Tuesday, September 25, 2012

King of the hill...

Whenever someone asks me what my favorite animated film is, I often respond with ‘The Lion King’.  It’s far easier than saying ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ and having them ask me about it and then having them call me to tell me they hate me for recommending it, and it is far less embarrassing than saying ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and having them give me this weird look while they inform me that it is a ‘little girl’s movie’.  I’m not ashamed to say that ‘The Lion King’ probably ranks in at #3 for me and so it is easy for me to use it in that instance.

It really is a worthy contender for the throne, and few other animated films have had such a giant impact on the world in general.  I mean, everyone has seen this film and very few contest to its greatness.  Sure, it has its detractors and there has been backlash over the years (probably due to the fact that very few other animated films have attempted to milk their success and adoration as much as this one has) but at the end of the day, ‘The Lion King’ is still ahead of the pack; so-to-speak.

When looking back on this film I’m actually pretty shocked that it didn’t follow in the footsteps of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and rack up a deserved Best Picture nomination.  In fact, it towers over many films in that field and is a far better film than the Oscar winner that year.  How a film like ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ got a Best Picture nomination over the likes of ‘The Lion King’ is bizarre to me.  The film was a massive success and even went on to win two of the four Oscars it was nominated for.  I’m pretty sure it was close to a nomination, and we all know that it would have been a shoe in with the current rules regarding Best Picture nominees.
The reason ‘The Lion King’ is so beloved and the reason it stands the test of time (it is nearly twenty years old) is that it takes those clichéd or regurgitated themes and gives them a new life.  What is also commendable is that it understands how to make something organic and human out of something completely the opposite.  We’re talking about a film about talking animals in the African desert and yet these characters are so human and so relatable.  The rich animation captures the emotional complexities of the story itself, and the fearless way in which themes such as murder, guilt and redemption are tackled was shocking (I remember the newspaper articles attacking the film for being too violent).  At the heart of this film is a story of family and the strength and triumph of spirit.  It is uplifting and soulful and filled to the brim with moments to remember and keep with us.  When one reflects on the relationship that is created between Mufasa and his young son Simba, we become entangled in this beautiful web of emotions.  This is the story of a boy who needed his father, but who ultimately found his father within himself and thus survived a tumultuous childhood to become a hero.

So, when someone asks me what my favorite animated film is, I lie, but only a smidgen.


  1. Nice review. I can understand the Academy not going for this in Best Picture, because Beauty and the Beast had a bit more prestige behind its title, like Jean Cocteau's version and the whole tragic romance of the story.

    My favorite animated movie would be Spirited Away, with Grave of the Fireflies at #2. My honest #3 would likely be Disney's Peter Pan, but I'd probably say Finding Nemo instead.

    1. I've seen Peter Pan more times this past month (my daughter's current obsession) than I think I have in the entirety of my childhood, and I must say that I LOVE IT. It ranks up there with me, and Finding Nemo is my absolute favorite Pixar (thus the Fisti nomination in Best Picture!).

      I still haven't seen Spirited Away, although I hear wonderful things about it.

    2. See it, if for no other reason than it won an Oscar. It's a beautiful film. I've seen it twice, both times dubbed in English. I really need to watch it in the original language, but Daveigh Chase gives a terrific voiceover performance in the English version.