Category Archives: the lion king

Lion King and The Stages of Grief

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Disney has a lot of dead parents–as I’m sure you guys probably know–but most of their films don’t take time to deal with what the loss of a parent truly means to the protagonist. One of the few that does is The Lion King. While its portrayal isn’t perfection, Simba does go through the five main stages of grief after his father’s death. Today, I’m going to show the stages Simba cycles through while grieving his father, and how it affects him and his journey.

For clarification, the five stages of grief are:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

1. Denial

Denial essentially means denying that the death has occurred, or imagining another (happier) alternative. Death can be a really hard reality for people to accept at first, and Simba is no exception to this. When he finds Mufasa’s body in the aftermath of the stampede, he’s in shock. His eyes widen. He walks around Mufasa, taking in his closed eyes and lack of movement. This is when denial – stage 1 – sets in. Maybe he’s sleeping, Simba thinks. His eyes are closed. He’s lying down. Therefore, sleep is a better (less depressing) alternative. “Dad?” he asks. “Dad, come on, you gotta get up.”

lion king mufasa death 1

Despite his nudging and prodding, Mufasa doesn’t move, and when Simba runs to call for help – and gets no answer – his denial begins to fade. Maybe he’s not sleeping. Maybe his dad won’t wake up.

lion king mufasa death 2

But even though he’s realized his dad is dead, Simba wants to stay in denial a little longer. It’s understandable: he’s alone, he’s scared. There’s no one here to help him. He crawls under his dad’s am and closes his eyes, pretending for a few minutes that everything is okay.

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But it’s not.

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ugly sobbing reactionstar vs. evil sad face

Before we move onto stage 2, I want to talk about something important that shapes Simba’ perspective of his father’s death: guilt. Shortly after this horrible sad moment, Scar shows up and proceeds to blame Simba for Mufasa’s death. Which, okay, this is a horrible thing to do to a child. Simba’s shaken up, and traumatized, which isn’t surprising, considering he almost got run over in a stampede, and THEN found his father’s dead body. Now he has an adult figure he trusts – his UNCLE for that matter – telling him that the death is his fault:

“But the king is dead. If it weren’t for you, he’d still be alive.”

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Just look at this face. This is a horrible face of sadness and realization and pain. This is the opposite of denial. Simba is in a super fragile state here, guys. His denial stage has just ended, and now he’s forced to run for his life out of fear and guilt. It’s no wonder then that Simba hides from his former life, and doesn’t confront it – or his grief – until Nala appears. Which leads us to stage two: anger.

2. Anger

When Nala confronts Simba about his absence, we get into everything Simba has been denying for a huge chunk of his existence. With no reminders of his past – and his “Hakuna Matata” mantra to fall back on (“there ain’t no worries for the rest of your days”) – Simba has pushed away any thoughts/feelings about his father. Now, Nala’s presence forces him to deal with the grief and anger he’s been holding inside: anger about losing his father, and more importantly, anger toward himself, and how he blames himself for this.

I found how The Lion King deals with anger to be really interesting, because a lot of Simba’s anger is internalized. It’s been held back, festering into self-loathing and resentment. We see signs of it earlier, when Nala first appears and Simba is denying his role as king. Here, it resurfaces as Nala urges him to come home.

“I can’t go back,” Simba insists, because going back means facing his grief, and his guilt and anger over his dad’s death. But it’s not until Nala brings up that this is his responsibility (thus, he can’t avoid it any longer) that he really gets mad and goes on the defensive:

Simba: “Well what about you, you left?”

Nala: “I left to find help! And I found you. Don’t you understand? You’re our only hope.”

Simba: “Sorry.”

Now, what’s really great about this one line is how much Simba’s expression/emotions fluxuate before he says it. He looks down (angry and resentful) he rolls his eyes (frustration), and then he firmly averts his gaze. Anger as a stage of grief is a lot about frustration. It brings up questions like: “Why did this happen to me?” “Who’s at fault?” “Why did this happen?” These are things Simba has been trying to avoid dealing with, and now Nala telling him that his home has gotten even worse makes him angry and forces him to deal with the consequences of his actions.

And when Nala tells him she’s disappointed, Simba scowls and tells him that “[she’s] starting to act like his father.” Now we get to the real reason Simba is mad at Nala. It’s not about her – it’s about Mufasa. Mufasa is dead; he isn’t here for Simba to be angry with. So instead, he takes his anger at his father out on Nala, who at  moment reminds him of Mufasa, and is actually here for him to yell at.

This is especially clear later, after Simba runs away. “You said you’d always be there for me,” he yells at the sky. “But you’re not.” Simba is angry that his father left him. And in that moment, his anger fades and we deal with stages 3 and 4: bargaining and depression.

3-4. Bargaining & Depression

Here, bargaining and depression go hand in hand. Once Simba’s shouting ends, he looks down and says, “It’s me. It’s my fault.” That’s his angst talking. He’s mourning his father. Sullenness and sadness are big parts of the depression stage, and Simba displays these in full here.

Rafaki kind of interrupts the depression stage with all of his cryptic yammering, and his insinuation that Mufasa is alive gets Simba moving again, and distracts him from stage 4. When he ends up by the water and looks down, you can see the tentative hope – and fear – that his father will be there. But all he sees is his own grief reflected back at him. He’s slipping back in that depression until Rafiki reminds him: “he lives in you.” And thus, Simba finally sees his father again.

I think this is actually one of the most beautiful moments in the movie. Earlier in the movie, Mufasa tells us that great kings look down on them from the stars. Now, we see Mufasa (a great king) looking down on his son.

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lion king remember who you are

Mufasa tells Simba to remember who he is: “You are my son, and the one true king.” He also reminds Simba that he is more than he has become. Now, if you take this from what Rafiki said, Mufasa is a part of Simba, so in this way, Simba carries a part of his father with him. Thus, he can talk to Mufasa, and here, Mufasa can talk back. It’s similar to how people can talk to their loved ones after they die, even if they’re not physically here to talk back. Believing in an afterlife means believing that life lives on after death, and that’s kind of what Rafiki is getting at. It’s not the same as them being here physically though, thus Simba’s panic when Mufasa leaves.

lion king please don't leave me

Simba isn’t ready. He doesn’t want to lose his father again. Here bargaining comes in – he’s pleading with his father to stay. But Mufasa doesn’t stay. And now, Simba needs to go off and do what needs to be done. That action leads into acceptance.

5. Acceptance

I think there are two big moments of acceptance in The Lion King. One is when Simba realizes the truth: that Scar killed his father.

lion king mufasa death

This allows Simba to let go of the anger and resentment he feels toward himself, and move on. A lot of what held Simba back from dealing well with his loss was the guilt he felt for his part in it. Until he let go of that, he couldn’t fully cope with. After he does – and after Scar isn’t terrorizing everyone – we get our second moment of acceptance at the end:

This is such a great scene. We get all this cool symbolism. There’s the rain extinguishing the fire and replenishing the land, which symbolizes rebirth. And there’s also Simba’s acceptance of his rightful place as king, and his father’s death. Acceptance is about embracing life, and the future, and moving on from the loss. Simba does exactly that when he climbs Pride Rock and gives that roar. “Remember,” we hear Mufasa say, but unlike before, he doesn’t appear. This goes with Rafiki’s statement that Mufasa lives in him. At the end, Simba accepts that his father will always be with him, both in spirit and in memory. We even get a glimpse of the future – and a refrain of “Circle of Life” – to show that life goes on. Thus, the cycle of grief is wrapped up nicely, and although Mufasa is gone, he will never be forgotten.

lion king rafiki hug

Do you think The Lion King tackled grief well? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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Cheers,

M&M

 

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That’s What Friends Are For: Disney’s Abundance of Animal Friendships

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Last week Mel talked about a really important issue: the lack of female friendships in princess movies. As I was figuring out how to possibly match her level of awesomeness, I realized something. Princess films were lacking in friendships, but Animal movies weren’t!

Lady and the Tramp
Lady has two friends, Jock and Trusty, whom she consults with when Mrs. Darling gets pregnant and who come to comfort her after her escapade with Tramp. They look out for her, getting protective since they dislike Tramp, but realize he’s a decent enough dog and hatch a plan to save him. They also build Lady up, complimenting her collar and just being good friends to her.

lady and the tramp pushing jockTramps’ like, “Eww, friends.”

101 Dalmatians
We don’t really see Pongo and Perdita interacting with other dogs too much, but there is the impression that all dogs look out for each other when Pongo sends out his distress call and all the dogs pass it along. They meet with the Great Dane, who tells them where their puppies are and takes them some of the way, being super helpful and just really kind. Like, all law enforcement people should measure themselves against this animated dog. They meet up with a horse, cat, and dog that help them escape, just showing everyone in the animal world looks out for each other. While Pongo and Perdita don’t have ‘friends’ (though they do have Roger and Anita), they interact with a bunch of animals in a friendly manner.

The Jungle Book
Mowgli is friends with Baloo and Bagheera, the vultures (they even had a song about it!), and an adorable baby elephant. Jungle Book is an interesting example since it is one of the few Disney films without a love story (until that moment at the very end), so as a result, there’s all kinds of friendships and relationships to explore in order to carry the film.

jungle book mowgli baloo hugMowgli’s like, “I like friends!”

The Aristocats
Like 101 Dalmatians, these cats aren’t really interacting with other animals since they’re a tight family unit and are on a mission. However, also like 101, there’s an impression all cats look out for each other, as seen in Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.

Robin Hood
Robin Hood and Little John are famous, so of course their bond had to be a part of the film. And this song will get in your head and never leave. Sorry not sorry.

The Fox & The Hound
Um, the movie full of feels that we all avoid unless we seriously can’t help it. This one also has a song about friendship because the relationship between Todd and Copper is the heart of the story. Seriously. I’m gonna cry just thinking about it.

Oliver & Company
Oliver’s first friends are the company of Fagin’s gang, but he also befriends Jenny and even wins over her snobbish poodle, Georgette.

oliver and dodger sleep

The Lion King
Before Simba meets Timon and Pumba, he’s friends with Nala—who, yes, he falls madly in love with—and they had epic elephant graveyard adventures together. It’s Nala, his bestie for life, who helps convince him to go back to the Pride Lands and fight Scar.

lion king cutieslion hakuna matata 2 copy

Tarzan
Like Jungle Book, Tarzan was friends with Terk and Tantor. There were also lots of shots of baby gorillas playing together because apparently everyone has friends except princesses.

Brother Bear
This movie hinges on the friendship/brotherhood of Kenai and Koda, similar to The Fox and the Hound.

I’ve blocked Bambi and Dumbo from my mind, but I know Dumbo had a mouse and Bambi had Thumper and Flower.

What gives, Disney? Why do animals have friends but not princesses?????

I mean, it is great we have great examples of friendship in animal focused films and I’m not saying animals shouldn’t have friends. But do we accept this because we think of animals as living in a herd and being surrounded by their own kind? And do we not think of girls as having female friends because girls are pitted against each other and constantly overcoming internalized misogyny everyday?

Animal films also tend to have friendships featuring animals that are enemies in the wild: Simba, Timon and Pumba; Dumbo and his mouse; and Todd and Copper. The message here has to be that we can all get along and shouldn’t be put off by our differences. It’s great to see this message being sent subtly through animal friendships but it is time to be overt! Girls are regularly pitted against each other and taught to see other girls as competitors. Seeing great friendships that they can emulate is important.

Disney can clearly do an amazing job at showing positive friendships, as evidenced above and the few princess friendships we’ve seen, so why won’t they do it in more of their princess/female character driven films?

What do you think?

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Cheers,

M&M

Animated Love Songs (Part 2)

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Happy Valentine’s Day!! Whether you’re single or in a relationship or unsure where you stand with someone, today is a made up holiday where the greeting card business gets a well needed boost. Or it’s, like, a day to tell everyone you know how much you love them. Okay! Let’s continue with our Animated Love Songs meta.

reaction owl fangirl hearts happy

Love is an Open Door – Frozen (Mel)

Ooh, I’ve been excited to talk about this one.

I’ll admit it: I have a lot of gripes with Frozen. But I can’t deny that “Love is an Open Door” is handled brilliantly, mainly because it’s a song where you can go back and find subtle foreshadowing. There were a lot of complaints about Hans’ villainy coming out of left field, but if you reexamine, you can see the small seeds planted for his antagonistic role.

“Love is an Open Door” is mainly about Anna and Hans, who have always been shut out and ignored by their siblings, and how their love for one another is an open door that gives them new possibilities. But what they want out of their relationship is completely different.

So let’s take a look at motivations.

Anna: All my life has been a series of doors in my face,

And then suddenly I bump into you

Hans: Yeah! It’s like,

I’ve been searching my whole life to find my own place

frozen series of doors1frozen series of doors2

Anna has always felt like she was alone in life. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” really cements her loneliness and her desire to have someone to talk to. When Hans waltzes into her life, she’s found someone who she feels confident enough to talk to. Hans doesn’t shut her out the way Elsa does: instead, he listens sympathetically, and understands her struggles perfectly.

frozen find my own place

For a way, it’s similar for Hans, but let’s hone in on his word choice. He specifically mentions that he wants to find his own place – and he glances at Arendelle when he says this. He isn’t referencing Anna – he’s referencing her kingdom. That’s really important, considering that we find out later that he wanted to marry her so he could rule Arendelle. To Anna, he is referencing her, and that’s where the double meaning comes in.

Anna (and the audience, on first viewing) assumes that Hans is on the same page as her. But Hans has a completely different agenda, which makes “Love is an Open Door” a very unique love song. Does it follow the love song formula? Yes. But this is the first love song where one half of the party is being duplicitous and outright manipulating the other party.

Anna: But with you

Hans: But with you, I’ve found my place

Anna: I see your face

Both: And it’s nothing like I’ve ever known before

Love is an open door

Notice the way that Hans’ lyrics are focused on Arendelle, while Anna’s lyrics are focused on Hans? I bet you didn’t pick up on that on your first watch. Neither did I, until I watched Frozen again and little alarm bells went off in my head.

Our mental synchronization can have but one explanation:

You – and I –were just meant to be

frozen mental synch

Here’s where some irony slips in, because they’re not really as synchronized as they think. Or rather, Anna thinks they’re on the same page, but Hans knows they’re not.

Say goodbye (say goodbye)

To the pain of the past

We don’t have to feel it anymore

frozen love is an open door

Anna and Hans have obviously both had some turbulent/lonely childhoods. I mean, your brothers pretending you don’t exist? It could be a lie, considering Hans has lied about a lot, but if it’s the truth, it explains a lot about Hans’ motivations. Hans has never had a place to call his own. With twelve older brothers, being brother thirteen means you’re virtually destined for nothingness, and the second that he met Anna, he saw an opportunity to marry into something that could be his. Why didn’t he hone in on Elsa, the future queen? Well, he might’ve thought she was more unapproachable, and there was the fact that he met Anna first, and more importantly, genuinely seemed to like her.

Frozen is oddly conflicting about Hans and Anna’s relationship. They show us instances that indicate that Hans really does have feelings for Anna (like the scene when she runs off and he’s staring after her with that silly smile on his face), but then they refute it at the end. The creators didn’t really make up their minds on whether Hans actually had some shred of feelings for Anna, or whether she was just an easy target. I like to think it was a mix of both. Therefore, I think there is a bit of truth in Hans’ song: he does like Anna, but the chilling part of Hans is that he likes power more. And when he’s given the opportunity to take Arendelle for himself, he’s willing to let Anna die to make it happen.

frozen punch hans

One last thing I want to talk about before we move on is the end of the song, and the repetition of a certain lyric:

Love is an open door, love is an open door

Life can be so much more

With you (with you) with you

Love is an open door

The title of the song is dropped a lot during the song. So what does “love is an open door” really mean? Well, it was multiple meanings. For Anna, her love for Hans is an open door in opposition to all of the doors that have been shut on her in the past. It’s a chance to be with someone and have someone who trusts her and will stick by her no matter what.

For Hans, he sees Anna’s love for him as an open door to find his own place on the throne of Arendelle. Whether he has genuine feelings for her or not, being with her gives him a shot at being king, and finally having something that is solely his.

So is this a love song?

frozen IT'S TRUE LOVE

In a way, yes. But it’s so much more than that. And that’s why it remains my favorite song from Frozen.

 

Looking Through Your Eyes (Quest for Camelot)—Mic

Ugh, this song is so sweet. It’s basically all about how beautiful and perfect the world is when you’re in love.

Look at the sky tell me what do you see

Just close your eyes and describe it to me

The heavens are sparkling with starlight tonight

That’s what I see through your eyes

Firstly, Garrett is blind. So part of him is actually asking Kayley to describe it to him. But, Garrett is also a cynic and a loner, so he would never say the ‘heavens are sparkling with starlight.’

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Love has changed him, opened him up and it wasn’t something he was looking for. Kayley wasn’t looking for love either, since she was on a hero’s quest to save Camelot (and hopefully become a knight).

It’s out of our hands, we can’t stop what we have begun

And love just took me by surprise, looking through your eyes

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To continue the same thread:

I see a world we’re meant to see together

And it is so much more than I remember

More than I remember

More than I have known 

Love has changed the way they see their surroundings and even what they want out of life. Nothing matters unless they’re together (And suddenly I know why life is worthwhile).

Visually, the sequence is also important. Garrett is trusting Kayley to be his eyes, but it’s not all on his side. He also brings her into his world and shows her how he uses his walking stick as a weapon.There’s newfound trust between them.

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Here in the night, I see the sun

Here in the dark, our two hearts are one 

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I’m reading Wuthering Heights right now (if you read my Oliver Twist & Company meta, you know I’m taking an Early Victorian Novels class) and Cathy and Heathcliff share a similar sentiment. They consider themselves one being and when Cathy dies, Heathcliff says something to the effect of, how can I live without my soul? That’s kind of the same sentiment here, though Kayley and Garrett are way healthier than Cathy and Heathcliff.

 

Bella Notte (Lady and the Tramp)—Mic

Bella Notte is Italian for “beautiful night.” This song basically backdrops the perfect first date and one of Disney’s most iconic scenes: the spaghetti kiss. It’s sung with a heavy Italian accent, at first, and plays up this very romantic vibe.

lady and the tramp kiss

Visually, the sequence is very simple. They have dinner together in an alley and don’t eat anything special: tomato sauce and meatballs is a straightforward dish. Anyone can make it. They don’t do anything particularly special. They walk around town, they go to the park, they’re just together. And it’s a beautiful night because they are together and they are in love.

lady and the tramp eye sex hehe

Side by side with your loved one,

You’ll find enchantment here.

The night will weave its magic spell,

When the one you love is near

lady and tramp pawprints

It’s not a beautiful night because it’s not raining or because it’s not too cold. It’s a beautiful night because Lady and Tramp are together.

Look at the skies, they have stars in their eyes

Skies don’t have eyes. It’s not about the sky.

lady and tramp stars in their eyes

It’s about Lady and Tramp and how totally mystified they are by other person (dog). It’s about how they feel about each other. It’s an allegory or something like that.

It’s not about the material things like a big fancy or dinner or a shiny car (doghouse). It’s about being with that other person (dog). That is what makes una bella notte.

Buongiorno! (Doggies did the deed.)

lady and the tramp day after

 

Kiss the Girl – The Little Mermaid (Mel)

“Kiss the Girl” is probably one of the most straightforward love songs Disney has: Sebastian wants Eric to go on and kiss the girl already.

little mermaid sebastian ear

“Kiss the Girl” is sung by Sebastian, and the first verse is basically Sebastian summing up Eric’s thoughts on Ariel:

There, you see her, sitting there across the way

She don’t got a lot to say, but there’s something about her

And you don’t know why, but you’re dying to try

You wanna kiss the girl

It’s pretty obvious at this point in the movie that Eric is interested in Ariel. Her fascination with the world around her and her lively nature draws him in. Even without her voice, Ariel’s body language and expressions convey her feelings and thoughts quite well. And while it’s clear Eric doesn’t know everything about her, he knows enough to like her – and possibly want to kiss her.

Yes, you want her;

Look at her, you know you do

Possible she wants you too;

There is one way to ask her

Here’s where Sebastian nudges Eric, trying to get him to notice Ariel’s obvious interest in him – or rather, the way she plays with her hair and tries to avoid his gaze until she realizes he’s looking at her the way she’s been looking at him.

little mermaid kiss the girl

Eric, of course, drives us crazy by being uncertain and not ready to kiss Ariel, because he’s still hung up on the chick that saved him. Of course, if he knew that was Ariel, this would make things smoother, but then we wouldn’t have much of a plot, would we? So we have Sebastian to goad him into kissing Ariel, because of what he might lose out on if he doesn’t.

Ain’t it sad, ain’t it a shame?

Too bad; he gonna miss the girl

Boy you better do it soon; no time will be better

She don’t say a word, and she won’t say a word

Until you kiss the girl

Eric doesn’t realize it, but the nag for Ariel to get her kiss is so that she can stay on land permanently, thus why there’s such a rush for Eric to kiss her in the lyrics. Of course, Eric doesn’t pick up on this.

little mermaid kiss the girl paddling

The nagging aspect of the song actually kind of bothered me, because while I understood the purpose of the time limit in story, the pressure put on Eric to “kiss the girl” was a bit annoying.

While Eric and Ariel don’t get that kiss by the end of the song, thanks to Ursula’s interference, they do at the end of the movie. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for someone to get up the nerve to kiss the girl, as evidenced by Eric’s long wait, and that’s perfectly alright. It’s also okay for a woman to take the lead, but I digress. Eventually, he got to kiss the girl, and it was worth the wait that both of them endured.

 

Something There (Beauty and the Beast)—Mic

Something There is a really sweet song about discovering those first inklings of a crush. It’s the first time Belle and Beast really start to see each other for who they are and begin to like that person.

The music actually begins sometime before the first lyric is sung and it’s when Belle and Beast are finally eating together. They both make concessions and compromise. Beast eats with his mouth, but attempts to use a spoon. He’s really bad at it after so many years, but Belle sees his effort and proposes a new way.

beauty something there dishes

When they go outside to feed the birds and she sings:

There’s something sweet and almost kind

But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined

And now he’s dear and so unsure

beauty something there birds

She’s not just referring to him trying to feed the birds. She’s talking about what happened at dinner and what happened when he risked his life to save hers. It’s a combination of everything that has happened between them, building up to this awakening.

I wonder why I didn’t see it there before

Belle, dude, that’s because it was NOT there before. The beast had to learn. He was cursed because he was a vain brat. It’s not like he was kind before he was punished. So Beast has never actually known how to be “sweet” and “kind” or “dear.” His schemas are totally being rewritten by Belle.

And when we touched she didn’t shudder at my paw

No it can’t be, I’ll just ignore

But then she’s never looked at me that way before 

The beast was a jerk as a kid, but he also had it rough as a beast. He was feared, loathed. He also may not have been very friendly—we saw how he treated Maurice. We don’t how much was the beast assuming or how much was what he had learned. It certainly seems like he had negative experiences with people since he says to Belle’s father, “You’ve come to stare at the beast!” So when Belle comes, he’s not open to considering she may be different. He also doesn’t know how to break the curse. He has no real concept of love.

Belle touching his paw is important to him. It represents her not fearing his exterior, but let’s be real. She never did. Besides their first meeting, which, can you blame her? No one expects to see a walking, talking (yelling), horned animal thing. He had locked her father in a cell. He didn’t make a good first impression. The only time Belle feared him was when he yelled at her in the west wing. And he didn’t just yell. He popped out of the darkness and prowled around and then started breaking and throwing stuff.

Whatever the beast’s path is, it all plays into this now. He can’t even think that she may like him or feel the same way he does. Love is conditional for him. Love has to be beautiful. And he is not.

New and a bit alarming

Who’d have ever thought that this could be?

True that he’s no Prince Charming

But there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see

beauty something there reading

Belle kinda feels the same way he does. Well, they both feel exactly the same. They’re crushing and terrified. While Belle admits he’s not the typical romantic hero, Beast has no mention of Belle being the opposite of a princess. It contrasts with the way the town sees her as this outsider. She’s “peculiar” to them, but not to the Beast. Finally someone sees Belle the way she’s meant to be seen and he’s totally smitten by her.

The song then cuts to the observers:

And who’d have guessed they’d come together on their own?

It’s so peculiar.

Ah, there is that word again. Peculiar. Everything is peculiar if you don’t understand it.

Belle is peculiar because she does not fit into her society and the town shuns her for it. But one can never truly know someone, at least not by judging them and making assumptions. The town does that.

And if people are hard to understand, then love is even harder. Mrs. Potts and Lumiere and Cogsworth certainly can’t understand it. But they don’t have to. Only Belle and Beast do and it’s not peculiar to them. They never use that word.

 

Beauty and the Beast–Beauty and the Beast (Mel)

“Beauty and the Beast” (the song) touches on one of the oldest fictional clichés ever: the couple that starts out as adversaries, and then becomes something more. Mrs. Potts even spells out the trope for us at the start of the song:

Tale as old as time; true as it can be

Barely even friends, then somebody bends unexpectedly

beauty dancing

It sums up Belle and the Beast pretty well, doesn’t it? They started out as two people who could barely stand one another, and then somebody (in this case, the Beast) bends unexpectedly and surprises Belle.

Just a little change

Small, to say the least

Both a little scared

Neither one prepared

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast has gotten flack by critics for the Beast’s attitude, and that Belle ending up with him could be a result of Stockholm Syndrome (since she starts out as his prisoner). But what a lot of its contenders forget is that Belle doesn’t even like the Beast as a person. In fact, she detests him and calls him out on his bad attitude. And when she does that, guess what? He realizes she was right, and then promptly changes his ways and treats her with respect and dignity, something she never got from her last suitor, Gaston.

The change aspect is something that was originally touched on in “Something There” and then reappears again. It’s the Beast’s change in attitude that makes Belle reevaluate him as a person, and later as a romantic prospect. I also like the “both a little scared, neither one prepared” sentiment, because both the Beast and Belle aren’t quite sure of what to make of their feelings for one another, and like most people in love, they’re uncertain of whether they should make the first move, or how to even handle their feelings.

Ever just the same; ever a surprise

Ever as before, and ever just as sure

As the sun will rise

This was a weird verse for me at first until I broke it down and realized that it was Mrs. Potts touching on the cliché again. We’ve seen this story a lot of times (“ever just the same”; “ever as before”) but we’re still surprised that these couples make it at times (“ever a surprise”). Still, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when we realize that the couple is set up in such a way that it’s so obvious that they should be together.

It also relates to how the characters view the relationship. That last line – “ever just as sure as the sun will rise” – relates to the inevitability of Belle and the Beast’s relationship to the Beast’s staff. However, to Belle and the Beast, it’s a surprise to them, because they never expected to feel this way about one another.

Tale as old as time,

Tune as old as song,

Bittersweet and strange,

Finding you can change,

Learning you were wrong

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Those last three lines right there sum up the relationship flawlessly. “Finding you can change” clearly relates to the Beast, who hadn’t realized his capacity for change until he finally attempted it. “Learning you were wrong” relates to both sides of the couple; they carried a lot of assumptions about one another, and it was only by coming together and learning about each other that they grew past the assumptions and saw the person beneath them. Their relationship at this point has been bittersweet and strange, but now they’re at a point where they finally understand one another. They’re on the same page, and they’re even on the same pace, as evidenced by their flawless dancing.

Last week, I mentioned how important it was that Anya let Dimitri lead during the Waltz Reprise, and how their dancing in sync related to them as a couple. Here, a similar occurrence happens with Belle and the Beast. Dancing takes a lot of trust. Much like how stubborn Anya lets Dimitri take the reins, the stubborn Beast lets Belle take control during their dance.  This represents the way their relationship has balanced out. Both sides trust one another, and both aren’t afraid to let the other take control. How’s that for an epic romance?

 

Can You Feel The Love Tonight (The Lion King)—Mic

Can You Feel The Love Tonight might make history for having the most number of narrators in a single love song: four! We start with Timon, who is so mad Simba and Nala have found each other. To him, this union will destroy his boys club.

But then we switch to Nala and she is happy. She’s probably happy for the first time in a long time considering she’s been under Scar’s dictatorship and thought her best friend died. Her line about the world being in perfect harmony is so great since she is finally at peace after experiencing the instability in the Pride Lands.

Another narrator change occurs and we get Simba’s perspective. He’s happy to see her too, but also scared she won’t understand what happened. He, himself, doesn’t understand what happened, which is why he’s been hiding with Timon and Pumba. Nala knows right away something is up with him—

He’s holding back, he’s hiding

But what, I can’t decide

She doesn’t know exactly, but she knows something is off. “I can’t decide” implies she has some theories since he is her best friend. They really are in perfect harmony.

Once again, we swap narrators and this time it’s this overarching third person POV. Simba and Nala were physically apart during the start of the song, on different sides of the water.

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Then they’re playing together and running around. They are together, falling into their old rhythm.

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This POV is like a narration.

Can you feel the love tonight?

You needn’t look too far

Stealing through the night’s uncertainties

Love is where they are

Timon saw clearly (I can see what’s happening), but Nala and Simba were both kinda stumbling around (and they don’t have a clue), their past stopping them from moving forward. But once they do admit their feelings (Nala licking Simba), the third person narrator lets us know that, yeah, they’re in love, and nothing, not even their pasts or the troubles ahead, can stop them.

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Then we have one last change, back to the beginning, bookending with Timon and Pumba. It’s kind of symbolic, since Simba fled and became complacent with Timon and Pumba and then had to find the courage to leave and go back. They mark the shift in Simba’s story. Timon and Pumba open and close this song and by the end, Timon has convinced his friend that Simba having a lady friend will tear them apart.

And if he falls in love tonight

It can be assumed

His carefree days with us are history

In short, our pal is doomed

lion king our pall is doomed

lion king our pall is doomed

Nala coming back does represent a change for Simba. But it doesn’t really have anything to do with love. Simba chooses to go back because Nala reminded him of who he’d left behind and also told him what had happened in his absence. His carefree days are over because he goes back to be king, not because Nala has come to crash the party. And their pal is not doomed, since Timon and Pumba go with him and end up living in the Pride Lands. Everyone ends up in perfect harmony.

 

Let Me Be Your Wings (Thumbelina)—Mic

Let me tell you how much I loved this song when I was a kid: too much. I think it was because I had a giant crush on Cornelius, but whatever.

Let me be your wings

Let me be your only love

Let me take you far beyond the stars

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Thumbelina is a story about fairies, so of course wings feature very heavily. Thumbelina is the size of a fairy, but she is not one. She has no wings. And she falls in love with the fairy prince.

Everyday I’ll take you higher

and I’ll never let you fall

Wings are safety, security. They are a means of travel and protection and all that stuff. Cornelius, le fairy prince, wants to be that for her. He is also literally talking about being her wings since he carries her everywhere during this sequence, or takes her for a joyride on his bumblebee.

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But his words are deeper than that.

Leave behind the world you know

for another world of wondrous things

We’ll see the universe and dance on Saturns’s rings

Fly with me and I will be your wings

Leave behind being on your own, be with me. Come into the world of love, cheesy as that sounds. But all these love songs are about how love changes you or how love binds two people into one, or love is scary and thrilling. Cornelius is asking Thumbelina and promising to be everything for her. He will protect her and he will build her up and they will go on adventures together.

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Heaven isn’t too far.

Heaven is where you are,

Stay with me and let me be your wings 

Like Through Your Eyes, Bella Notte, Love, Can You Feel The Love Tonight, and many others, happiness and completeness only comes with the other person. Love is overpowering and encompassing and the music of animation takes that all and wraps into pretty music that we know every lyric to.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

What is your favorite love song? Who is your OTP? What is your favorite romantic moment in Disney/non-Disney movies? SWOON BELOW!

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Cheers,

M&M

10 Reasons The Lion King Kicks Ass

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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.

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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  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

If you want to read more Lion King metas, there’s one about its connections to Hamlet and another one about Scar’s song Be Prepared.

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Cheers!

M&M

 

Disney Villain Songs: Part One

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Not too long ago, Mel did an amazing series where she analyzed Disney Princess “I Want” songs. Let’s start 2015 by spotlighting the villains we love to hate and hate to love.

Disney is most famous for their animated musicals and fairy tales, but the Villain Song only really came to fruition with Disney’s Renaissance and the creation of The Little Mermaid. Think about it, Snow White had an I Want song, but The Evil Queen didn’t. Cinderella had an I Want song, but The Evil Stepmother (Lady Tremaine) didn’t. Disney villains got much more fleshed out with every movie—including their names (come on, Evil Queen? Were they even trying?).

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I don’t know either, Ariel.

Many Disney movies don’t have clean cut villains like The Evil Queen, but even she represents something deeper. The Evil Queen is symbolic of jealousy, while other films like the Jungle Book are about the danger man poses to animals and nature. The Aristocats is more so about what greed can drive someone to do. How do you give that a song? The nature of how Disney tells their stories has changed, with the Renaissance films focusing more on individual characters and growth. By that logic, the villains needed to evolve to cause a threat to the main character. The villains had to become less abstract.

Pre-Renaissance Songs

There are two slight exceptions to this pre-Renaissance rule, however. Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians both feature Disney villains in the pre-Renaissance era that have songs sung ABOUT them.

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Peter Pan has A Pirate’s Life and The Elegant Captain Hook, which are kind of one song, but whatever. Hook has his own boy band singing his praise and it totally works since all the Lost Boys, John, and Michael are ready to sign up to a life of piracy in seconds. Hook himself only gets about a chorus where he threatens everyone’s life:

A special offer today I’ll tell you what I’ll do
All those who sign without delay will get a free tattoo
Why it’s like money in the bank
Come on, join up and I’ll be frank
Unless you do, you’ll walk the plank
The choice is up to you

Definitely villain song material—and I’ve never seen one done so elegantly. This is the first Disney film where the antagonist sings and it’s typical MUAHAHA villainy.

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Similar to Hook, except she doesn’t sing at all because who has time for that, Cruella De Vil has a song about her in 101 Dalmatians. The song heralds her arrival and tells the audience how we’re supposed to feel about her. I mean, “devil woman,” and “if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will,” speak for themselves.

Cruella is also framed in the doorway very creepily and Roger’s ominous tone continue to lead the audience. It’s not like Cruella makes a much better first impression when we finally meet her, blowing smoke everywhere, searching like a madwoman for the puppies, her holier than thou attitude.

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Once she leaves, the song continues and Roger has many more insults to spew, which the audience is probably agreeing with at this point.

Now, onto the Disney Renaissance, which gave us music and dastardly foes!

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Poor Unfortunate Souls

Ursula’s song in The Little Mermaid gives us so much to think about. First we get a little of her backstory:

…in the past I’ve been a nasty
They weren’t kidding when they called me, well, a witch

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Ursula tries to paint herself as a saint now. She uses magic (“a talent [she’s] always possessed”) to help the “miserable, lonely, and depressed.” Of course she can’t hide her true nature and whispers to her cronies that she finds her clients “pathetic.” Or she finds exploiting Ariel too easy it’s just pathetic. I love double meanings.

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She’s manipulating Ariel with a false version of herself, claiming she helps so many people and makes their lives better. She’s promising Ariel the same thing.

The next facet of the song is men’s views of women, something we’ve covered briefly in our other Little Mermaid meta.

You’ll have your looks, your pretty face.
And don’t underestimate the importance of body language, ha!

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The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yes on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle prattle for?
Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who’s withdrawn
It’s she who holds her tongue who get’s a man

Today, this is vastly considered an outdated, wrong opinion to have. But it is so ingrained in our society that some people don’t even realize they still have these views. Women are encouraged to have a career, to use their voice, but women still earn less than a man, they do not hold as many positions of leadership, and many times their ideas are not taken seriously until a male colleague suggests it.

A woman’s looks are still very important, too. There are unrealistic standards women are expected to live up to. Everyone knows how the media warps and twists things, but what about women in power? There are countless articles about what Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, the Duchess of Cambridge are wearing, their make-up, or their hair instead of what these women are actually doing. Even when a woman uses her voice and has power, she is brought down by the media and reduced to her looks.

To have a Disney song tackle this issue and use it as a “scare tactic” essentially from Ursula to Ariel gives the song a great, complex layer. She’s basically saying, “You’re worried you won’t have your voice? Don’t worry, I’m actually doing you a favor by taking it. He won’t want it.” Poor Unfortunate Souls is a twisty-turny, manipulative song and is a fantastic start to the inception of Villain Songs!

my body is ready

Gaston

What could be more vain and villainous than to name a song about yourself?

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Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, this song also sheds some light onto Gaston for us. We learn he’s always been obsessed with his looks (“when I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs”), he’s always had gross macho tastes (“I use antlers in all of my decorating”), and he loves to spit (“I’m especially good at expectorating!”).

But really, this song shows us how Gaston feels entitled to Belle, how he sees her as property he should be able to own because he wants her and it doesn’t matter how she feels.

Who does she think she is?
That girl has tangled with the wrong man.
No one says ‘no’ to Gaston
Dismissed! Rejected!
Publicly humiliated! Why, it’s more than I can bear

First, you tangled with her, dude. Belle did not want to tangle with you and made that very clear. Second, man has some deep entitlement issues. Third, his pride was wounded when Belle rejected him in front of everyone, so that’s really what he’s most angry about. He never cared about Belle. He cared about the image she was: the pretty girl in town. She was an enigma to everyone. No one quite knew what to make of her. By claiming her, Gaston would have won the prize, essentially.

This song is representative of larger issues that plague us today, like when young athletes do not get properly punished for raping girls. The media laments their promising career, caring nothing about the victim. This song is the entire town coming together to make Gaston feel better, to tell him how much they all adore him and how perfect he is. Gaston hasn’t done anything wrong in this song.

Gaston did not rape Belle, but the scene where he proposes in her home certainly has elements of rape culture in them. He goes to her home. He pushes himself through the doorway when everything about Belle is radiating “I do not want you here.” And Belle has that right. She can not want to be around someone. She can not want them inside her home. A woman does not have to verbally say “no”— her body language can convey that, the tone of her voice, even. And Belle conveys that she is in a situation she does not want to be in.

beauty and the beast do not want

A sampling of the things he says in that scene: “There’s not a girl in town who wouldn’t love to be in your shoes.” And: “This is the day your dreams come true.”

Basically: “I am God’s gift to women, worship me.”

He’s literally forcing himself on her even as she’s trying to say no. She is pressed against the door and ducking away from him as he tries to kiss her. That is forcing himself on her. This scene directly leads to the angst ridden Gaston we meet during his Villain Song moment. He feels unjustly rejected.

Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, the song gives some insight into our villains and also looks at what men expect from women. In Ursula’s case, the woman was supposed to be pretty and quiet and not cause trouble. For Gaston, women should be mindless and worship him. They cannot say no.

Prince Ali (reprise)

Jafar’s villain song in Aladdin doesn’t come until the end of story when he thinks he’s won. It’s very different from the other two because it is a victory song. It has its roots in Hook singing about threatening children since here, Jafar is carrying out his master plan in song. Man, what a great evil laugh.

Jafar blows Aladdin’s masquerade and banishes him. He’s got control of the genie; Jasmine and the sultan are powerless. This song vastly differs in tone from the other two. Ursula is trying to get her plan in motion and succeeds by the end of the song. Gaston is in a “Woe Is Me” mood and in the man-dumps. Not Jafar. No way, this guy is winning. And he’s insulting people:

His personality flaws,
give me adequate cause
to send him packing on a one-way trip

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If personality flaws are all we need, I think there’s a lovely trip waiting for Jafar, too.

Jafar’s villain song is really short, but it changes the game for all villain songs that follow.

Be Prepared

Scar is plotting in The Lion King. He’s got big plans to murder his brother and take over as king. This song combines all the elements we’ve seen in the previous ones: bit of backstory, thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread, and insults galore.

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We all joke about Scar and “what was Scar’s name before he got the scar?” But the truth is, we don’t know much about Mufasa and Scar. We know they’re brothers and Mufasa was older so he became king. We know Scar resents this. We can infer that maybe Scar didn’t get enough love as a cub. One of the final lines in the song is “Be king undisputed, respected, saluted, and seen for the wonder I am.” From this, I’m guessing our speculation is true. Scar was always seen as second to Mufasa, a fast he’s always resented.

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Like Ursula, Scar is still figuring out how to put his plans into motion. His previous attempts at assassinating his brother have failed. Like Gaston, he puts himself above everyone, including the hyenas that are trying to help him take power. And like Jafar, he’s got plenty of insults to go around. And by the end of the song, he’s reveling in his sure to come victory.

This particular villain’s song treads the darker side of an I Want song. Scar wants power, in fact, he deserves power (“justice deliciously squared”). While Ursula wants Ariel’s voice, and Gaston wants Belle, and Jafar doesn’t want anything because he’s already winning, those songs all have a bit of other meanings buried beneath them. Whereas, Be Prepared, is really Scar’s I Want song, and This is How I’m Gonna Get it And It’s Gonna Be Amazing song.

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Mine, Mine, Mine

Ratcliffe’s song in Pocahontas is really interesting. I think Pocahontas is one of Disney’s most underrated films and I have no idea why because it is AMAZING. There are a lot of layers to it.

The gold of Cortes
The jewels of Pizarro
Will seem like mere trinkets
By this time tomorrow
The gold we find here
Will dwarf them by far
Oh, with all ya got in ya, boys
Dig up Virginia, boys

This is essentially the conflict between the English settlers and the Native Americans. Ratcliffe and his men expect to become rich, richer than Cortes and his successful expeditions (ie: rape and genocide and disease). The stories of wealth from the New World are what they’re chasing. Ratcliffe doesn’t care about preserving the land or the homes of the people that already live there. From the first verse of this song, we know that Ratcliffe expects nothing less than vast riches. This villain song sets up the rest of the film. If Ratcliffe doesn’t find the gold, then he’s going to assume the Natives have hoarded it all for themselves and thus we have conflict.

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“Dig up Virginia, boys” is such a chilling line to me. It shows zero compassion. It reduces the Powhatan tribe to nothing, basically. They do not matter. And land is nothing more than a commodity.

Next, in a familiar trend, Ratcliffe’s song gives us a peek into his backstory, too.

My rivals back home
It’s not that I’m bitter
But think how they’ll squirm
When they see how I glitter!
The ladies at court
Will be all a-twitter

Ratcliffe wants fame and fortune, but he also wants to be better than his rivals. We don’t know much more than this, but it shows us he’s trying to prove himself. He’s competitive. He wants a story to beat Cortes’. He probably wants other people to eventually sing about finding more gold than him—but of course that’ll never happen because Virginia is the richest of them all.

Make the mounds big, boys
I’d help you to dig, boys
But I’ve got this crick in me spine

This provides another look into Ratcliffe. He expects the gold will earn him favor with the king (“My dear friend King Jimmy will probably build me a shrine” and “The king will reward me, he’ll knight me, no lord me”), but he also already treats himself as a king. He orders his sailors around, he has them do all the digging. They do the work and he gets the reward.

Keep on working, lads
Don’t be shirking, lads
Mine, boys, mind
Mine ME that gold
Beautiful gold

I love that part, where all the pretense is gone. The “I have a bad back” is transparent enough, but for a moment Ratcliffe is totally consumed by his want/greed that he can’t even remember to try and mask his villainy.

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But in a very different move, this song also features John Smith, the central male character of the film and also the love interest. He partly shares Ratcliffe’s views in that he sees the land as something he can take and “claim,” in his own words. He’s misguided like Ratcliffe, but he’s not there for the gold. He’s there for “adventure,” and to find “danger.” John Smith’s character arc entwines itself with Ratcliffe and then they run parallel to each other, both Englishmen going on separate journeys. They both traveled to Virginia because of land and they both share this song. Smith distances himself from the other settlers both visually (to the audience) and emotionally (he can’t see what Ratcliffe is doing, the destruction is not real to him) by not being part of the digging party. He’s already gone off to explore the new land.

It was an interesting and bold move to craft the song this way. This is the first villain song to include a non-villain character in it. Pocahontas is one of those films that has so many deeper meanings and Ratcliffe and Smith are both complex characters that prove this.

Conclusion

Next week I’ll tackle the deleted song from The Emperor’s New Grooze, Snuff out the Light. We’ll also wrap up with the final Villain Songs: Hellfire, Friends on the Other Side, and Mother Knows Best. I’ll also discuss the films Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, and Frozen by exploring why these films lack Villain Songs.

Happy 2015! Sending wicked vibes your way for a good one.
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What do you think of the Disney Villain Songs? Do you have a favorite?

Cheers!
-M&M

The Lion King: Hamlet Without Hamlet

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Will Shakespeare and Disney: arguably the two most influential creators ever. Sure, one is an Elizabethan playwright and the other is a billion dollar corporation, but Mr. Shakespeare and Mr. Disney have created art that has proven to stand the tests of time.

Unsurprisingly, Disney has been influenced by the great playwright and have thrown many Shakespeare references into their films. But one stands above the rest: The Lion King is a painfully obvious retelling of Hamlet: Prince of Denmark. It’s practically fanfiction (kinda… sorta… not really) (totally) and I’m about to tell you why.

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This meta has been broken down by characters, easily identifiable by their amusing headings. Due to the length of this post, I refrained from giving Gertrude/Sarabi, Ophelia/Nala, and Horatio/Rafiki entire sections to themselves.

Introduction: Lets Get This Party Started

We shall begin at the beginning, as so many stories do. In its simplest form, the catalyst in both stories is: king killed by jealous brother. Claudius poisons daddy!Hamlet in the ear, while Scar shoves Mufasa off a cliff… into a wildebeest stampede. It’s all very dramatic. The death of their fathers’ propels Hamlet and Simba into action (or delays it—you’ll get it soon, I promise) and drives the story.

Hamlet and Simba: Just Can’t Wait to Be King… Kinda… Sorta… Not Really

When the play Hamlet begins, Hamlet’s father has already been murdered and Claudius sits upon the throne. Hamlet has just returned home from school and is grieving his father’s death. Worse, his mother tells him that it’s time to stop mourning and he should get on with his life (spoiler: this pisses him off). The opening scene is two guards discussing what will happen with the pressures of war with Norway mounting and their new king un-obliged to do anything about it. This sounds awfully similar to the lions vs hyenas conundrum Disney sets up in The Lion King very early on, as well. But we’ll get to that later.

Simba’s beginnings are far gentler than Hamlet’s. Simba is a naughty child.

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He loves his father very much and looks forward to the prospect of being king. His father is his mentor. The father-son relationship is established so strongly that we all bawl our eyes out when Mufasa is killed (if you don’t, I’m side eyeing you).

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By doing this, the focus shifts from a tale of revenge (Hamlet) to one of a young prince growing up (The Lion King).

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In coming of age stories, parents usually have to bite it in order for the child to learn how to make adult decisions. Oops.

With the death of their fathers’ the course of Hamlet and Simba’s lives are changed. Hamlet refuses to believe his uncle could do such a thing, despite being told by this the ghost of his father. ghost!Hamlet also tells his son to avenge him. So, great, basically poor grieving Hamlet was just told, “Your uncle killed me! KILL HIM! Blood be damned!” There’s also a line about ghost!Hamlet unable to leave purgatory until he’s been avenged, which, woah, major guilt trip. Understandably, Hamlet wants to be sure of everything before he does something irreversible. Henceforth spawns Shakespeare’s longest play, full of Hamlet intellectualizing and philosophizing and seeking to delay action for as long as physically possible (seriously), looking for irrefutable proof of his uncle’s guilt. Hamlet’s uneasiness and indecisiveness makes him wonder if he is a coward, thus more soliloquies are desperately needed.

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“This doesn’t sound like The Lion King!” you cry.

Yes, I know. Just bear with me.

Hamlet delays action. Well guess what, Simba does, too! When Mufasa is killed, Simba is terrified of being blamed for the death. His guilt claws at him (get it?). And it doesn’t help that good ol’ Uncle Scar is there whispering in his ear (CLAUDIUS POISONED HAMLET IN THE EAR). Simba runs away. He’s convinced he’ll never return, in effect, delaying action. On his journey he meets Timon and Pumba and if you thought four hours of Hamlet was long, years go by for Simba before he takes any action. His childhood, quite literally, passes. He grows up! And gets a mane! In essence, I like to believe this was a nice homage to Hamlet and his pages of poetic waxing while also keeping the film to a standard run time (and the attention of all those kiddies!).

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(Side note: roughly 1,000 lines of speech are said per hour during a play and Hamlet is around 4,000 lines. Thus, we get four hours.)

Okay, done, boom. Hamlet and Simba both delay action, dragging out the conflict. Where Hamlet is concerned with proving Claudius’ guilt, Simba wants to forget all his problems (Hakuna Matata!).

In his quest to uncover Claudius’ motives, Hamlet uses his grief as a cover, acting out in crazy ways to convince everyone he’s losing his mind. Hamlet wants Claudius to feel that he is not a threat to Claudius’s newfound throne. Hamlet’s madness allows Claudius a sense of relief: he’s won, the next in line is not a threat. Simba staying away has the same affect on Scar: Scar believes he’s emerged victorious. But here lies one of the main questions of Shakespeare’s play: Is Hamlet insane or is he just pretending to lure the truth out?

I have my own opinion, just like everyone who has ever read or seen Hamlet, but this is not the place for that discussion. The parallel I want to draw here is when Simba is reunited with his bff and ultimate soulmate Nala.

After the initial spell of happiness has worn off, Nala wants to know why Simba’s been hiding out for so long. Their argument is basically Nala asking Simba if he’s gone insane (ta da!).


See the lines: “What’s happened to you? You’re not the Simba I remember. … Just disappointed. [You’re starting to sound like my father] Good, at least one of us does.” It does not go to the extremes like in Hamlet, but there is still this subtext. It may be one of the weaker ones, but I do think it is worth noting. However, this scene still ties back into both Hamlet and Simba’s indecisiveness and reluctance to live up to the legacies their fathers’ have left for them.

lion baby paw print in big LEGACY

What happens once Hamlet knows Claudius is guilty? How does Hamlet’s arc intersect with Simba’s? After delaying action for so long, Simba has gotten comfortable in his new life, as seen multiple times in the film and in his argument with Nala. Simba doesn’t want to go back. What happens next for Simba is what happened to Hamlet at the beginning of the play: the ghost of his dad pays him a visit. The timing of this is excellent because Simba is most in need of guidance here. Just like, oh, yes, Hamlet was pretty distraught at the beginning of the play and in need of guidance then.

“Remember me,” in act one, scene five is Disney-fied into “Remember who you are.” The plot of revenge in Hamlet further continues to transform into a coming of age story.

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(Yes, that is Mufasa. Don’t judge me.)

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The Lion King may be the most creative of them all [animated movies]—it digs down to the heart of the story, carefully removes the skeleton of the plot and Hamlet’s drive for vengeance, and wraps those elements in a world of talking animals and upbeat musical numbers.

Hamlet doesn’t quite jump into action the same way Simba does, since now he begins his long process of snooping around and looking for proof (spoiler: he hires a bunch of actors to create a play (it’s a play within a play!) that will feature a brother killing his brother to become king.).


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For Simba, though, this encounter brings him back to the Pride Lands and solidifies his goal to unseat Scar as king.

The Lion King’s screenwriters excised Hamlet’s heavy emphasis on philosophy and political maneuverings; Simba never launches into ‘to be, or not to be’ speeches, but he shares Hamlet’s indecision in living up to his father’s legacy.

Not anymore! Simba returns and there’s a big final confrontation just like there is in Hamlet. Because this is a Disney movie, there is a far happier ending for Simba and co. than there is for Hamlet.

The similarities between the Danish prince and lion are quite striking. For me, these parallels are the most compelling.

Daddy!Hamlet and Mufasa: Daddy Issues (& Ghosts)

Poor, poor Hamlet and Mufasa.

Also, Shakespeare get a random name generator or something. The play is called Hamlet. The main character is called Hamlet. Then there’s daddy!Hamlet. Getting back to the point—

We see absolutely zero of daddy!Hamlet and a little of ghost!Hamlet, but from reading between the lines, we can gather that he was a pretty decent king. His ghost appears clad in armor, maybe a symbol he was a strong and confident ruler. Mufasa, though, gets way more screen time.

lion king there's more to being a king than getting your way all the time

We also see the Pride Lands—it’s beautiful, in full bloom, and all the animals show up to rejoice at the continuation of Mufasa’s line via the birth of Simba. Mufasa and his clan are well-liked.

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In contrast, when Scar becomes king, the Pride Lands are barren, dying. Everyone is starving. The same thing happens in Denmark when Claudius becomes king: war is brewing with Norway.

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As you are well aware at this point, both are killed by their brothers and both visit their sons as ghosts. However, daddy!Hamlet visits Hamlet several times, while Mufasa only pays Simba one holiday. Because Disney cut the revenge aspect of Shakespeare’s play, the messages conveyed during these interludes had to be changed, as well. This was already touched upon in the previous section.

Daddy!Hamlet and Mufasa are the driving forces behind their sons. They become symbols. Whether Hamlet and Simba are acting or not acting, everything ties back to the father sized hole left on their hearts.

Claudius and Scar: Never Trust Your Uncle (also, a lot of Scar gifs)

Muahahaha, the evil ones!

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The second child that did not get enough love.

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Claudius and Scar have been corrupted morally and crave power. As was previously established, they murder their brother and, here’s a new piece of info, they take their brother’s widow as their new bride. This is never explicitly stated in The Lion King (kids movie flag waves), but it can certainly be implied in the way he defers to her for status reports.

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The Broadway version, though, has Scar set his sights on Nala, which isn’t quite the same, but still a close enough parallel.

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It is overtly clear in the play, though, which is something that fuels Hamlet’s madness (or fake-madness?) and anger. In defense of Hamlet, I think this can totally be excused because who would NOT freak out if your mother marries your murdering uncle shortly after your dad’s death and then tells you to stop mourning? Moving on…

Murder methods were different, outcomes identical.

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Similiar to how Claudius drives Hamlet mad (or does he?), Scar physically drives Simba away from the Pride Lands. But even mentally, for awhile there, Simba was clocked out of royal affairs. Our plot diverges here because the play has Hamlet tailing Claudius closely, while Simba has zero to do with Scar, and as such, the feline villain is absent for a fair amount of the film.

The glimpses we do have of Scar show him living up the life and debauchery… kinda… sorta… not really (kids movie flag flies). So there’s no debauchery, but there is plenty of twisted happiness emanating from Scar. Claudius, too, is throwing banquets in his honor and enjoying the pleasure of his new wife. However, Claudius begins to show remorse—or at least guilt—for the murder of his brother (spoiler: Hamlet’s convoluted play worked). Claudius prays to God for forgiveness (spoiler: Hamlet can’t kill him now—his soul is purged! He’ll go right to heaven! HAMLET WAITED TOO LONG and now must wait (some more) till Claudius commits another sin. That could take ages. Revenge is so hard, guys.).

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If Scar ever feels anything besides joy over the success of his plans, this is never shown.

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Scar takes his lack of regret a step farther and taunts Simba during the final battle. He’s still reveling in killing his brother and the fact that he successfully manipulated Simba his entire life into thinking it had all been his fault. Though things would have been so much better for Scar if life had gone this way:

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These villains meet their ends, ironically—wonderfully— by poison and getting thrown off a cliff. Sound familiar? Tis exactly the method each one used to kill their brother. And in a fun turn of events, Claudius’s murder of daddy!Hamlet was super straight forward (poison in the ear), meanwhile Disney concocted this whole scheme of luring Simba to the gorge, then starting the stampede, then getting Mufasa to come rescue his son, and when he (and Simba) didn’t die in the stampede, Scar had to finish it off (shoving him off the cliff) and tie up the loose end (manipulating Simba). But for the climax, these situations are flipped.

It is now Claudius going to elaborate measures to execute his nephew: there’s to be this big sword duel and there will be poison, and Hamlet will drink the poison, and the blade of his foe will also be poisoned just in case.

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(this gif was captioned “Hamlet the sore winner” and it amuses me to no end)

Unfortunately, things do not go to plan and four out of the five people in the room end up dying (spoiler: Horatio (Rafiki, basically) lives). Hamlet cuts Claudius with the sword and also has him drink from the poisoned chalice. Thus, Claudius dies via poison. Whereas in The Lion King, Simba and Scar are fighting it out and Simba knocks him over the edge. This doesn’t actually kill him, but it is the last contact Simba and Scar have with each other before Scar is torn apart by the hyenas.

I always liked this little detail in the storytelling structure. It also makes sense in terms of where our narratives start. We don’t witness daddy!Hamlet’s death or any build up leading towards it. When the play begins, he is dead and Hamlet is where our focus should be. It would be disappointing to learn about a whole plot after the fact. But The Lion King begins before the murder. We need that to be built up. Who Simba was before his dad died is important. And who he becomes after is even more important. Meanwhile, the arc of Hamlet has been working towards the final confrontation between Hamlet and his uncle, while The Lion King has been working towards Simba embracing who he is. The vengeance of Hamlet has been reconverted for Disney purposes.

To tie up this section, lets just say that Claudius and Scar were both ass hats that got what they deserved. Peace.

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Rosencratz & Guildenstern and Timon & Pumba: Foils of Friendship

I have no love for Rosencratz and Guildenstern, so I’m not going to talk about them much. Basically, they’re Hamlet’s friends, they let him have a good time, allowing the reader/theatergoer to know Hamlet’s life is not all doom and gloom. In The Lion King, we have Timon and Pumba, also the comic relief.

Their bug eating ways are a welcome relief from all the crying and sobbing and heartbreak and Simba’s angst. These distinct duets are actually foils of each other, as I shall illustrate below.

Each group of friends plays their own hand in what happens to Hamlet and Simba. For R&G, they are “secret” servants to Claudius, reporting on Hamlet’s moves.

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Hamlet tolerates them, but is aware he has no real ally in them. Instead, their presence reminds him of the action he has failed to take and Claudius continues to sit on the throne, fueling his melancholy disposition. Timon and Pumba instead try to get Simba to forget about his troubles.

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But when his past comes roaring back (get it?), they are eager for him to push that aside. They laugh when Nala explains to them the magnitude of losing Mufasa, what’s happened to the Pride Lands, how Simba has to go back and be king. There’s actually a slight similarity here. R&G are semi-working with Claudius, while Timon and Pumba unknowingly further Scar’s aim by keeping Simba away from the Pride Lands for so long.

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In the end, though, I see them as foils because Timon and Pumba eventually come around and help Simba defeat Scar.

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So what happens to Rosencratz and Guildenstern? You may be wondering this since you are very familiar with the fate of Timon and Pumba, now besties with the new king of the Pride Lands. And if R&G and Timon and Pumba are foils, then clearly they got the opposite of a big shiny Happy Ending.

Hamlet has them killed. Backstabbing is hard to forgive, which is exactly what R&G do. I mean, maybe. We don’t really know. Shakespeare doesn’t tell us. And Hamlet, through his fake madness (or real madness), treats his “friends” in a hot and cold manner. Ultimately, Claudius gives them a letter that has Hamlet’s death warrant inside and they’re told to journey to England with him. Hamlet finds out about this letter and switches the name to R&G and sends them on their merry way.

Hamlet and Simba’s friends/sidekicks both play roles in the lives of these young princes. Albeit, slightly different ones, but they still run parallel to each other.

TOTAL WAR: Denmark VS Norway and Lions VS Hyenas

Here we go! We’ve finally reached that little plotline I threw in at the very beginning. Are you excited? I’m excited. Disney turned the Norwegians into hyenas! They also turned Hamlet into a lion instead of Pumba (get it?), but I digress. (Someone should have put me on the creative team of this movie.) (But that would have been impossible since TLK came out a year before I was born. I don’t think I was even a fetus yet.)

The Lion King shows us from the very beginning that the lions and hyenas (cats and dogs, anyone?) don’t get along. The hyenas are not welcome in the Pride Lands, which is why they are so easily swayed by Scar, who promises them the lay of the land for their loyalty.

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When baby!Simba (aka bratty!Simba) traipses into the Elephant Graveyard all pompously, the hyenas have no qualms about ingesting baby!prince. The scenery of the graveyard is really creepy and not an appealing place one would want to spend their time. In contract to the Pride Lands, especially. Mufasa rescues his son and scares the hyenas off and increases the tension between both groups.

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The conflict in The Lion King is over land. Guess what the conflict in Hamlet is about?

Guess.

Have you guessed yet?

Are you guessing?

You must have guessed.

If you said LAND, DING DING, YOU ARE OUR GRAND PRIZE WINNER. You get to finish reading this meta! Yes! Great prize. Really, you’re so lucky. So many people would kill for this opportunity. Poison in the ear or theatrical wildebeest stampede would for sure be their MO.

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Okay, so Norway is pissed at Denmark. Over land. And the fact that daddy!Hamlet killed King Fortinbras in order to accomplish this acquisition of land, but oi, don’t lose sight of this. The conflict is over land. And now baby!Fortinbras wants the land back and Shakespeare seriously needs to buy himself one of those books that list all the baby names.

Norway’s army is marching towards Denmark with Claudius on the throne and not doing anything about it.

With Scar’s reign of terror, hyenas are destroying the Pride Lands (this is why you can’t have nice things. The graveyard probably wasn’t even a graveyard until you got there.). The food supply has dropped and the weather is grey and awful and Scar really messed everything up. There are skeletons everywhere (kids movie flag be damned). Scar doesn’t see anything wrong with this picture, instead blaming it on the lionesses, saying they’re not hunting hard enough.

The political maneuverings in Hamlet matter much more, as Hamlet ends up dying just as Fortinbras arrives on his doorstep.

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Hamlet’s last words include giving control of the kingdom over to the Norwegian prince who has also lost his father and is fighting in his honor (a parallel within a parallel, huh Shakespeare?). However, Disney doesn’t shy away from integrating this subplot of Hamlet into The Lion King. This shot in particular is a one man army vs an entire army:

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Who can forget Scar’s amazing song “Be Prepared” where the hyenas mimic the very distinct Nazi march?

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No one, that’s who. The hyenas are meant to represent an army and that provides an added layer and depth to the story.

Conclusion: Hamlet Should Have Been a Musical

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As we have now gone through in painstaking detail, Hamlet and The Lion King share a lot in common. From the wounded princes to the murdered kings and nasty uncles, there’s a lot of rich storytelling here that entrances audiences to this day. I love the liberties Disney took with the play, craftily shaping it into this wonderful film. It retains the core of Hamlet while also telling its own story in the process. The way Hamlet and The Lion King mirror themselves in narrative structure also amuses me: Hamlet seeing his father in the beginning, Simba at the end; Claudius’ easy plan in the beginning vs his meticulously plotted final act vs Scar’s deception in the beginning to his straightforward end at the climax.

I’m tempted to dub The Lion King ‘Hamlet without Hamlet’.

To know one is to know the other, because Simba’s plight would never have been born if not for Hamlet’s tragedy.

NOTE

The Lion King as an interpretation of Hamlet was the topic of my English Term Paper my senior year of high school. I originally covered this, as you can see by the access dates below, two years ago. When Mel and I started the site, I knew right away I wanted to revisit this as a stronger writer and reader. I thought it would be a simple case of editing my term paper and tweaking certain areas, but when I dug the document out, I was cringing so hard. I knew immediately I would have to rewrite the whole thing. The above piece is double the size of the original paper and the only thing that is the same is the final line of the conclusion, also the final line of my original paper.

Maybe I’ll do another rewrite in two years.

Cheers!

-M&M

SOURCES

Greydanus, Steven. “The Lion King: 1994.” Decent Films Guide. <http://www.decentfilms.com/reviews/lionking>. 20 December 2012.

The Lion King. Screenplay by Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts. Dir. Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. Perf. Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, and Jeremy Irons. Walt Disney Studios, 1994.

McElveen, Trey. “Hamlet and The Lion King: Shakespearean Influences on Modern Entertainment.” The Lion King Unofficial World Wide Web Archive. 17 April 1998.  <http://www.lionking.org/text/Hamlet-TM.html>. 20 December 2012.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. 1600. Ed. A.R. Braunmuller. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

The majority of Hamlet gifs are from the film version with David Tennant.

Comment below with your opinion! I love debating about this subject, so don’t be shy. Your opinions matter to me. I love Hamlet and The Lion King and could talk about this forever.

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