The Lion King
You could hardly declare Disney's Lion King as a benchmark of creative storytelling. Instead this animation claims all of the Mouse House's best tricks: Kill the parent, leave the child to struggle, supply a couple of comic-relief sidekicks, and bring the whole show to a stellar ending where protagonist meets antagonist. But like my favorite chocolate cake, which also contains all the typical ingredients, I enjoy watching this movie repeatedly for many reasons.
First, I could contentedly listen to James Earl Jones read a phone book. Providing the voice of Mufasa, father to the often-rebellious Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick), Jones's vocal pipes are perfect for delivering soft-focus morals and guidance to his cub (and young audiences.)
Wandering aimlessly after his dad's death, Simba looks for the easy life and becomes particularly enamored with Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella). A meerkat and warthog whose apathetic personalities redefine "couch potato," the trio musically states their "no worries for the rest of your life" philosophy. Yet even after growing accustomed to eating worms instead of big game, Simba eventually recognizes his responsibility to return home and accept the challenge of saving his family from the menacing dictator Scar (Jeremy Irons). The experience allows all three friends to grow and accept their place in the "circle of life."
Besides the positive messages, Elton John's score takes the honor of one of Disney's best. Melded with the cutting-edge animation technology of its time, the music flows with the many vivid colors and wafting grasslands until it creates a visual feast. The usually static backgrounds are moving, and depth of field is employed to create a sense of realism not seen on the screen before this movie's release.
With the exception of the planned murder of Mufasa by a stampede of wildebeests and the eventual showdown between Scar and Simba, this film is clear sailing for all but the youngest family viewers.
Original Theatrical Release Date: 24 June 1994
September 16, 2011: The Lion King in 3D will be showing select theaters.