Why I Love The Lion King

In anticipation of the Blu-Ray release in a couple weeks, Disney has rereleased The Lion King in theaters in 3D.  I wasn’t planning on going because I didn’t really have any desire to see it in 3D (or pay the 3D charges), but after spending 4 hours of my Saturday grading papers, I decided to treat myself.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, and while I can still quote most of the movie, there were a few things that surprised me this time around.  Without further ado, things I’ve never noticed about The Lion King:

1. Simba = Hamlet, if Hamlet had been able to grow a pair and man up.  I think I’ve previously read somewhere about the similarities between The Lion King and the Prince of Denmark, but this was the first time I really noticed it while watching.  I mean, come on – the prince’s uncle kills the king, takes his throne, and the ghost of the original king appears to his son to tell him to put things right.  It’s essentially the same story, Disney just put a much more positive spin on it than Shakespeare did.  (Of course, Disney uses classic literature for their own purposes quite frequently.  Don’t even get me started on the butchering of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.)

2. The incredibly high level of vocabulary.  I was actually discussing with a couple of other teachers at lunch the other day how rigorous the vocabulary was in kid’s movies when we were younger.  Even if I didn’t completely understand what they all meant, I was at least exposed to words like “reprimand” and “provincial” by Disney movies.  Scar’s song alone uses the words retention, vacant, successions, unawares, sensational, era, sordid, quid pro quo, murkiest, meticulous, tenacity, and undisputed.

That rich vocabulary sticks with kids more than we necessarily think it might.  To this day, when I hear the phrase “impeccable timing,” I hear it the way Zazu says it when Mufasa saves him from being eaten by Scar.

3. When Pumbaa gets upset about the hyenas calling him a pig, it’s a direct reference to Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night.  I never understood why Pumbaa got so angry (he’s been called a pig before by Simba), but obviously somebody in the writer’s room really wanted to put that line in there.  Compare this:

to this (go to 3:11, although the other quotes are worth watching as well):

I knew the “You talkin’ to me?” part was a Robert de Niro reference, but I never got the Mr. Tibbs connection until today.

It just goes to show you – no matter how many times you’ve seen something, you can always find something new.

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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

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