When I say this, I may be looking through the typical freshman optimistic rose-colored glasses since I have not experienced the terrors of final exams yet, but in my opinion, college is a thousand times better than high school. Seriously, there is so much less drama, and best of all, most people just let you be yourself and accept you for who you are. My love of all things Disney was ridiculed all throughout my years of high school. But now that I’m in college, I love the fact that what I was made fun of for in high school is now not only accepted, but is a common interest among many of my fellow students. The first week I was here, a group of girls was watching “The Muppets Take Manhattan” in the dorm lobby. I saw Mickey Mouse and Disney Princess t-shirts and purses everywhere. And during the past month or so, I have overheard countless random people in the hallway or the cafeteria say that they were dying to see “The Lion King” in 3D, which was out in theaters for a way-too-short-two-week time period.
Why is the popularity of Disney, an entertainment industry geared toward kids, so extensive on a college campus? Maybe it is because Disney movies were a fond part of our childhood. They are the one memory about those good ol’ days that we can go back and experience over and over again, not just in our mind, but with our eyes and ears! We can, in a sense, relive a small part of the best times of our lives. Plus, Disney movies hold a dear place in our hearts because they have shaped much of our perception of how the world works, of love and loss, joy and grief. After all, Walt Disney himself once said, "Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood." The Lion King introduced many of those “ideals and objectives” to us for the first time (although I am not so sure that there is any such thing as “normal adulthood.” I can already tell you that, and I’ve only been an adult for about four months!)
Most of today’s generation is fairly familiar with the story of the Lion King, but I will give a synopsis just to review you on it. The movie opens with a majestic scene of almost all the animals of the savanna, from elephants to ants, gathering to attend the ceremony at Pride Rock, celebrating the birth of Simba, the current king Mufasa’s new lion cub. However, one animal was not present: Scar, Mufasa’s embittered brother who is ravenous for the power of the throne. This ruthless villain (in fact, I consider him to be the evilest villain in Disney history!) deviously rouses Simba’s curiosity about the elephant graveyard/hyena habitat, where Mufasa had earlier forbade him to go. Of course, Simba is intrigued by the forbidden (hmmm… a familiar plight in the human world as well. Do the names “Adam” and “Eve” ring a bell?), and we all know nothing good ever comes from that. He and his young lioness friend Nala almost become three obnoxious hyenas’ dinner, but Mufasa heroically intervenes. Scar then contrives a back-up plan for finishing Simba off since luring him to the hyena’s habitat had not killed him (such a sweet uncle, right?) This time, the plan involves killing Mufasa as well. He and the hyenas (whom he had promised unlimited food in his new kingdom in return for their help) cause a stampede, putting Simba in danger. Mufasa rescues him and almost makes it out alive himself, but, in an act of Scar’s typical goodwill (I like sarcasm, in case you can’t tell), he pushed Mufasa off a cliff. In one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in movie history, Simba nuzzles under his dead father’s paw and mourns pitifully. Scar then seizes this opportunity to gain the throne by telling Simba that he was to blame for his father’s death and that he must run away forever. In the wilderness to which he runs, a meerkat named Timon and a warthog named Pumbaa provide the perfect comic relief after Mufasa’s death scene with some typical goofy Disney humor. Simba makes his new home alongside these new friends, and once he has become full-grown, mane and all, who should stumble upon his domain but his old childhood friend Nala. In the process of this meeting, Simba and Nala fall in love, and Nala begs him to come back because he is the only one who can restore the kingdom which Scar’s tyranny has now left desolate. After a time of much doubt and fear about his capability to fight Scar and returning to his family who thinks that he is guilty of Mufasa’s death, Simba finally gains the courage to go back home thanks to some ethereal advice from his father’s ghost in the sky. Scar finally gets his just deserts at the hands (or shall we say paws?) of his hyena subjects whom he had wrongly blamed for the deprivation of the kingdom. Simba then takes his rightful place as king and the “circle of life” is reestablished in its proper balance. The movie ends similarly to the way it began, with the presentation of Simba and Nala’s new little lion on Pride Rock.
Seeing this movie in the theater was absolutely wonderful. Although the 3-D effect was at best mediocre, simply because the movie was not originally intended to be in that format, it was still worth watching on the big screen.
The only criticism I have to offer is that Rafiki, the weird-looking monkey witch doctor thing, is flat out creepy. Yes, he seems friendly, but so do clowns, and Stephen King’s movie “It” clearly proved that idea wrong. If King is looking to make another horror movie similar to “It,” he should look no further for a protagonist than “Rafreaky,” as my afore-mentioned little sister calls him. And even if he really isn’t an evil baboon plotting the end of the human race, he should at least “switch to decaf,” as my little sister also suggested. He is waaaaaay too hyper.
Being the music enthusiast that I am, the most memorable parts were the scenes accompanied by songs, in my opinion, and this movie certainly has great ones! It was simply breath-taking when that sunrise popped up on the screen and the opening line of “The Circle of Life” bellowed through the theater. Majestic is the word that most accurately describes it (I even got goosebumps! Yes, I’m a Disney geek.) “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” had me snapping my fingers and all but dancing in my seat (my 10-year-old sister, who accompanied me on my excursion to the movie theater, was “embarrassed” by my conduct if that tells you anything.) This scene is visually impressive as well: a colorful array of countless animals floods the screen. And of course, the well-known catchy little tune called “Hakuna Matata” was in my head for about a week afterward. This scene also includes the humorous backstory of Pumbaa’s lack of friends in his previous home due to… well…to put it nicely, some gastrointestinal issues. As the song says, “He could clear the savanna after every meal.” Pumbaa, along with Timon, provides another one of the funniest scenes in the movie when Timon “dresses in drag and does the hula” to divert the hyena’s attention during Simba’s attack. “Are ya achin’ for some bacon?” Timon sings in a cute little grass skirt while accompanying himself with a ukulele.
So there you have it. Disney movies vividly present a wide spectrum of human emotions (sadness at Mufasa’s death, joy at Simba and Nala’s love, fear of Rafiki’s creepiness, etc.) in a form that is relatable and understandable to children. Our tender, youthful hearts empathized with those emotions, and that is why those movies are so much a part of us, even when we are further along in the “circle of life” than we used to be. ?