My generation grew up mourning the death of Bambi's mother. Now comes \"The Lion King,\" with the death of Mufasa, the father of the lion cub who will someday be king. The Disney animators know that cute little cartoon characters are not sufficient to manufacture dreams. There have to be dark corners, frightening moments, and ancient archetypes like the crime of regicide. \"The Lion King,\" which is a superbly drawn animated feature, is surprisingly solemn in its subject matter, and may even be too intense for very young children.
\"The Lion King\" is the first Disney animated feature not based on an existing story. In another sense, it is based on half the stories in classical mythology. It tells the tale of the birth, childhood and eventual manhood of Simba, a lion cub. The cub's birth is announced in the opening sequence of the movie, called \"The Circle of Life,\" which is an evocative collaboration of music and animation to show all of the animals of the African veld gathering to hail their future king. The cute little cub is held aloft from a dramatic spur of rock, and all his future minions below hail him, in a staging that looks like the jungle equivalent of a political rally.
The early Disney cartoons were, of course, painstakingly animated by hand. There has been a lot of talk recently about computerized animation, as if a computer program could somehow create a movie. Not so. Human animators are responsible for the remarkably convincing portrayals of Scar and the other major characters, who somehow combine human and animal body language. But computers did assist with several remarkable sequences, including a stampede in which a herd seems to flow past the camera.
It's impossible to deny that this movie represents a technical milestone. We've seen digitized versions of real animals before (perhaps most strikingly in the recent \"Planet of the Apes\" movies, and in Favreau's \"Jungle Book\") but they're presented so matter-of-factly by Favreau that if they didn't talk and sing, and if you squinted just a bit, you'd never know they weren't the real deal. And the filmmaking itself adds credibility. The \"camera\" (again, there is no camera, just CGI) seems to have weight. When it \"flies\" over \"Africa,\" you'd swear it had been attached to an actual helicopter. When the elder lion king, Mufasa (James Earl Jones, the only actor from the original reprising his part), scales the walls of a canyon to rescue his son from rampaging wildebeests unleashed by his evil brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), it's clear that the filmmakers have put a lot of thought into how a 400-pound alpha predator would do such a thing, whereas the original was content with \"the lion climbs up the rock.\"
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The first Disney film, released in cinemas, is of course superb, the same cannot be said for the fairly terrible straight-to-video sequel, this third instalment you could argue is more a prequel than a sequel, technically it's the second movie (hence the alternative title, Lion King 1 ). Basically, Timon the meerkat (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa the warthog (Ernie Sabella) are in a cinema watching the original, Timon decides they should share their story, with events from the original parallel with theirs. Timon is a social outcast in his meerkat colony on the outskirts of the Pride Lands, he dreams of escaping to a better place, away from the threat of predators. One day, he fails to guard the other meerkats when spotted hyenas Shenzi (Whoopi Goldberg), Banzai (Cheech Marin) and Ed (Jim Cummings) attack and almost cause the death of Uncle Max (Jerry Stiller). This is the last straw for the colony, despite the protests of his dedicated Mom (The Simpsons' Julie Kavner), Timon leaves to find a better life. Along the way, he meets Rafiki the mandrill (Robert Guillaume), who teaches him the phrase \"Hakuna Matata\" and advises him to \"look beyond what you see\". Timon takes the advice literally and observes Pride Rock in the distance, he believes this is his destination. Timon wanders into some long grass, and encounters warthog Pumbaa for the first time, they quickly form a bond and journey together. The pair arrive at Pride Rock during the presentation of Simba to the gathering of animals. As they pass through the crowd of onlookers, Pumbaa breaks wind, causing animals around him to faint and prompting animals further away to bow to Simba. Following this, Timon and Pumbaa make multiple attempts to set up homes throughout the Pride Lands, but wind up being forced away every time after they witness several events from the original film. This includes Simba singing \"I Just Can't Wait to Be King\", Mufasa's fight with the Hyenas, and Scar's plotting with the hyenas. Eventually, the pair are caught in the wildebeest stampede that killed Mufasa in the original film and are thrown off a waterfall. Timon is exhausted and decides to give up, until Pumbaa discovers a luxurious green jungle he tried to tell Timon about earlier. The pair finally settle there with the philosophy of \"Hakuna Matata\". Eventually, Timon and Pumbaa encounter Simba in a nearby desert, nearly dead. The pair rescue him and help to raise him, teaching him to forget his past and eat bugs, Simba grows up to become a carefree adult. Years later, adult Nala (Moira Kelly) appears after chasing Pumbaa and reunites with adult Simba (Matthew Broderick). Timon and Pumbaa attempt to sabotage their romantic encounters, but continuously fail. Simba disappears after arguing with Nala, and Timon and Pumbaa see the strange clouds forming in the sky from a distance, the ghost of Mufasa. Nala explains to them that Simba returned home and is going to challenge his uncle Scar, and that they need to help. Timon is hurt that Simba abandoned them, Pumbaa refuses to stay and follows Simba and Nala. Timon attempts to indulge in jungle luxuries alone, but the loneliness overtakes him. Rafiki appears again and indirectly helps Timon realise he should be with the ones he loves, so he leaves. Timon reconciles with Pumbaa before they continue to journey to Pride Rock. After helping Simba and Nala distract the hyenas, Timon and Pumb