" was a godsend for the production team, who had been faced with a tough question: since all these animals are much furrier and cuddlier than they are in real life, how do you explain that the cute lions eat the cute zebras? It is is not only a beautiful song, but it helps explain the reality of the "circle of life."

The animation and colors are what really make this movie, though. No other setting will lend itself quite so well to the use of all colors - particularly the greens and blues - as the Serengeti does. The 2002 release of "The Lion King" on IMAX/giant screen was a visual bonus, because the sweeping palette of colors is even more incredible on the larger screen. The movements and expressions of the animals are well-drawn, entertaining, and fluid, a joy to watch.

No, it's not the most original storyline, nor is it Disney's most thought-provoking effort, but it deserves recognition for the ground it broke in animal animation, visual beauty, and the telling of a story with no human involvement whatsoever.

s and expressions of the animals are well-drawn, entertaining, and fluid, a joy to watch.

No, it's not the most original storyline, nor is it Disney's most thought-provoking effort, but it deserves recognition for the ground it broke in animal animation, visual beauty, and the telling of a story with no human involvement whatsoever.

 

The Lion King

A Film Review by James Berardinelli
3.5 stars
United States, 1994
U.S. Release Date: 6/15/94 (limited); 6/24/94 (general)
Running Length: 1:27
MPAA Classification: G
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1

Featuring the voices of: Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Whoopi Goldberg, Moira Kelly, Robert Guillaume, Cheech Marin, Rowan Atkinson, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Directors: Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers
Producer: Don Hahn
Screenplay: Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts
Music: Hans Zimmer
Songs: Elton John and Tim Rice
U.S. Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

"Hamlet" meets The Jungle Book - that's what The Lion King is - adding, of course, a few special touches all its own. Disney's 32nd animated feature film is its darkest since The Black Cauldron, and, in many ways, a departure from the light-heartedness of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. There are moments of fun and humor, to be sure, but the undercurrent is of a far more serious, "adult" nature.

The Lion King is primarily about guilt and redemption. Simba, a young lion cub and heir to his father's throne, is led to believe that he was the cause of the king's death. The trauma caused by this is so great that Simba goes into exile, attempting to find peace-of-mind through anonymity in the company of a warthog and a meerkat. But it's never that easy to escape the past...

The "Hamlet" parallels are all there for the discerning adult to note. Mufasa, king of the lions, is killed by a treacherous brother who subsequently takes over the rule of the kingdom. Simba, the beloved son, is wracked by guilt and impotence until the ghost of his father gives him instruction on what actions he should take. Death, something not really touched on in the last three animated Disney tales, is very much at the forefront of The Lion King. In a scene that could disturb younger viewers, Mufasa's demise is shown. It is a chilling moment that is reminiscent of a certain incident in Bambi. The film also contains a fair share of violence, including a rather graphic battle between two lions. Parents should carefully consider before automatically taking a child of, say, under seven years of age, to this movie.

After three animated motion pictures centered upon the love of two people from different worlds, The Lion King's focus is different. This time around, the love story (between Simba and the lioness Nala) is a subplot. The film is most concerned with its young hero's coming-of-age, and the responsibilities that arrive with adulthood - including the need to confront guilt and its associated fear.

Scar, Simba's treacherous uncle, is the latest in a long line of Disney antagonists. Gone is the buffoonery that has marked the recent trio of Ursula, Gaston, and Jafar. Scar is a sinister figure, given to acid remarks and cunning villainy. The cold-hearted manner in which he causes Mufasa's death lets us know that this is not a lion to be trifled with.

An all-star cast was selected to supply The Lion King's voices. Jeremy Irons, with his dry British accent, is a critical element of Scar's personality. James Earl Jones lends his booming bass to Mufasa, truly a lord of the jungle. Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin play a pair of laughing hyenas, Rowan Atkinson uses his vocal talents for a sour-tongued bird, and Moira Kelly's Nala is the sole significant female character. Matthew Broderick, with his rather nondescript voice, is the adult Simba, with Jonathan Taylor Thomas as the cub.

The animation, as expected from any Disney film, is superior. As usual, as much attention is given to small background details as to foreground principals. Lighting and color are used to highlight the shifting tone of the picture (the sunny warmth of Mufasa's kingdom to the dreary barrenness of Scar's), and the animators have never lost sight that their subjects are not human.

Since 1989's The Little Mermaid, the musical element of any Disney animated picture has been nearly as important as the visual one (the three previous movies have garnered a total of twelve Grammy awards). With the songwriting team of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman (replaced following his death by Tim Rice) in charge, the soundtracks for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin have become huge commercial successes. For The Lion King, Menken is absent. The songs here are by Elton John and Tim Rice, with the score coming from composer Hans Zimmer.

Two of the five John/Rice songs are rather unimpressive ("I Just Can't Wait to Be King" and "Hakuna Matata"), one is decent ("Be Prepared"), and two are quite good ("Circle of Life" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"). "Circle of Life," the opening number, is a visual extravaganza that may be the most astounding sequence ever in any animated film. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is The Lion King's love song, although it leaves you wondering if either Matthew Broderick or Moira Kelly can sing, since the song vocals of Simba and Nala are supplied by Joseph Williams and Sally Dworsky, respectively.

The soundtrack weakness of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin - a dull score - has been rectified in The Lion King. Hans Zimmer, using a style similar to the one he employed for The Power of One, brings an African flavor to his music, and incorporates the five songs seamlessly.

With each new animated release, Disney seems to be expanding its already-broad horizons a little more. The Lion King is the most mature (in more than one sense) of these films, and there clearly has been a conscious effort to please adults as much as children. Happily, for those of us who generally stay far away from "cartoons," they have succeeded.

The Lion King

A film review by Christopher Null - Copyright 2000 filmcritic.com

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One of Disney's greatest achievements, this is to my knowledge the only animated film to be turned into a Broadway musical. (Beauty and the Beast doesn't count, since that film had prior life outside the Disneyverse.)

The Lion King is primarily memorable because it's not based on a fairy tale or a children's story, and thus avoids the cliches that saddle so many Disney flicks. There's no "love conquers all" message, no moral about how trying hard will make everything come out OK. In fact, for much of its running time, The Lion King says the exact opposite: Hakuna Matata means "no worries," right? It's in the past, so let it go. But The Lion King also tells us that we can learn from the past, that tyrants should be overthrown, and that we should own up to our mistakes in the end.

This also makes The Lion King one of Disney's most adult movies. Though it's rated G, it features numerous scenes of peril and death -- with lion cub Simba orphaned after his uncle kills off his dad to usurp the throne and title of king of the jungle. But that too is part of the famed Circle of Life. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Simba runs off to live in the jungle -- gettin' real, ya know -- stricken with guilt that he (thinks he) killed his father. Eventually he returns home to showdown with evil uncle Scar, who has been ruling the jungle with an iron fist, disrupting the Circle of Life.

The Lion King is one of Disney's last great 2-D creations, with computers aiding in some truly stellar moments such as the wildebeest stampede. Lots of perspective shots and moving cameras make this one of the genre's most film-like movies.

If there's anything annoying about the film, it's the singing, young Simba sounds like a young Michael Jackson. On the new song added to the just-out DVD release of the movie, the atrociously vapid "Morning Report," he sounds like a castrato Michael Jackson. You almost don't want him to succeed, but thankfully, Simba eventually grows up and is replaced, voice-wise, by Matthew Broderick. By way of other extras, there's a whole second disc of goodies, including an extensive selection of making-of footage, a deleted scene or two, an alternate first verse of "Hakuna Matata," a special home theater audio mix (sounds good), and about a bazillion kid-friendly features like games and singalongs.

The Lion King has rightfully spawned one of the most enduring industrial complexes ever to come from an animated cat. Way to go, Disney.

The first thing you will notice in "The Lion King" is its triumphant animation during the opening, pre-title sequence, an extended version of that theatrical preview you've seen over the past few months. Every animal you can think of is racing across the plains to be present as the newborn heir to the throne is anointed by a baboon shaman, many so realistically portrayed that they appear to have been photographed instead of drawn.

      But that's only the beginning. The entire film is loaded with eye-popping visuals, which, even on a second viewing, never fail to mesmerize.

      The story is also strong, borrowing heavily from Shakespeare's "Hamlet" for plot and bolstered by a string of hilarious supporting characters for plenty of comic relief. And there are some wonderful characters here, including a riotous hornbill bird, whose voice is provided by the rubber-faced British comic Rowan Atkinson (TV's "Mr. Bean" and "Blackadder"); a funny and wise old baboon (energetic Robert Guillaume, best-known as TV's "Benson"); and especially the hilarious warthog and meerkat, voiced, respectively, by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, a pair of very talented stage actors (Lane's brief hula song is especially hysterical).

      In short, there is much to recommend "The Lion King," though it still falls short of its three immediate predecessors — "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin."

      Let's get the complaints out of the way early:

      — Most of the characters in "The Lion King" are not as warm and fuzzy as other Disney animated features. In fact, they are largely aloof and distant, which makes the film a bit tougher to warm to.

      — There is also an unexpected gross-out factor at work here, with three characters dining graphically on a bevy of live insects, a trio of hyenas eating a zebra leg and the warthog demonstrating why other animals steer clear of him (he's quite flatulent).

      — There is violence, with the young lion prince's father dying in a herd of stampeding wildebeests and a climactic battle between Simba and his evil Uncle Scar. Don't suppose that this is out of the realm of the film's G rating, but it is certainly more specific than, say, the death of "Bambi's" mother. (And there is very bad choice near the end, as Simba and Scar battle in slow-motion, a serious moment that seems unintentionally comic.)

      — And finally, the songs are disappointing and don't hold up very well on repeat listening. The central theme, "The Circle of Life," is closer to the grace and tuneful satisfaction of Alan Menken's work in "Mermaid," "Beast" and "Aladdin," but the others are all novelty tunes. They work in the context of the film and are supported by imaginative artistry, but are not memorable.

      Despite these flaws, however, the film is still a fabulous extravaganza — proof positive that even a weaker entry in the Disney canon is better than anything the competition churns out.

      The first half of the film focuses on Simba's youth (his voice supplied by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, of TV's "Home Improvement"), with a couple of scary scenes — the first in an elephant graveyard and the second a wildebeest stampede (destined to be one of the most talked-about animated sequences ever) — both engineered by his evil Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons).

      After the death of Simba's father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones), Scar convinces the lad that he's to blame. So, an angst-ridden Simba banishes himself from the land of his forefathers, while Scar and his hench-hyenas (led by Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and a giggling, babbling Jim Cummings) take over.

      Meanwhile, Simba is befriended by the warthog Pumbaa and the meerkat Timon, as he grows to adulthood (with Matthew Brod-erick taking over the voice chores). Pumbaa and Timon introduce Simba to the joys of leisure and a steady diet of bugs, until one day the lioness Nala (Moira Kelly), to whom Simba was betrothed, shows up. She tells Simba of Scar's treachery and pleads with him to return and take his rightful place on the throne.

      Aided by the shaman baboon Rafiki, Simba looks within himself, and then gets a piece of ethereal advice from his father (in a scene that seems to come straight out of "Star Wars" movies), ultimately returning home to set his house in order and face the truth about his past.

      Bolstered by a bevy of delightful performances and that fabulous animation, "The Lion King" is a winner much of the way. And none of its weaknesses should keep audiences from flocking to the film again and again, making it the one sure bet for a long summer run.

The Lion King

BY ROGER EBERT / June 24, 1994

Cast & Credits
With The Voices Of:
Young Simba: Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Adult Simba: Matthew Broderick
Mufasa: James Earl Jones
Scar: Jeremy Irons
Shenzi: Whoopi Goldberg

Directed By Roger Allers And Rob Minkoff. Running Time: 87 Minutes. Classified G.

My generation grew up mourning the death of Bambi's mother. Now comes "The Lion King," with the death of Mufasa, the father of the lion cub who will someday be king. The Disney animators know that cute little cartoon characters are not sufficient to manufacture dreams. There have to be dark corners, frightening moments, and ancient archetypes like the crime of regicide. "The Lion King," which is a superbly drawn animated feature, is surprisingly solemn in its subject matter, and may even be too intense for very young children.

The film is the latest in a series of annual media events from Disney, which with "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin" reinvented its franchise of animated feature films. The inspiration for these recent films comes from the earliest feature cartoons created by Walt Disney himself, who in movies like "Dumbo," with the chaining of Mrs. Jumbo, and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," with its wicked stepmother, tapped into primal fears and desires. Later Disney films drifted off into the neverland of innocuous "children's movies," which were harmless but not very exciting. These most recent four animated features are once again true "family films," in that they entertain adults as well as children.

"The Lion King" is the first Disney animated feature not based on an existing story. In another sense, it is based on half the stories in classical mythology. It tells the tale of the birth, childhood and eventual manhood of Simba, a lion cub. The cub's birth is announced in the opening sequence of the movie, called "The Circle of Life," which is an evocative collaboration of music and animation to show all of the animals of the African veld gathering to hail their future king. The cute little cub is held aloft from a dramatic spur of rock, and all his future minions below hail him, in a staging that looks like the jungle equivalent of a political rally.

Of course this coming together of zebra and gazelle, monkey and wildebeest, fudges on the uncomfortable fact that many of these animals survive by eating one another. And all through "The Lion King" the filmmakers perform a balancing act between the fantasy of their story and the reality of the jungle. Early scenes show Simba as a cute, trusting little tike who believes everyone loves him. He is wrong. He has an enemy - his uncle Scar, the king's jealous brother, who wants to be king himself one day.

Villains are often the most memorable characters in a Disney animated film, and Scar is one of the great ones, aided by a pack of yipping hyenas who act as his storm troopers. With a voice by Jeremy Irons, and facial features suggestive of Irons' gift for sardonic concealment, Scar is a mannered, manipulative schemer who succeeds in bringing about the death of the king.

Worse, he convinces Simba that the cub is responsible, and the guilty little heir slinks off into the wastelands. (The movie makes a sly reference to a famous earlier role by Irons. When Simba tells him, "You're so weird," he replies "You have no idea," in exactly the tone he used in "Reversal of Fortune.") It is an unwritten law that animated features have comic relief, usually in the form of a duet or trio of goofy characters who become buddies with the hero. This time they are a meerkat named Timon (voice by Nathan Lane) and a warthog named Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), who cheer up Simba during his long exile.

The movie has a large cast of other colorful characters, including a hornbill named Zazu (Rowan Atkinson), who is confidant and advisor to King Mufasa (James Earl Jones). And there are the three hyenas (with voices by Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings), who are a tumbling, squabbling, yammering team of dirty tricks artists.

The early Disney cartoons were, of course, painstakingly animated by hand. There has been a lot of talk recently about computerized animation, as if a computer program could somehow create a movie. Not so. Human animators are responsible for the remarkably convincing portrayals of Scar and the other major characters, who somehow combine human and animal body language. But computers did assist with several remarkable sequences, including a stampede in which a herd seems to flow past the camera.

Despite the comic relief from the hyenas, the meerkat and the warthog, "The Lion King" is a little more subdued than "Mermaid," "Beauty" and "Aladdin." The central theme is a grim one: A little cub is dispossessed, and feels responsible for the death of its father.

An uncle betrays a trust.

And beyond the gently rolling plans of the great savanna lies a wasteland of bones and ashes. Some of the musical comedy numbers break the mood, although with the exception of "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata," the songs in "The Lion King" are not as memorable as those in "Mermaid" and "Beauty." Basically what we have here is a drama, with comedy occasionally lifting the mood. The result is a surprising seriousness; this isn't the mindless romp with cute animals that the ads might lead you to expect. Although the movie may be frightening and depressing to the very young, I think it's positive that "The Lion King" deals with real issues. By processing life's realities in stories, children can prepare themselves for more difficult lessons later on. The saga of Simba, which in its deeply buried origins owes something to Greek tragedy and certainly to "Hamlet," is a learning experience as well as an entertainment.

 
The Lion King

Year Released: 1994
Directed By: Roger Allers, Rob Minkhoff
Voices By: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Robert Guillaume
(G, 89 min.)

Something old, something new, lots that's borrowed, more that's true. Disney's 32nd animated feature is a hodgepodge of myth, comedy, and recycled parts of previous cartoon successes, but despite its seeming more obviously cobbled together than the Mouse Factory's other films, The Lion King succeeds in delivering an affecting tale of growing up and assuming the mantle of responsibility. The film's “something old” is its story, the ancient but still potent tale of feuding brothers, one of whom murders the other, and the victim's son who avenges his father. Though the writers fail to credit Mr. Shakespeare, they draw more than a little inspiration from Hamlet, down to a scene of the murdered king's ghost gravely urging his son, “Remember!” It's a direct lift, but hey, it still works and works well. The well-worn drama keeps this tale compelling, and it's neatly complemented by “something new,” the milieu of Africa. Disney has set stories in atmospheric locales before but has never luxuriated in them as it does here. From the opening shot of a ruby sunrise and the exultant call of an African singer, we know we're someplace we haven't been before. Hans Zimmer bathes his score in Africa's sounds and rhythms, and the animators revel in recreating its savannahs and jungles. At first, it appears that the artists tried to create a new look for the cartoon -- sleeker, bolder -- but the longer you look, the more it resembles recycled Fifties stylization. It's part of the “lots that's borrowed” that gets a tad disturbing. Bits, characters, whole songs seem to be swiped from other Disney cartoons, such as the comical meerkat Timon, an amalgam of the wisecracking Genie of Aladdin and the freewheeling Baloo of The Jungle Book. His song “Hakuna Marata” is a thinly reworked “Bare Necessities.” And the Busby Berkeley choreography… sure it was fun in The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, but do we need it in every cartoon? It's like Disney feels it has to redo bits from its hits or folks won't come see this one. Give me a break. Of course, it isn't as if these things will bother the young audience for whom The Lion King is intended. And ultimately, it didn't keep me from enjoying the film. Allers and Minkhoff's direction is solid, with impressive visuals -- including a stunning wildebeest stampede -- the score sings (though the Elton John/Tim Rice songs sounded rather generic on first listen), and the characters all are “true.” They're cunningly acted by a distinguished cast, with exceptional work from the comic foils -- Nathan Lane's meerkat is a scrappy little woise-guy and Rowan Atkinson's Zazu a bright blowhard -- and Irons, who, reliably, is a chilling villain. In the end, it's a thumping good adventure in a far-away land, a whole greater than the sum of its parts.


Movie Mom's Review
Sort of a cross between "Richard III" and "Hamlet," this is the story of Simba (voice of Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a child, Matthew Broderick as an adult), the cub of Mufasa (James Earl Jones), the king of the jungle. Simba "just can’t wait to be king." But his evil Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons), bitterly jealous of Mufasa, wants to be king, so he arranges for Mufasa to be killed in a stampede and to have Simba think he is responsible.

Simba runs away, and finds friends in Pumbaa the warthog (Ernie Sabella) and Timon the meerkat (Nathan Lane), who advise him that the best philosophy is "hakuna matata" (no worries). Simba grows up thinking he has escaped from his past, but his childhood friend, Nala finds him, and tells him that under Scar’s leadership, the tribe has suffered badly. She persuades him to return to take on his responsibilities as King of the Pridelands. He learns that it was Scar who caused Mufasa’s death, and he vanquishes Scar to become King.

NOTE: The death of Mufasa is genuinely scary. More troubling is the arrogance of the "Circle of Life" explanation, which is mighty reassuring as long as you are the one on top of the food chain. And worse than that is the whole "hakuna matata" idea, which is genuinely irresponsible. Make sure that kids realize that even Simba finds out that he cannot run away from his problems.

Not just a movie, but a marketing phenomenon, this blockbuster was the highest grossing film of the year. Amazingly, it made even more money in merchandise than it did at the box office, a fact for which audiences have been paying ever since, as each subsequent Disney animated movie seems to be designed primarily as a commercial for teeshirts, lunchboxes and action figures. The score, and the song "Circle of Life," with authentic African rhythms and instruments, won Oscars for Elton John and Tim Rice, and the movie later became a Broadway blockbuster.

How good-looking is the DVD restoration of Disney's popular animated film? Take a look at the serviceable but dull film clips incorporated in the plethora of extras and compare them to the vivid gorgeousness of the film presentation. This "special edition" also adds a 90-second song ("Morning Report") that originated in the lavish stage musical. To Disney's credit, the original theatrical version is also included, both restored and featuring two 5.1 soundtracks: Dolby Digital and a new Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix, which does sound brighter. As with the Disney Platinum line, everything is thrown into the discs, except an outsider's voice (the rah-rahs of Disney grow tiresome at times). The excellent commentary from the directors and producer, originally on the laser disc, is hidden under the audio set-up menu.

The second disc is organized by 20-minute-ish "journeys" tackling the elements of story, music, et cetera, including good background on the awkward Shakespearean origins at Disney where it was referred as "Bamlet." The most interesting journey follows the landmark stage production, and the kids should be transfixed by shots of the real African wildlife in the animal journey. Three deleted segments are real curios, including an opening lyric for "Hakuna Matata." Most set-top DVD games are usually pretty thin (DVD-ROM is where it's at), but the Safari game is an exception--the kids should love the roaring animals (in 5.1 Surround, no less). One serious demerit goes to the needless and complicated second navigation system that is listed by continent, but just shows the same features reordered.

Not an ideal choice for younger kids, this hip and violent animated feature from Disney was nevertheless a huge smash in theaters and on video, and it continues to enjoy life in an acclaimed Broadway production. The story finds a lion cub, son of a king, sent into exile after his father is sabotaged by a rivalrous uncle. The little hero finds his way into the "circle of life" with some new friends and eventually comes back to reclaim his proper place. Characters are very strong, vocal performances by the likes of Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, and Whoopi Goldberg are terrific, the jokes are aimed as much (if not more) at adults than kids, the animation is sometimes breathtaking, and the music is more palatable than in many Disney features. But be cautious: this is too intense for the Rugrat crowd.

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