Disney's The Lon King is one of the most successful movies the company has ever released in modern times. The movie is an animated musical film directed by Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers with Donald Paul Hahn as the producer. The Lion King was released on 15th June 1994 and runs for 88 minutes. The main characters in the film are Matthew Broderick (acting as Simba), Jeremy Irons (acting as Scar and Simba's uncle), James Earl Jones (acting as Mufasa, Simba's father, and current king) and Moira Kelly (acting as Nala, Simba's best friend, and later wife). The action of the movie takes place in the Pride Lands Kingdom. The film depicts Simba's tribulations in his quest for power to fulfill his birthright (Kegerreis, 2013). Minkoff and Allers skillfully employ the style of narration and several cinematographic techniques to reveal to the audience the intrigues of acquiring power and how the power is distributed among various classes of people in society.
The tale of the Movie begins with Mufasa making an address to the animal kingdom. The current king is making a presentation of the young Simba accompanied by his wife, Sarabe and counselor Rafiki. In the event, the king announces Simba as the heir to the throne when he dies. This marks Simba's journey from childhood, adolescence, adulthood and finally into kingship. However, evil lurks around the life of Simba in the name of Scar, a brother to the current king. Scar is not impressed with the idea of passing the mantle of leadership to Simba. He conjures a plan to eliminate Simba and, therefore, take over the leadership (Blair, 2016). The idea of Scar to plan to eliminate his nephew is critical in the story as it sets the stage for the conflict that advances the story. In other words, it fills the audience with suspense on how the fate of Simba as the anointed king would be considering the possibility of his death.
As a strategy of accomplishing his evil intention, Scar lures his nephew and brother into a gorge and then contracts hyenas to drive a large herd of wildebeests into a stampede to trample and kill them. However, the king saves Simba from the impending stampede but got trapped and fell into death. As a consequence, Scar forced Simba into exile and took over the leadership of Pride Lands as per his intentions (Blair, 2016). The killing of Mufasa and exiling of Simba is crucial the development of the plot as it allows the conflict to heighten thereby creating suspense on the part of the viewer. It is through this scene that the audience sympathizes with Simba's situation in exile and how such a condition would affect his inheritance back at home. Living in exile is also vital in developing the story as it allows the protagonists to get perspectives on how to overthrow his uncle and reclaim his birthright as the anointed king. Accordingly, he plots the ouster of Scar but spares killing and eventually takes over as the king of Pride Lands. The gesture of sparing the uncle's life and his eventual takeover of the kingdom's leadership give him hero status, crowning up the story.
In ensuring the story is effectively delivered to the audience, Minkoff and Allers make deliberate aesthetic choices by coming up with appropriate techniques of cinematography to advance the theme of power as seen from class and race perspectives. At the onset of the story, Mufasa lifts Simba aloft on top of the Pride Rock which has surfaces scratched by a lion. This image appears in many scenes of the movie. The lifting of the young Simba by the Mufasa seeks to inform the audience about the birthright of Simba as heir of the kingdom. That is, when the father lifts him above all other animals while standing on the pride rock, it means that the son is destined to be a ruler of all other animals. The appearance of the pride rock with the image of a lion in many parts of the movie aims at informing the audience not only that the film is all about lions and also the domination of lions in the animal kingdom.
Mise en scene is further enhanced by lighting and sound in the film. Moving lights are used to create various scenes which in turn play a critical role in advancing themes of the movie. In particular, rising orange lights at the start of the film symbolizes new dawn as a result of the birth of the prince. The rising shape perhaps seeks to inform the audience that the newly born prince would occupy the throne someday. The rising lights are complemented by the ceremony in which Simba is held aloft on the pride rock by his father. The orange lights are also used to create the savannah environment in which the movie is set. Such a setting makes the film authentic because it captures the scenes of the lives of animals in the African Savannah. Sound, especially songs complement moving lights. For instance, 'the Circle of Life' at the start of the film introduces the viewer with the idea where kingship rotates within a family. 'I Just Can't Wait to Be a King', 'Be Prepared' and 'Hakuna Matata' adds to the development of the conflict and its eventual resolution in the story. Moreover, there is a touch of African costumes whereby the characters wear various representations of African attire. This can be seen in the beads, animal skin and bracelets worn on the shoulders by the characters. Such clothing gives authenticity the setting of the movie, which is the savannah.
Concerning editing, the movie does not disappoint. In the movie, the directors have employed eye level, low angle, and high angle shots to create specific effects as well as pass various messages about the story. Whereas eye level (long shot) is considered as a character identification shot, low angle and high angle shots are often used to diminish and enhance the power of characters in the movie(Cutting, 2016; Nicholson, 2010). In the context of the film, the directors use a low shot to show the images of the wildebeests advancing on Simba with the intention of killing him through trampling. Here, Simba is seen on the lower part of the landscape while the wildebeests are high above, coming down with a powerful and threatening force. This scene is meant to show how less powerful Simba is in this situation hence the danger he faces from the wildebeests. Simba can be further seen cling on a tree branch to escape the threat of the wildebeests. The shot is done from above Simba to show his less powerfulness at the hands of Scar. This is critical in the movie as it creates emotions in the movie besides enhancing the conflict between the nephew and his uncle.
The social impact of the movie was quite significant. Every film reflects what takes place in the real world. The movie propagates the notion that the powerful must be respect at all costs. According to Roth (2006), it presents to children the idea that they must not only acknowledge the superiority of individuals born privileged and violent but also love them whether they like it or not. This is communicated through demeaning messages in the scripts. The danger with this theme is that it promotes inequality and cultivates notions that certain groups of people are not equal to others hence the question of ethnic superiority and benefits or dangers associated with it.
Regarding its positive impact, the movie earned more money than any other title in the history of entertainment. Following its release on Broadway in 1997, the company indicates that it has been viewed by more than 90 million people. For its 24 productions since the highlighted period, the title has raked at least $9 billion. On the same note, the movie has created thousands of jobs for various actors in the world particularly in countries such as South Africa where hundreds of actors have been professionally employed to cast in the film in different parts of the world (Paulson, 2017). Such experiences have brought significant transformation to the lives of people socially and economically.
As a conclusion, it can be said that Minkoff and Allers succeed in revealing to the audience the struggle for power and the painful experiences those who seek power undergo. Through its animation features, the movie provides great entertainment while highlighting some of the issues affecting society. The directors employ techniques such as editing, aesthetics, and Mise en scene to effectively deliver their message to the audience. Despite creating professional opportunities for many people around the world and raking in huge revenue, the movie has class and race undertones which undermine its impact on society. Overall, it is a movie worth viewing. It is, therefore, highly recommended.
Cutting, J. E. (2016). Narrative theory and the dynamics of popular movies. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 23(6), 1713-1743. doi:10.3758/s13423-016-1051-4
Nicholson, W. F. (2010). Cinematography and character depiction. Global Media Journal, 4(2), 196-210. doi:10.5789/4-2-6
Paulson, M. (2017). The 'Lion King' effect: How a Broadway smash changed South African lives. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/theater/the-lion-king-south-africa.html
Roth, M. (2006). The Lion King: A short history of Disney-fascism. Jump Cut:A Review of Contemporary Media, 15-20. Retrieved from https://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC40folder/LionKing.html
Blair, R. G. (2016). A hero's journey: Simba's assent to the throne. International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 6(2), 24-30. http://www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol_6_No_2_February_2016/4.pdf
Kegerreis, S. (2013). Freud and Klein inThe Lion King. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 39(3), 334-345. doi:10.1080/0075417x.2013.846583
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