Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Revisiting My Childhood: The Lion King

It seems like once I got to college, it was suddenly cool to reminisce about things from childhood. Shared nostalgia from our childhood comprised a huge chunk of conversation with other college students- talking about watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, being obsessive about the Pokémon phenomenon (some people still are), and bringing up how Pluto was still a planet when we were kids. Some of the biggest things that almost everyone seemed to treasure were Disney movies, you know, the iconic classics that, like, represented our entire childhood.

This was how I ended up sprawled on a friend’s bed on a Tuesday night, waiting in anticipation for The Lion King to start playing on his projector. We’d sent out an email to our dorm e-mail list, and gradually, people began trickling in. It was after the room was literally at capacity (I think we had about 15) that I thought it’d be fun to write my review on The Lion King. Sure, it’s practically ancient in age compared to the newest blockbusters, and everyone’s probably watched it hundreds of times already… but there’s a certain excitement in watching a Disney classic many years later.

Look at this picture and tell me that it doesn’t stir up some kind of nostalgia for your childhood.

Right when the movie started, you could tell that there was something special about the movie that set it apart from any other movie. Everyone joined together and sang along to all of the songs right at the onset, which is definitely a sight indeed. Just imagine a roomful of college-age students enthusiastically belting out karaoke-style to a Disney cartoon movie, completely enraptured in the music and the plot. From “Circle of Life” to “Hakuna Matata”, each single song felt like a recaptured essence of my childhood, and I was completely invested in every moment of it.

I swear that "Hakuna Matata" was an important cornerstone of my childhood development.

Starting off, there are just some things that I felt completely necessary to share about watching this movie. When you're a little kid, you simply watch a movie and move on with your life- there's no outside connection to any references or examples in real life. Watching The Lion King years later, all I can say is that there are some pretty deep themes that you just kind of gloss over when your'e watching it as a kid.

Have you ever noticed how much the plot of The Lion King resembles Shakespeare’s Hamlet? That was one thing that really blatantly stood out to me throughout the entire movie. Basic plotline: You have the prince of a kingdom. His evil uncle kills the king, the prince’s father, and assumes the throne. The prince leaves the kingdom, and eventually comes back and kills the evil uncle. Of course, The Lion King doesn’t end in a huge smattering of blood and death, but you can’t really market that type of stuff to kid and families anyways.

Evil uncle? Check. Evil kills father and takes over kingdom? Check, again.

Then, you have the Disney animators using allegorical references and imagery to compare Scar to Hitler. How many 7 year old kids would recognize such references? I have to admit, it took me a few moments to fully realize all of the connections that the movie had made. There’s an entirely different perspective on the movie when you’ve learned about the history and the literature that the movie constantly refers to, and it really was a new eye-opening experience for me to watch it again.

This whole scene completely went over my head as a kid.

On the other hand, you have the random things of lesser importance that you catch just from knowing more pop culture. Imagine my surprise when I’m listening to Mufasa lecture Simba in an opening scene, and all I can hear is Darth Vader. (Someone seems to get typecasted for these intense father roles) On another note, hearing Whoopi Goldberg as a hyena hench(wo)man definitely threw me off also. Even little things like this cause you to see and think of the movie in a completely new way.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Whoopi Goldberg.

While I definitely have a pretty biased view of The Lion King, there is definitely no question of the cinematic greatness of the movie. The themes of growing up, losing a loved one, and so many others are all folded into the movie, and it’s all presented in a way that even kids can understand on some level. I feel that the major reason that The Lion King is such a great movie is because it has been able to transcend its message and themes across generations, so the film is just as relevant to me when I was a kid or now as college kid. The fact that we, as college kids, still fully appreciate The Lion King as a relic of our childhood simply speaks of how strongly the movie and its themes were able to impact us as an audience.

-Jonathan Hsieh

No comments: