Cinépiphanies – Why you always Lion (King)


Every new year it’s the same. Reams upon reams of resolutions – actually waking up in time for lectures, viewing your tutor’s ‘optional reading’ as just that, as opposed to a particularly offensive joke – the list is truly endless. But no more. This year I decided that there was only one resolution I needed to make, far more important than any of those. It was time to exorcise a ghost which had haunted me for far too long. It was time to watch ‘The Lion King’. For too many years I’d had to deal with the shocked gasps, the looks askance, the constant refrain of ‘you just didn’t have a childhood!’ I had to see just what I was missing out on. So, armed with a VHS copy of the film, I settled down, ready for a religious awakening of some kind, or at the very least prepared to revert into a childlike state of complete glee, as I attempted to ignore my ever-pressing responsibilities.

So I watched. And I was entranced. From the majestic opening notes of ‘Circle of Life’ to the very last moment, with Simba looking out over Pride Rock, a father ready to lead his own tribe, I enjoyed every moment. The 2D animation was beautiful, the soundtrack sublime – but despite all of this, I felt as though something was missing. The problem was, I was watching the film through the jaded and cynical eyes of a (supposed) adult, as opposed to the innocent eyes of a child. Yes the characters were relatable, but in possibly the worst possible way. This film wasn’t the escapism I was promised! In Scar, I saw every ambitious and slippery union hack I’d ever come across, in Timon and Pumbaa’s ‘Hakuna Matata’, every desperate attempt to pretend an essay deadline isn’t imminent. Perhaps a sign of true adulthood is relating most closely not to Simba, the plucky protagonist, but to Pumba, whose constant overindulgence somewhat assuaged my guilt about the holiday season.

For that matter, it was also difficult to resist the urge to pick plot holes in the film. If nothing else, it provided a solid argument for the abolition of the monarchy – had Scar been chosen over Mufasa in a fair election, Simba would still have a father, and wouldn’t have had to spend years in exile living on grubs, which I doubt could provide sustenance for a lion his size. In short, the film was a piece of animated genius, and it’s easy to see why it was, up until the release of Frozen, the highest grossing Walt Disney film of all time. Despite this, watching it only made me realise that it was far too late to fill the gaping ‘Lion King’ shaped hole in my childhood. I suppose it serves me right for trying to escape my vacation work by watching what was essentially ‘Hamlet’ starring lions.

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