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.