Disney spins a mesmerizing tale of royal goodness and wicked deceit in this animated feature film. When Simba is born to the lion king Mufasa and his queen, all the animals of Africa’s Pride Lands rejoice. All, that is, except Scar, whose evil plans to succeed his brother as king are temporarily foiled by Simba’s birth. Mufasa teaches Simba to protect and respect the animals in the kingdom. He speaks of the “Circle of Life,” which represents the generational cycle of life and death and everyone’s duty to contribute to society. Scar arranges for Simba and his young lioness playmate Nala to be attacked by three wily hyenas. Mufasa saves the cubs but dies in a stampede, also arranged by Scar. Scar convinces Simba that he was responsible for his father’s death and must leave Pride Lands forever. Years later Nala and wise baboon Rafiki find Simba and convince him to return as Pride Lands’ king. Simba and his friends fiercely battle Scar and his army of hyenas for the right to rule. With distant figures slowly coming into focus, flowing movement and nearly three-dimensional perspective, its outstanding animation makes THE LION KING Disney’s best to date.
Some frightening moments, like when Simba and Nala run from the hyenas, the stampede and the final battle, may be too intense for children under six. Otherwise, very few details could be considered even mildly objectionable. Violence is subdued or implied. One distasteful scene involves the lighthearted eating of grubs and bugs, and perhaps too many jokes are poked at a comical warthog’s flatulence problem. Producer Don Hahn says the circle of life is about that moment in life when your father passes on to you his wisdom and knowledge and responsibility. Handled surprisingly well is Rafiki’s gentle use of fantasy magic. Rafiki finds out Simba is alive by smelling leaves blown from Simba’s hiding place, and when Rafiki points to a pond, a ripple displaces Simba’s face with that of his father’s. Remarks about the king living on in his son and dead kings looking down from the stars do not appear to be New Age or occultic in nature. Though the shaman-like baboon carries some sort of talisman, his fantasy magic does not resemble the occult. THE LION KING abounds with positive messages: the importance of family ties, loyalty among friends, not repaying evil with evil. When Simba lies to his mother, he is caught and reprimanded. Sprinkled with humor and drama, THE LION KING takes viewers of all ages on a thrilling, wholesome romp through Africa.