(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from The Lion King. The song "Circle of Life" by Carmen Twillie and Lebo M. plays in the background)
Doug (vo): And now we come to the big one: The Lion King, the highest-grossing 2D animated film of all time. When this movie came out, every kid was nuts. We were humming all the songs, we were reenacting all the scenes, we were talking about all the characters, it was just a gigantic flick. So, is it bad to say I think it’s kind of overrated? [An audience boos loudly] Okay, okay, just hear me out. While I don’t think it’s bad, I don’t think it’s the strongest of Disney’s works either. I don’t even know if I necessarily put it in the Top 5. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some very impressive things about it or that the film as a whole doesn’t work. Well, here, let’s start from the beginning.
Doug (vo): We start with the birth of the new prince, Simba. Do I even need to tell you how they celebrate this?
[The famous scene of Rafiki lifting baby Simba up for the cheering animals of the Pride Lands to see is shown]
Carmen Twillie: [singing] It's the Circle of Life, and it moves us all...
Doug (vo): So young Simba is shown around by King Mufasa how to rule as a good king. But his uncle Scar is angry because he was next in line to be king. So he constantly tries to set traps with the hyenas to kill him off. But Mufasa is always there to save him, so there’s only one logical choice: kill Mufasa. This leads to a very intense and very well-done chase scene with a bunch of wildebeests. Scar seizes this opportunity and throws him [Mufasa] off a cliff. Simba, thinking he started the stampede, feels incredibly guilty, and Scar advises him to run away. Why he doesn’t just kill him right there, I don’t know. But Simba goes into exile and comes across a team known as Timon and Pumbaa. They tell him that it’s okay to run away from your problems and start a new life over, and that’s exactly what he does. He spends most of his years growing up with the two and decides never to go back, that is, until his old childhood friend [Nala] shows up and tells him that things are terrible back at home, and since he is the rightful king, he’s the only one that can go back and make things better. But Simba doubts himself, thinking he still killed his father, until he gets a vision in the sky. His father says, "Nut up", and Simba decides to go back home and fight his uncle. And you know the drill; big climax, comic relief gets some laughs, and then the final showdown between the two of them.
Doug (vo): Okay, so what problems do I have with the story that actually seems almost adult, in that it’s stolen from the most famous of adult plays? [A poster of Shakespeare's Hamlet is briefly shown] Well, let’s get to my biggest problem with the film: the message. Actually, the message, I really like, and I think it’s a very adult message. I especially like it when he talks to Rafiki about it.
[The scene of Rafiki talking to Simba is shown. Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]
Simba: Ow! Jeez! What was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn't matter! It's in the past.
Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or...learn from it.
[He swings his stick at Simba again, who, this time, dodges it]
Doug (vo): Now that’s really clever, and I’m totally behind that.
[Scenes focusing on the climax of the movie are shown]
Doug (vo): What I’m not behind is that when he does go back to face his fears, his fears start to win, and everything he was taught before suddenly is working against him. Nobody even gets behind him, nobody’s standing up for him, that is, until it turns out he didn’t commit the crime that he thought he did. So, I guess the moral of the story is: "Never take responsibility for what you’ve done because nobody will be behind you unless it turns out you didn’t really do it." Yeah, how is this confronting his past? It’s a past that never happened, so it doesn’t matter. And even when he thought it did happen, the movie didn’t support him, almost as if the film was saying if he did accidentally kill his father, he deserves to die. Look, nobody’s on his side until he comes out and says, "Ha-ha! It wasn’t me!" And I’m sorry, that’s a serious flaw. If you think it’s something that just my over-analyzing adult mind thought of, no. I was thinking of this as a kid, too. This film didn’t teach me to come forward with my mistakes and to take the responsibility for it. It taught me to convince people that I didn’t do the mistake, because that way, I’ll have a happy ending. Okay, so good intention gets totally botched.
[The song sequences in the movie are shown]
Doug (vo): What else don’t I like? Well, the songs. Yeah, yeah, I know. But I’m sorry, I don’t like these songs. Well, I take it back. "Be Prepared" is awesome. "Circle of Life" is good, though I think a lot of that is more Hans Zimmer’s orchestrations. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"? Hate it. "I [Just] Can’t Wait to Be King"? Hate it. "Hakuna Matata"? Holy fuckballs, I hate this song! I hated it when it first came out. I was boggled by the fact that everybody was actually singing this. It’s annoying! While I was constantly humming "Be Prepared" at school, all the other kids were constantly singing "Hakuna Matata".
(A clip of Scar is shown)
Scar: I'm surrounded by idiots.
Doug (vo): On top of that, big shock, I think Matthew Broderick is pretty bland. Jonathan Taylor Thomas is a little bit, too, but to be fair, he’s a kid, and he really does sell those crying scenes. The villain, while good, is a little too simplistic. I don’t know, he seems so smart and intelligent, but then, when he takes over, he seems like a little child. That just sucks out all the dignity and likability that you have for a villain. It’s like if Maleficent, after she got her way, suddenly starts going, “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!” And there’s also details like how did the water come flowing back after Simba took over. Why did the weather get better? Why is it suddenly green? But that’s Disney logic. I can’t complain that hard about it.
[Various clips continue to show, mainly focusing on the characters and the wildebeest stampede sequence]
Doug (vo): So, okay, I’ve bitched about the movie long enough. What do I like about it? Well, it’s big, I mean, friggin big. If you can see this movie on the big screen, see it. When Scar’s paw comes down for the first time, it’s just massive. I actually remember somebody in the audience going, “Whoa!” On top of that, the characters aren’t great, but they’re good. James Earl Jones as Mufasa is a great leader, Jeremy Irons is over-the-top as the villain, but he's still pretty enjoyable. The hyenas are funny, Rowan Atkinson has a few good puns here and there. I’m not a huge fan of Timon and Pumbaa, but I stomach them okay. They get a laugh every once in a while. And even though the message is sort of botched, I like the message it’s trying to get across. But like I said, what makes this film good is just the size of it, and it doesn’t just come from the animation, it does come from the story. It’s a big story. Like I said, it’s basically a kid version of Hamlet, but they don’t sugarcoat it that much. They don’t pull Bambi’s mom where she dies off-screen, no, no. You see the body. [Mufasa's dead body is shown] That was a big thing for kids back then. To have a death scene right in the middle of a big action-packed moment was pretty unexpected for Disney, at least at that time.
Doug (vo): So, overall, I do like it. I do wish some of the other Disney films got more attention and made more money, but that doesn’t mean the original film is bad. It’s a big film with a pretty big story and a pretty big message. I just have my own personal issues with them. It was a movie I was glad to see several times in the theater, and chances are when they re-release it again, I’ll go and check it out a few more times.
[The ending of the "Circle of Life" sequence is shown]
Carmen Twillie: [singing] In the circle, the Circle of Life!