*knock at the door*
“Ah George, come in. I’m glad you’re here, I wanted a word. Obviously, you’ve seen the success our other team of writers had with Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin… Impressive films, weren’t they?”
“I guess so. I mean, if it were me, Beast would have been turned into a donkey-slave-child and the flying carpet in Aladdin would have been used by Donald Duck to chase barely legal Latinas on a beach, but we all have our own ways I guess…”
“Ok, Whatever. Now our new team have been really busy with their new project ‘The Lion King’. It sounds very exciting, and they’ve even got Elton John singing some deep stuff about… you know circles, life and shit. But then I got thinking how you’ve been awfully quiet recently, so what have you and your team been doing lately?”
“Well boss, hold onto your hat because we’re about to break new ground and revolutionise animated film! We have a new film ready to roll…. The Rescuers PART THREE!”
Whoever at Chez Disney decided to cancel the second sequel to ‘The Rescuers’ and focus on films like ‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Lion King’ should be commended for making a move so financially and creatively shrewd. I reckon there’s probably an alternative reality somewhere in which Disney never changed up their team, and the mid-nineties were a time where Disney tried to turn around its continual descent into irrelevance with ‘The Rescuers 3: Child-slave-farm-on-Mars’ followed by an animated adaptation of a Shakespeare play featuring the lead characters as beavers, complete with timeless songs influenced by ‘Kris Kross’ or ‘Madonna’s’ ‘Erotica’ album. It’s a scary, yet not completely unlikely possibility, with the most remarkable thing being that those hideous prospects would still have probably been better than ‘The Black Cauldron’…
But today in this universe, I’m reviewing ‘The Lion King’… and despite being glad I’m covering this film over yet more shenanigans featuring Bernard and Miss Bianca, I’m about to make myself unpopular, I think. In the early days of my Disney reviews, I would find myself slagging off much loved classics such as Pinocchio, Bambi and Dumbo whilst feeling slightly guilty for doing so, but mostly angry for having to sit through them. Then the films turned to proverbial shit and whilst I still slagged the films off, I felt at least a little less like a complete bastard knowing that most hardened Disney obsessives felt the same way and that we were, in that moment, of accord. Then along came the likes of ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and I shared the love that many others felt for these movies and for a short while at least, we were all still united. But alas with the much loved, critically acclaimed, multi-award winning ‘The Lion King’, I feel alienated once again from popular opinion.
The thing is, I can recognize why people love this film. I can see how the soundtrack, animation, characters and story fuse into a magical trip to the movies for so many families. But for anyone who has read through my reviews to this point can probably see how so many of the ingredients of this film would combine to make this a hard watch, or as an unprofessional psychiatrist might say, fuck me right up…
But before you cast me off to Pleasure Island for my CAD (Crimes Against Disney), let me explain why ‘The Lion King’ was for me, so disappointing, following ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Aladdin’.
First and foremost, I think if you’re a ten-year-old kid going to the Cinema and watching this film without preconditions, you would probably have a cracking time. If you quite like that sort of film and you had watched one or two other Disney films prior, you would also come away feeling pretty content with how you just spent the last ninety minutes. If you’re a Disney fanatic, there are obviously many boxes ticked here for you as well. I’m neither of those things. I’m a thirty-something dude with quite an aversion to many Disney tropes, of which this film contains many. I’ve also had the “pleasure” of watching all the Disney films up to 1994 in order for the first time, which as I’ve mentioned previously, gives me a somewhat unique viewpoint on the films.
So, controversial statement number one: This film is far too safe. Why? Because although I’m not expecting Disney to reinvent the wheel with every film, I at least want to see it turn a little bit. I’ve watched thirty Disney films prior to this, and I feel like I’ve seen it all before, multiple times. Yes, this is one of the better stories (thank you Hamlet) and it comes kitted out with computerized animation and Elton John to boot, but I still felt a sense of “been there, seen this, not for me”.
Speaking of “not for me”, there is one film in particular that sprang to mind whilst watching Simba and co. Bambi. Oh Bambi. You came and you gave me… trauma actually. Twenty-five films later and I still haven’t recovered. A lot of people really liked that film. I really didn’t (see review for more life-scarring details). But there are plenty of similarities between these two films. In order to be a hero, a once cute, now grown-up, animal must get over the harrowing death of their parent. What I find impressive though, is that while “Bambi’s mom” is down in cinema folklore for breaking hearts, Mufasa’s death is distressing but also more explicit. Not only to we get more character development of the soon to be deceased, but we also get a good long look at the cub weeping over the corpse. I don’t approach a film on a Saturday night looking for a metaphorical “bunny slope” for dealing with grief.
Controversial statement number two: I don’t like the soundtrack. It’s really not my cup of tea. I quite like Elton John. ‘Step into Christmas’ is one of my favourite seasonal songs and I love a bit of ‘Crocodile Rock’. But there’s plenty of stuff he did that I’m not fond of and this soundtrack falls into that category. I can respect it from a musical standpoint, but I would be more than happy never to listen to any of those songs ever again. That last sentence is a hint to my wife.
I also found I laughed less during this film than I did during films like ‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’ for example. Aside from Timon and Pumbaa, this film also reals a little more… I suppose, serious. I personally want humour to play a more central role in what is essentially a family cartoon. Basically, more laughs and less parents dying, characters being eaten and in the case of Scar and Sarabi, less domestic violence. So as much as I should be scoring this film a solid eight out of ten, I have to score this as a non-Disney fan, reviewing as a guide for other non-Disney fans, which brings me to controversial statement number four:
I can’t believe he didn’t like The Lion King. I mean, if I’m honest, I had my suspicions that it might not be his cup of tea. It’s one of only two Disney films he admitted to seeing before. Apparently, I subjected him to it when we first got together (clearly, I don’t remember it, so it must’ve been when I was in the haze of new love… awwww!🤢), but that was over a decade ago AND he previously had an annoying habit of deliberately not paying the blindest bit of attention when I put a film on anyway! He says that he didn’t remember the film, only that I put it on once (see!!!). Clearly now that he’d watched it properly, he was obviously gonna love it. Sadly, no.
The thing is, when someone watches a film with you that you know and they don’t, and they don’t like it as much as you do, it tends to remove the rose-tinted specs a bit. I loved The Lion King, but he’s tainted it now. I can see his point on a few bits and I’m not quite feeling as enamoured as I once was. I am so easily swayed by my husband’s opinions. For shame!!!!
If you want to see Ben’s real-time reaction to The Lion King, I filmed it and stuck on the @disneygftm Instastories, saving it as highlighted stories (because I’m
weird nice like that). So, you are welcome to check it out (and see that he does actually exist in case you were strangely debating it).
Onto Pocahontas next. I can assure you that he has definitely not seen that one and I’m quietly confident (“quietly” yet saying it on the internet for all to see!) on this one. We will have to see. I will, again, film his real-time reactions and put it on the ‘Stories’ for all to see (because it amuses me).