I’m going to watch The Lion King on Broadway for the second time tomorrow and thought it would be a good time to write another TLK meta. Without further ado, here are ten reasons The Lion King kicks ass.
1) Grief. Look, Mufasa’s death broke all our hearts. I cry buckets up to this day. But Mufasa’s death leaves a deep scar (hehe) for Simba and his grief is SO important to his character arc. Many characters in Disney movies lose a parent (or both) but The Lion King may be the only one pre Big Hero Six where we actually see the mark it leaves and watch the character have to make peace with it in a healthy way.
Enjoy Rafiki Mourns from the Broadway show:
2) Segregation. The lions and hyenas live apart and that tension between them boils over when the hyenas help stage a coup d’etat. The conflict is great symbolism for current issues still going on today.
Slightly off-topic, Starkid did a musical called Twisted that tells Aladdin from Jafar’s POV. Towards the end of the show, there’s a song that features all the Disney villains and their POVs. Scar has his own solo:
The pride had never seen a more progressive king than me
Both lion and hyena lived in perfect harmony
I brought an end to what had been a senseless age old feud
I was prepared for anything except for what ensued: my brother ate my heirs, my precious cubs, and stole my throne
Return to segregation and the hateful ways we’d known
Though I’d advocate for unity I always was denounced, so when I saw an opportunity to right the wrong, I pounced
3) Badass Lionesses Taking No Shit. Everyone knows that the female lion is the one that gets stuff done. Here we have Nala and Sarabi. Nala is just as adventurous as Simba, but she matures way before he does. Nala is the one that leaves home to find help while Scar destroys The Pride Lands. Nala is fearless. Meanwhile, Sarabi still retains some level of power in Scar’s new regime since we get a scene of him relying on her for information: “Where is your hunting party?” Sarabi is in charge of all the other lionesses.
4) Domestic Abuse. Scar and Sarabi are not married, though it is implied. But right now, I can’t think of another Disney movie that shows us domestic abuse. When Sarabi challenges Scar, he hits her and that mistreatment spurs Simba into action. We don’t know if this was a single event or if Scar had been abusing her since the moment he took power. Regardless, once is all that matters.
5) The Circle of Life. The Lion King has some amazing music, make no mistake about that. But there’s something so beautiful about the opening song. It perfectly sums up the movie. Mufasa’s death, even though it came too soon, would have come eventually. That’s how life works. People live and people die. People are born and people grow. And even among animals, there is a hierarchy, as Mufasa points out in his ramble about the antelope and the grass and the great Circle of Life.
6) Friendship Before Romance. Nala and Simba grew up together as best friends. Their relationship might be one of the most developed out of all Disney couples, human or animal. Disney’s gotten criticism for sending this message of Instant Love or Princesses Waiting for Princes. The Lion King’s love story begins with friendship.
7) Friendship. Timon and Pumba are important side characters. They are two of the most fleshed out friends in any Disney film. Think about it: Aladdin has Carpet and Abu, who really have no plot line. Ariel has Flounder, Sebesatian, and Scuttle, that also are minor characters. Aurora had no friends except the fairies and her woodland creatures. Timon and Pumba have something to overcome, just like Simba. They felt like the wolrd had turned its back on them, as Timon says.
Hakuna Matata was their way of life. But when Simba needs them, when they are challenged, at first they can’t let go. But they do, to save their friend.
8) Responsibility. Neither Simba nor Scar know what it means to be a king. The difference is, Simba learns. Simba goes from his “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” phase of bossing people around to becoming a true leader.
9) Imagery. The Lion King is really good at telling us what is going on without words. The Pride Lands are lush and in bloom when Mufasa is the king. But when Scar usurps the throne, the land is barren, dark, dying. Similarly, the Elephant Graveyard has a gloomy feel to it, right away alerting the audience to the fact that we should not be here.
10) Badass Hyena Leader Taking No Shit. Shenzi, like Scar, is surrounded by idiots. Shenzi, like the lionesses, is really the one in control. The sass is strong with this one. I love how The Lion King took typical human gender roles how male dominance and chose animals that really rely on the females for strength.