Season 1: Deconstructing Disney (for Adults) Or… Rationalizing Disney Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Alternative Themes Found in Disney Films That Provide Lessons and Parallels for Adults.
Episode 2: The Lion King
The Lion King is the kind of movie that tells you exactly what will happen, it’s on display in the opening number. To Disney’s credit, the opening number is so overwhelming; between the fantastic music and the breathtaking scope of the Animal Kingdom lining up at Pride Rock, most miss the blueprint every single time. The film shows us how the circle of life, life itself, operates. What really works about approaching the story from this angle, is the ability to work conflict internally before gaining external tools to overcome that conflict. With the animals of the kingdom representing the varied ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds in connection with Simba’s link to the throne of Pride Rock, which began under the rule of his father, Mufasa, while his brother, Scar, reserved heavy discontentment, shows us a visceral yet, true reality. The Lion King reinforces the old, loosely paraphrased adage, you can’t choose your blood, but you can choose your circle. Let us track Simba’s circle of life using the answer key as it was given in the opening number.
As Simba is displayed for the Kingdom, a sense of stage is established. A focal point, if you will. A point where Simba can’t help but stray away. Simba the Cub’s curiosity peaks to a point where Mufusa has to set the rules for his heir. Though the lesson fell upon deaf ears, young Simba soon learned what his father was trying to teach him. As we have grown, how many have ignored our own parents and became a victim of the same thing they were trying to prevent? Oftentimes, things they have experienced themselves. I would consider most children in the world visual learners, Simba included. Zazu and Nala were not going to talk Simba out of anything that day. Though the Hyenas did. The young King fell in line as well do when we get out of place at such a phase in the circle of life.
Lessons begin to produce consequences as the circle of life churns. A small lesson can have a big consequence and vice versa. For Simba, his small act of working on his roar while he waited for Scar’s surprise led to the death of Mufasa. Though Simba was unaware of himself being nothing a pawn in Scar’s treasonous game of claiming the throne for himself and his Hyena underlings. Unfortunate as it is, we have been pawns in games played by those as tight as politicians and as distant as relatives. In all walks and at any stage. We have either played or been played for gain. One of the many sad themes of life. Even more unfortunate as Simba is not allowed to grieve for his father as he is soon run out of the Kingdom by the Hyenas. The stampede is a life changing moment in itself. Such a trauma would change many but to be chased for your life is a special kind of literal meaning. Simba will unknowingly persevere as fresh eyes teach him a staggering concept, Hakuna Matata.
The Lion King’s circle of life blueprint is most effective the second half of the story. Simba now acquires the external tools needed from unlikely sources. The exhausted Simba is restored by outcasts and best friends, Timon and Pumbaa, who soon take in Simba as one of their own, without judgment or criticism. Timon and Pumbaa represent those friendships that become life long. Ones like Timon and Pumbaa are as key to us as is Simba. When they first meet, they make him feel better without imposing on why is there to begin with, knowing he’s a lion. The more pivotal point being ones like Timon and Pumbaa force us introvert types to break out of the shells we have crafted for ourselves based on our past. Other external tools gained by Simba come in the form of Nala and, later on, Rafiki. These two are what I call, pillars of the past. We all have our own pillars as well. Individuals from our past, that have aged with us and have become a safe space when the world is most cold or we lose our way. Nala represents a particular type of friendship,one we never see “in that way” until we begin to them “in that way”. The proverbial first love dynamic if you will. A rare and especially special dynamic to have if you have been lucky enough. Rafiki represents the family friend you connect with that always has your best interests in mind but is there to keep your head straight. Upon examination, Simba has now gained new friends, a companion, and a confidant as he treks through his circle of life. As we age, the circle shrinks. Now that tight group of twenty has dropped to ten and now it’s, like six or less by time we get our first grey hairs. The allusions to this life is staggering and before we can digest, Simba returns to Pride Rock to confront Scar and the past with his friends, his circle of life.
The Lion King’s circle of life application is only a fun theory but when framed appropriately, it is a primer for a version of life the average person tends to live in. Various song and scenes cast light on real encounters the we may or may not have had first hand. There are numerous bits of evidence that show the varying arcs in this life. The hard truth is, this is all stemming from this 1994 masterpiece. The relevancy of a 90’s animated film to 2018. The layers of subtext this project has is appalling. “The Circle of Life” is more than a staple theme of The Lion King’s memorable soundtrack. “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” is more than a fun song to sing and “Hakuna Matata” is deeper than just a fun song to cover on your a string instrument. These are all hidden keys and cautionary tales. They say if you want to hide something, put it in a book. In cinema, if you wish to attempt to teach the masses a something truly valuable, put enough animals and color on top of it.
**One of the most satisfying climaxes in history leads to Simba’s life finally coming full circle.