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The Lion King: King of Disney

Alexis Ibarra-Ibarra

This article is a continuation of my opinion in Bakers vs Bakers: Best Disney Movie, where you can see some pictures that add ideas to my argument. In that article, you can also read the next section:

By far, my favorite non-Pixar Disney movie is The Lion King (1994). A lot of people pick their favorite Disney movie driven by melancholy and happy, childhood memories. But, I must admit that I didn’t watch a lot of Disney films when I was little. I had A LOT of Disney toys and clothes, though. I owned the red cassette of The Lion King’s soundtrack, which I listened to in the car before I could even attend kindergarten. I also enjoyed the delicious The Lion King popsicles that looked like a beautiful Savannah Sunset and had gummy bugs! However, I did not watch The Lion King until Middle School or maybe High School: I honestly can’t remember exactly when. But I’m pretty sure that by then, I was already literate enough about movies to differentiate a masterpiece from a great motion picture. Back then, The Lion King caught my eye, and I immediately knew this movie was something else.

Prone to bright colors, I fell in love with the visual design almost immediately. The contrast between light and darkness as deep symbolic assets greatly enhanced the overall experience. In terms of music, the instrumental soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is inspiring and breathtaking, and the Elton John songs are full of meaning and emotion.

Moreover, there are so many layers in the story; this world is full of philosophical depth. From the personal freedom of “Hakuna Matata” to the collective responsibilities of “The Circle of Life”, The Lion King reaches into the very nature of what constitutes a human being… with fur, of course. The film explores the hardships of childhood trauma, deception, growing up, and finding your place in the world. At the same time, it discusses complex political concepts like: a) benevolent dictatorships and illustrated monarchies; b) social stratification, social justice, and the resentment of the ones left behind by the social structure; c) populism and totalitarianism; d) the existence of Divine Rights to reign over a territory; e) the effects of illegitimate coup d’états; f) political morality and ethics; and g) the devastating effects of social and environmental exploitation. 

To wrap this up, I just want to state that the scene with Mufasa in the sky is one of the best speeches in World History, side by side with “Maximus Decimus Meridius” and “I Have a Dream”: it is moving, it is awe-inspiring, it is full of melancholy, but it is also full of greatness. 

If this is not art, I do not know what art is. If this does not move your heart, you are not human.

NOTE: There is a science fact that can change your whole perspective about the movie and could explain a big part of the plot: although Scar seems to be Mufasa’s young brother, his dark fur implies that, according to Biology, he was the older brother, which means that the latter was overthrown by the former. That also means that Mufasa also killed Scar’s kids, if he had any.

What do you think about The Lion King? Please share a slice of your opinion in the comment section below! The Cake is always thrilled to read about your thoughts!

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Feature image taken from Reddit.

5 replies on “The Lion King: King of Disney”

[…] I really didn’t start watching Anime properly until I was about 16, and immediately it was a different experience than watching Cartoons, because there was blood, gore, mental illness, and so much more, on display. At first, I thought that perhaps I’d just stumbled onto a few outliers, but anyone who have watched Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Naruto, One Piece, and all the other mainstream Anime that are popular in the West, can attest to the fact that there’s a lot more serious subjects and scenes on open display even in shows aimed primarily at teens. Disney movies are a bit of an outlier here, but even they tend to shy away from direct displays of death and such, even in iconic scenes like the death of Mufasa in Lion King. […]

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I used to really like The Lion King when I was a kid. However, as I’ve grown up, I despise the movie franchise. Discovering Kimba the White Lion was certainly a big one since Disney totally stole characters, some storylines, and scenes (including the “Remember Who You Are” scene) from that 60s anime. If the situation was reversed, then everyone would scream and thrash Kimba. I also realized how the hyenas played up Black and Latinx stereotypes. Them being in the Elephant Graveyard was lowkey genocide especially when you research the genocides in Namibia by the Germans or the Congolese by King Leopold’s forces. That action contradicts the circle of life, but Mufasa gets away with it because he’s the good guy. Disney also trademarked the phrase “Hakuna Matata” which is cultural appropriation. The song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is also a work of plagiarism from the South African song “Mbube” by Solomon Linda. Don’t believe me, then watch The Lion’s Share which is a Netflix documentary about that court case against Disney and that American licensing company. It just frustrates me how people are so forgiving to this movie, but would never do so for others.

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OMG my entire reply disappeared. I’ll try to be brief because it was really long. Sorry if it is not as well explained 😦 I have to cut to the chase because it took so long for me to write the first one 😦
-Disney should start paying for the friggin’ IP rights, that’s true (that goes for Kimba and Mbube… and others)
– The Lion King team did a very nasty thing by denying the influence of Kimba when asked directly and deserves no mercy.
– However, TLK is an artpiece on its own, because the plot and execution are different in the end, adding new shades and emotions to the final product.
– I haven’t thought about the genocide thing :O, and I agree that it is a reference to that, but I do not think there is info that supports a connection between the Elephant Graveyard and Mufasa (as far as I know… If you have the info, please share!). In that regard, the Graveyard was unsettling and dense, so I think they portrayed the genocide idea in a masterful way.
– I think the “Hakuna Matata” trademark issue is a matter of cultural ignorance by context. Back in the 90’s, the whole idea of cultural appropriation wasn’t really a thing. It was way more disturbing when they tried to do it with Coco and “Día de Muertos” because they should have learned something by then (they didn’t succeed this time because of public outrage). Disney should just liberate all trademarks with this problem to make it right (but we know it won’t happen).
– Little note: Not all cultural appropriation is bad like in this case. In most cases, cultural appropriation is how cultures are built and evolve.
– The hyena stereotypes are also a matter of cultural ignorance by context IMO. We tend to believe the 90’s were already “our times”, but they weren’t, a lot of stuff was changing, and people were unaware of a lot of things (they still are, but it was worse back then). It’s like people that were racists because of their social and political context, but they evolve and learn from their mistakes with the advancements of time and social justice.
– I don’t think it is appropriate to only analyze the artworks from OUR context. For example, Gone with the Wind is incredibly racist but a masterpiece. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) is also racist yet another masterpiece. For me, as long as it is not OVER the top, a note at the beginning should suffice. We, as viewers, can enjoy most movies even if they contain stereotypes, we just have to be aware of and learn from them, and sometimes that makes the film even more interesting.

Sorry if everything sounds dry! I wrote the super long reply and this thing decided to erase it……

Anyway! Thank you for following our blog! And sorry for the super late replies! D:
I’m eager to read more of your comments! :3

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Sorry to hear that about the reply, but at least you have a new one. Don’t worry, I’ve been in text block conversations, so this isn’t new to me. I’ll do my best to address your points.

-Glad you agree when it comes to the IP issues with Kimba and Mbube. The Lion’s Share documentary was so eye-opening for the latter. There was no way Disney didn’t know about Kimba since they called Sarabi “Kimba’s mother” in a 1993 transcript, Matthew Broderick admitted to watching the show when he was a kid, and they tried to ban Jungle Emperor Leo from North America. Also, NO ONE can tell me that Scar isn’t a freaking rip-off of Claw or how the father lion spirit in the sky didn’t come from Caesar first.

-Sure thing. They deserve whatever criticism they get in that issue.

-I’m aware nothing is fully identical even with the characters or the plot, but I know Disney would sue Tezuka productions if Kimba came afterward. That’s saying nothing about the fans.

-It was more of an observation when I saw the Namibian Genocide. Shark Island was disturbing with how the Namibians were being hoarded there by the Germans, were forced to be starved out, and it’s a desolate area littered with bones. I think that’s how Disney thinks that Black people should be treated. Here’s a link to that historical issue: https://www.namibweb.com/ccamp.htm

Also, some of the people who killed the Namibians would eventually become elder Nazi party members later in their lives.
The fact that The Lion King portrays this as a good thing is very disturbing or how it’s literal animal apartheid.

-Okay, but that’s no excuse for Disney to do so. They can legally sue ANYONE who uses that phrase the wrong way. They did so to a Chinese company who used “Hakuna Matata”. Yes, an American company is suing a Chinese company over a Swahili phrase. What disturbs me is the possibility of Disney being able to sue someone from a Swahili-speaking country such as Kenya, Tanzania, or even parts of the DRC for example. The last one is something I threw in there because I found out I’m part Congolese via DNA test (I’m Black/White mixed) weeks prior to hearing about the news story. I did hear about the potential Coco issue and I’m glad Disney got that backlash which they deserved. It sucks with how disrespectful they were and are to African culture. How many animated Disney movies have Black characters in Africa so far? Exactly. At least you agree they should drop this and other problematic trademarks.

-Nothing wrong with admiring other cultures, but taking it from others is bad though.

-I seriously doubt it on Disney’s part. Older movies certainly can be more obvious with racism, but things can be more coded as well as subtle which can be dangerous. I recently reviewed the documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly. There’s a section where they talk about racism in Disney movies with human characters or racist stereotypes in animal characters. They do bring up the hyenas and one Black woman talks about how her white female friend told her that her own 3-year-old son was associating some Black children with the hyenas with how they talked and assumed they were evil just like in the movie. Also, hyena fur isn’t dark in real life, so people make the connections by themselves even if they won’t admit it. I actually believed as an adult that certain white people assumed that I was like a hyena even though I wasn’t doing anything evil or acting like them. Images can affect people’s perception. If the hyenas talked in Yiddish accents instead of “hood” Black or Latinx dialects, then people would riot if that happened. People may be a product of their times, but people could also make racism more on the down low.

-No disagreements about Gone With the Wind or Ocarina of Time with those examples, but it doesn’t excuse the problematic aspects of them. What annoys me is how The Lion King gets a free ride for everything or how people deny the racism, plagiarism, or even the trademark issues. Disney hasn’t owned up to the hyenas being racist and haven’t made a note on Disney+ or wherever.

Sure. Hopefully I was able to answer everything decently in this text block.

No problem! I’m glad we’re able to have this conversation because I’ve dealt with others who didn’t want to talk about this issue.

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