Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.

No 319 - The Lion King
Directors - Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff

Man! I LOVE The Lion King! I was even willing to sit through the longest most OTT DVD menu with an annoying CGI Zazu to watch the film. So long that I can't find a YouTube video of the menu in its entirety.... but you can have a bit of the pre-film ordeal I sat through. That's dedication.

So, the special edition DVD has been spruced up a little bit so we get a much sharper, crisper looking film, and that is OK with me, it just makes it a joy to watch. From the opening African chanting to the final Circle of Life.... this film makes me happy. So lets talk about the highlights, and of course the guilty admission that I do really like some Elton John songs - specially when blended in with the African tribal singing.
Firstly this film has a star studded cast... and somehow, I had never realised that Matthew Broderick plays Simba! Gosh. But look at all these others:



What's great about this cast is that they play so well together - they bounce off each other with grace and with much hilarity. Look at the Hyaenas in any scene where they play off each other and admire the ease and charm and just natural brilliance of the dialogue.

Then we come to the visuals. Disney had started using CGI to assist their animations in earlier films. 1991 has Aladdin's carpet escape and 1992 showed them using the technology more neatly to create the Beauty and the Beast ballroom scene, but I think that by 1994 they'd pretty much nailed it and it allows them to make a far more epic film than they've ever managed before. We do get lush panoramic views of busy savannas, but the film's most impressive moment is the Stampede. This is not only the best bit in the film, it is a near perfect piece of cinema. The visuals are incredible and 'To Die For' is just a gloriously dramatic tune - but not only does it look and sound amazing, it is full of emotion and pain and drama. Despite it being 16 years old, it still looks fresh and new and it still has the power to take your breath away on both an aesthetic and dramatic level. Which, surely, is the holy grail that all films aspire to.

I think that the stampede draws an important parallel with the main film, amongst the great great songs and the excellent zippy dialogue, amongst the excellent visuals, is a really clever film. Disney aren't just cleaning up a Grimm fairy tale to shift princess dolls... they're taking almost all the complexities of Hamlet, mixing in a lot of communist imagery and using it to create a brand new piece of African folklore. I really think that The Lion King is Disney at its cleverest and at its best.
I don't mean that just with the film. After all the Megadrive game was brilliant, the stage show is an experience which you MUST see (and contains my favourite non-film song) and whilst The Lion King 2 is a non-eventful Romeo and Juliet remake, Lion King 3 is an inspired piece of cinema.

For if The Lion King is Hamlet, then The Lion King 3 is Rosencratz and Guildenstern are dead - with a bit of Mystery Science Theater 3000 thrown in and a post modern sense of humour which we see a little of in the first film. Even Pixar don't do referencing that subtle or that high brow.