Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Circle of Life: Lessons from The Lion King

© Walt Disney Feature Animation

There are a number of reasons why movies touch a chord with audiences. The triumph of good over evil is the foremost and most common one. It's safe, productive and time-tested. Viewers relate easily to films that take the moral high ground. That is because people everywhere are intrinsically good. Human relationship is another widely accepted theme that audiences take to quite effortlessly. Films that depict bonding between people are, naturally, popular, especially with families, because families are all about bonding which knows no boundaries across world cinema. Then again, the fight against evil and the human-emotion quotient are inter-connected which is why we often see them together in most films. But for these twin concepts there might not have been credible film stories. 

The Lion King, Disney's classic blockbuster released in 1994, showcases these virtuous themes as perfectly as we'll ever see in any film. 

As the story goes, on one hand, we have the young Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) who learns the lesson of life from his father, the noble King Mufasa (James Earl Jones), and, on the other, we have the adult Simba (Mathew Broderick) who returns from a self-imposed exile, all grown up and looking majestic, to reclaim his father's kingdom from his evil uncle, Scar (Jeremy Irons) and the hyenas. 

Simba uses the very lesson his father taught him as a cub one starry night to avenge Mufasa’s death at the hands of Scar and become the King of Pride Rock. As years pass, he has a son and the Circle of Life is complete. 

But it is the wisdom that King Mufasa imparts to young Simba which makes The Lion King a lionhearted film. Sitting on the grasslands one night, father and son of the animal world have a frank and heartfelt conversation, the kind of talk that fathers and sons of our world have long 
before the sons grow up to be fathers themselves. 

Young Simba: Dad?
Mufasa: Hmm?
Young Simba: We're pals, right?
Mufasa: Right.
Young Simba: And we'll always be together, right?
Mufasa: Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars.
Young Simba: Really?
Mufasa: Yes. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.

The Mufasa-Simba bonding is what endears many to films like The Lion King, directed so well by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, because it's how we see relationships in our own families. 

Now this bonding goes beyond families, to friends, and even foes turned friends, as evident from that touching little scene in Ice Age (2002) where Manfred the mammoth (Ray Romano) saves the life of Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary). Now Diego is supposed to lead Manfred and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and their ward, a human child, into a trap but Diego has a change of heart after Manfred saves his life. Here's what happens...

Diego: Why did you do that? You could've died trying to save me.
Manfred: That's what you do in a herd: you look out for each other.
Diego: Well... thanks.

The 'herd' is the family and that's pretty much what we do  look out for each other, don't we? 


  1. I have always meant to see this. I should catch it at the theater before it goes.

  2. THE LION KING is one of my favourite animated films from the Disney stable along with THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967) and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991).