Monday, August 26, 2013

August Blind Spot: The Lion King

First and foremost, what makes this a Blind Spot movie? In other words, why is this film essential?
The first film I saw for Blind Spot this year was Snow White and Seven Dwarfs(1937) because I had never seen a Disney Classic film before. Over the last seven months, I did catch up with a couple more but I added The Lion King(1994) into the syllabus in December last year to force myself to watch at least a couple this year. Being a 1994 film, this will probably not qualify as a ‘Classic’ but I think this is definitely another one from the same cannon. Plus, another thing I lack is exposure to Shakespeare. This being loosely based on his work was an added advantage for me to justify second animated and Disney movie on the list.

So, what is the story about?
This is 8th Entry in the Blind Spot series in the 8th month of this year and every month I feel like at least one of the 5 questions here is redundant. Maybe I need to choose better questions next year but more importantly I think I have chosen the movies well. The reason I decided to do this series this year was to fill up some of the glaring holes on my film knowledge. The bigger the holes, the better they were suited for me and better the chance of them being so ingrained in pop culture that every Tom, Dick and Harry knows about them making at least one question of the 5 redundant. Do I need to tell anyone why Andrei Rublev(1966) or TheTreasure of the Sierra Madre(1948) is essential? Or what’s The Breakfast Club(1985) or Snow White and Seven Dwarfs is about? But that is exactly why they qualify as blind spots.

So the reason I bring all this forward here today, in this is that question this month. Who doesn’t know The Lion King story? Who doesn’t know about Simba and Nala and Mufasa and Scar and Pumbaa and Timon? Until last week, even my four-year-old niece knew this story better than me(There you Go! Another reason justifying it’s Blind Spot status). Not anymore though, not anymore!

What did I think of it? What did I like the most about it and what didn't I like?
I think I have said it one too many times that I prefer Ghibli movies over Pixar and one of the main reasons is because they are still traditionally animated. They may not be as crisp as their computer-generated counterparts but there is an inherent personal touch to them that makes them so much more beautiful and relatable to me. My affection of Hand drawn animations makes it almost impossible for me not to at least like this movie. But I not only ‘liked’ it, I loved it; almost as much as Seven White and Seven Dwarfs. Once again, the animations are so endearing, so completely drawn and so rich in details. Characters are likable, well developed and show range of human traits. Simba and Nala are innocent and cute as cubs but when they grow up Nala becomes very mature and trustworthy ally to make Simba realize his destiny. Mufasa is always very kingly and Sarabi, motherly. Pumbaa and Timon bring fun into the equation whereas Scar is very cunning. With Scar's Hyenas, Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, Disney brings their special touch. Even though they are the ones Scar gets his dirty work done, they aren't really scary.

Another thing I expect from any animated film is not to box your viewers. When we are talking about animated movies, naturally one assumes it to be targeted for kids(When I was watching this film, my 4-year old niece kept asking me “Why are you watching this? Are you a Kid?”). That’s fine, even The Lion King is very much kids movie but just don’t make it a childish movie. A Kids film doesn’t have to be a childish film - I hate it when film makers do that. Fortunately, The Lion King stays out of that trap. I never saw this as a child but I am sure I would have loved it then and even when a 27 year-old watching it for the first time loves it as much as the kid next to him, it is a certificate of its timelessness. It treats the characters with certain level of dignity and maturity, even Timon and Pumbaa who are mainly there for comic relief, plus being based on Hamlet, it also talks about certain themes like guilt, taking the responsibility and facing your own fears and that is what makes it a great watch for a viewer of any age group.

If at all I had any complaint about it, it's it kind of shies away from going dark. Snow White didn't, even after being a kids film. When Simba finally confronts Scar about his past and Scar tries to guilt him for his wrong-doing, he very easily admits of it being his own deed. There was a chance for them to go little more darker but it sorts of keeps safe distance from it.

After having seen it, do I agree with its 'essential' status? And why?
Certainly! I am not entirely sure about this but with Toy Story(1995) coming up the following year which was the first completely computer-generated animated movie, it should be not only the last Disney Classic but also the last or at least one of the last traditionally animated American movies. It is serendipitous that I would choose first ever and last of Disney Classics. Either way The Lion King has its place in the history books and is thouroughlly deserving of it.

At the start of this year, I was as un-initiated to the Shakespeare’s work as I was to the Disney Classics. I have seen quite a few adaptations of his works such as Othello, Romeo and Juliet and even Comedy of Errors but I have not seen much of his actual work in either form or haven’t even read it. It has been my long standing desire to get acquainted to these works but my aversion of the old English, though dialed down significantly over the past few years, and unavailability of it in India in print form made it little difficult. I probably should have gotten to it while I was in US but it never made it to the top of my priorities then. So what I know of Bard’s original work is Olivier’s Best Picture winner Hamlet(1948) and Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing(1993). I probably should not confess this but another reason for including The Lion King as the second animated movie in this year’s line-up, besides it being The Lion King, was I was under the impression that it is a King Lear adaptation, something I have never seen or read in any form. Off course, it being a Hamlet adaptation does not diminish it in any way but sadly leaves King Lear still untouched for me.

Does it open few new doors for me? Does this inspire to watch any other movies?
Even though I included two this year, Disney Classics is still an avenue mostly unexplored for me. Snow White and Seven Dwarfs was the best initiation I can ask for to them but since then it has been a bumpy road. Aladdin was probably the only Disney character I knew and loved as a Kid and Aladdin(1992) movie didn’t disappoint me either but I found Alice in Wonderland(1951) even difficult to get through and anything else, not particularly interested. The fact that I liked 3 of the 4 I have tried should encourage me to get to few others soon enough and lord knows there are many I need to get to.


  1. Where the Disney Classics are concerned, give a glance at Bambi. Not only is it wickedly short, but it's a lot artier than it much so that I doubt Disney would ever dream of releasing it today!

    As for The Lion King, what can I say? It was the culmination of Disney's renaissance and a benchmark that they would try - and fail - to meet for another ten years before finally giving up on hand-drawn animation. That's not to say that everything in that era is bad (I'm actually quite partial to Hunchback, New Groove, and Fantasia 2000)...but the lack of vision and change in technology never got them back to that lofty perch again.

    The Lion King is an amazing meld of story, song, and execution...and if you go deeper into the Disney vault, I fear that you'll have a hard time finding its equal.

    1. I have a list you gave me after Snow White. So at some point I think I will go for Bambi as well. I have heard quite a bit about it.

      So it IS the last Disney Classic right?


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