at Brooklyn College with Professor Jennifer Ball

Film Review- The Lion King

Becky Chakkalo



The Lion King is an animated musical film which was produced in 1994. It was produced in Walt Disney Feature Animation and was released by Walt Disney Pictures. The Lion King was directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, produced by Dan Hahn, and screenplay was done by Irene Mecchi, Linda Woolverton, and Jonathan Roberts. The main characters of the film were voiced by Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings. The music was written by Elton John and Tim Rice, and the original scores were written by Hans Zimmer.

The Lion King is set in a jungle in Africa. It features a young lion named Simba who is ecstatic to succeed his father, Mufasa, as King of the Pride Lands. However, Simbas uncle, Scar, is enraged by jealousy and murders Mufasa while framing Simba in an attempt to steal his kingship. A scared and guilty Simba leaves the Pride Lands for Scar to inherit and finds friendship amongst a meerkat and a warthog- Timon and Pumbaa. After growing up isolated from home, Simba gains insight on the fact that Scar has essentially destroyed the Pride Lands and returns to challenge Scar and take his place as rightful king.

Although The Lion King is a film catered for a young audience, the underlying themes of the film are mature and would strike a chord amongst adult viewers as well. Going into the film, one may expect a cute fairytale about a young lion living his dream and becoming the king of the jungle. However, the film is much more than just that. It displays maturation and the finding of oneself, corruption in a particular government, familial conflict, and what makes a successful society despite the coexistence of different species-  the circle of life. Watching a young lion not only lose his father but feel responsible was heartbreaking. Watching a lion fit in with a warthog and meerkat was both comforting and silly. There are scenes that leave a viewer anticipating intense danger, and there are scenes that display love in its truest form, the love between a parent and a child. The Lion King is a film filled with complex ideas, much like the play it was influenced by- William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.


The film utilizes the collaboration of formal technique and thematic content in order to create a live and complex experience for the viewer. The film opens with the song “The Circle of Life” and shows the rise of the sun, and all of the animals of the jungle not only living side by side but coming together while respecting the individual needs of one another. The portrayal of nature in this scene gives light to the fact that the coexistence of different species on earth’s environment is vital for the continuation of life. Additionally, during Mufasa and then Simba’s reign, the Pride Lands are shown in a good light with a shining sun and healthy looking jungle, while during Scar’s reign the Pride Lands look dark and desolate.This idea is pushed further by the fact that the Pride Lands are utterly destroyed following Scar’s lack of respect for the animals he rules over, making the entire population hate him. Here, both formal technique and thematic content are used to portray the dynamic of a productive society. The film draws on sound in order to instill anticipation, fear, content, or love in a viewer. The sound of the stomping of hooves during the scene where Mufasa is killed by a stampede of horses leaves a viewer on the edge of his or her seat, truly anticipating what will happen next. The sounds of nature, the natural sounds of animals, the chirping of birds, and the flowing of water are used when the society is coherent and provides the feeling of comfort and that everything is how it should be. The songs depend on the context of the film- during scenes that are playful the songs are upbeat and energetic, angry scenes are accompanied by fast paced songs which are played on a low key. Often the songs in this musical set the mood for the scenes. Through the collaboration of formal technique and thematic context this film poses complex ideas about nature, society, and the circle of life.

The Lion King is a film that takes its viewers on an emotional rollercoaster while telling the story of the maturation of a young lion. Simba’s experiences embody the meaning of life, what it means to be afraid, confident, betrayed, and most importantly, what it means to be a leader. The Lion King is packed with valuable life lessons for both children and adults. Because of this, it attracts a wide audience and speaks to a variety of people. The Lion King is entertaining yet extremely meaningful, and it will resonate in the film industry for years to come.


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