Whether Disney did or didn’t plagiarize Osamu Tezuka’s “Kimba the White Lion,” we’ll never truly know. What I do know for certain is that “The Lion King” is still one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve ever had, and my number two animated film of all time. It’s a bold mixture of 2D animation, and amazing CGI that combines to tell a rather adult and complex tale about revenge and destiny.
For all its praise, “Lion King” is really one of the most adult Disney animated films of all time with the supporting roles of Timon and Pumbaa only serving as an appeal to children in the audience. I remember when the film was released that many criticized its many violent undertones, including villain Skar’s fate, but the fact is Disney never shies away from the harsh reality of nature and the circle of life that doesn’t only include death and life, but eating other animals to live another day. That said “The Lion King” is still a near perfect and breathtaking animated epic that tells the tale of young Simba. Born at the beginning of the film, he’s destined to take over the throne for his father Mufasa, but Mufasa’s brother Skar feels robbed of becoming the kind of the pride.
In a scheme to take over the kingdom, Skar starts a stampede with his evil Hyena army, and murders Mufasa in cold blood. Simba assuming he’d started the stampede is blamed for Mufasa’s death by Skar. Running away, Skar is able to become king while Simba runs away to avoid guilt and blame. While Disney is utterly top notch in the realm of animation, the real beauty is the voice work for “The Lion King.” It’s not enough that the cast is amazing, but the voice work is incredible. James Earl Jones is magnificent as king Mufasa, while Robert Guilliame shines in his supporting role as the wise and all knowing Rafiki. Jeremy Irons also revels in his role as the vicious and despicable Skar who takes it upon himself to claim the pride as his own. He’s a character with zero scruples and dignity, to the point where he contemplates murdering Simba in one instance.
There are also a slew of incredible supporting performances from folks like Cheech Marin, Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane, and Rowen Atkinson, while Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick work wonders in the duel role as young and adult Simba. The music from Elton John is quite possibly some of the most iconic and catchiest tunes ever created by Disney, with raucous numbers like “Hakuna Matata” and excellent ballads like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” The story is filled with interesting drama all topped by fleshed out and empathetic characters, all of whom have their own flaws they have to overcome in order to battle the relentlessly psychotic Skar. Filled with rich storytelling and animation that’s yet to show a wrinkle from its age, “The Lion King” really is the epitome of Disney animation and continues to be a pure masterpiece that can be appreciated by both older and younger audiences.