The Lion King

It’s hard for me to watch The Lion King objectively as an adult when it’s so deeply ingrained into my being, having been released when I was 7 years old and subjected to countless subsequent rewatches in our family VCR—not to mention inspiring my own adult creative endeavors.

But rewatching it now—with my 4-year-old son next to me wide-eyed and rapt—made me appreciate just how top-notch everything in the movie is, including:

  • the epic Hans Zimmer score
  • one of the musical numbers in particular, which I ranked the best Disney song of all time
  • the balance of meta and wacky humor with deadly serious drama
  • the stunning animated vistas
  • the strangely sensual “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” sequence
  • the delicious scenery-chewing voice work of Jeremy Irons
  • Rafiki keepin’ it real and real weird (in elementary school a buddy and I would reenact the Adult Simba/Rafiki scenes over and over again because we thought they were the funniest. thing. ever.)

Along with Moana, it’s one of the rare Disney musicals that gives me several goosebumps moments. (Though unlike most modern animated films for kids, it achieves all of this with aplomb in under 90 minutes.)

There’s so much fascinating stuff going on about family and trauma and destiny and shame and other things that went completely over my 4 year old’s head, but reminded me why it was such a massive hit at the time and endures in its appeal to all ages.

Two stray notes:

  • We’ve watched it on DVD and Disney+ and both versions obscure the legendary SEX/SFX conspiracy moment—the former by seeming to blur the design and the latter by cutting past it entirely. This feels like a win for the conspiracy theorists.
  • It felt wrong to have the modern, post-2006 Disney castle intro at the beginning of the Disney+ version. Use the classic version, you cowards!