The Lion King, or The History of King Simba I
Original Air Date
Brows Held High
[Cut to Oancitizen reading "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace. He puts the book down]
Oan: Sing it with me now.
[Cut to the opening scene of the movie overlapped with the voice of Oan singing]
Oan [v/o]: Na-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ants igonyama bagithi Baba./ Sithi uhm ingonyama/ ingonyama-
Oan: Wait, you don't know the words?
[Brows Held High intro: Summer of Shakespeare]
[Fade in to clips from film; "The Circle of Life" plays.]
Oan [v/o]: The Lion King is considered the peak of the Disney Renaissance in the 1990's. Superbly animated and majestically scored, its a story of a young prince forced to grapple with maturity upon the untimely death of his father, a wise king. Later, the father appears to him as a spirit and the prince learns that his father's death was actually caused by his wicked uncle. And so, the prince steels himself and avenges his father. The prince also has two comic relief best friends, a strained relationship with his girlfriend, a doddy advice-dispensing courtier, and, at one point, there's a gag involving a skull.
Oan: So naturally, I thought it would be fun to look at all the obvious parallels between The Lion King and William Shakespeare's H-
[Cut to Some Jerk with a Camera at Downtown Disney in Anaheim. He pops up from the bottom of the screen]
Some Jerk: Kyle!!
Some Jerk: Hey Kyle, long time no see. I heard through the magical two-way camera to which we can magically talk to each other that you're doing another Disney movie.
Oan: [obviously confused] ... yeah?
Some Jerk: So I thought, "why not continue our impeccable onscreen chemistry with yet another elaborate and incredibly time-consuming musical crossover?"
Oan: [still confused] ... Uh-huh?
Some Jerk: Now, look, it's totally cool, it's your show, your channel, feel free to shoot me down, but I did manage to make an entire album of Lion King parodies, so just let me know I haven't waste my time.
Oan: [aggressively and nervously stroking his hair] ... um.
Some Jerk: [with a quintet of backup singer that spontaneously appear behind him] You guys ready?
Backup singers: Yeah!!
Some Jerk: Alright, one, two, three, four. Go!
[The singers snap their fingers to a beat and break into song a la backup singers from "Circle of Life"]
Backup Singers: Something's rotten in the state of Denmark. [repeat 2x]
Some Jerk: [singing] It's a murder most foul. His offense is rank.
[Cut back to Oan, who's nervously stroking his beard. Some Jerk's backup singers still chanting the same line until ...]
[Music and chanting stops, the backup singers are now fiddling with their car-keys, frolicking, etc.]
Some Jerk: What? I actually did the research this time. I learned everything about your arty imped interest (?), I slogged through every Shakespearean essay from Samuel Johnson to Marjorie Garber, I memorized the entire play backwards and forwards, I even learned to speak fluent Danish just to be on the safe side, and now I can safely say unequivocally that I'm fully qualified to discuss all the obvious parallels between Disney's The Lion King and William Shakespeare's classic play, Ham-
Oan: [interrupting] The History of Henry IV: Parts One and Two.
Some Jerk: [confused] ... What?
Oan: ... Yeah.
Some Jerk: But, but I ...
Oan: Come on, I already did a Hamlet.
Some Jerk: But I ...
Oan: Sorry, Tony.
Some Jerk: [Humiliated and embarrassed] Lort. [Subtitle appears: "Shit."]
[Cut to poster of The Lion King alongside a script for Hamlet; "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" by Elton John plays.]
Oan [v/o]: I know, I know everyone and their mother sees this movie as an adaptation of Hamlet, [cut to title sequence] but, of all the adaptations we've looked at, this is probably the least like its source material. [cut to second clips of after mentioned characters] Yes, Simba could be seen as a stand-in for Hamlet, Mufasa as Old Hamlet, and Scar as Claudius, [Cut to picture of Simba, whose eyes are unfocused and tongue is sticking out. The text "Fishmonger LOL" is placed beside him.] but Simba never pretends to be insano-bonkers, [Cut to a picture of Sarabi with green skull and cross bones in her eyes drinking a chalice, with Scar behind her] Scar doesn't poison Sarabi, [Cut to picture of Simba attacking Rafiki, who's underneath a Medieval curtain] Simba doesn't maul Rafiki through a curtain, [Cut to a clip where Simba pulls Nala into the lake] Nala doesn't drown herself, [Cut to a landscape of the plain meadows of Pride Rock; different cartoon lions appear] the animated lions of what would have stood in for the key characters of Horatio, Laertes and Fortinbras are [the lions disappear] nowhere to be seen, [Cut back to the same picture of crazy Simba] Simba doesn't have Timon and Pumbaa [Cut to a clip from Game of Thrones; this time, Timon and Pumbaa kneel down to be decapitated in the gallows] executed in order to save his own skin.
Oan: Or maybe he did.
[Cut to Simba, Pumbaa, Timon, and Nala hiding behind a log, where they contrive a plan to distract the hyenas]
Simba: Live bait.
[Cut to Timon and Pumbaa fleeing in terror from the hyenas, who chase after him; cut to blackout; fade to Oan]
Oan: Tell him that his commandment is fulfilled, that Timoncranz and Pumbaastern are dead.
[Cut to clip of Simba roaring on top of Pride Rock]
Oan [v/o]: And of course, SIMBA LIVES!!!!! He not only lives, he continues the line of succession, restores his father's dynasty, and secures an heir.
Oan: Hamlet, if you'll recall, died right after killing Claudius letting a Norwegian invader take the throne without a fight. Good job, Hamlet.
[Cut to original sketches of Scar.]
Oan [v/o]: And in the original drafts of the script, Scar wasn't even Simba's uncle. Instead he was a villainous baboon encroaching in the lion's territory.
Young Simba: What would that make you?
Scar: A monkey's uncle.
[Cut to showcase clips of Simba looking at his own reflection in the water, swinging on a vine, frolicking with Nala, and stargazing.]
Oan [v/o]: Once more, Simba and Hamlet seem to have different motivations. Simba's far less introspective than Hamlet is and much more ready to enjoy himself. Simba's many things, but he's never the kind of lion to ponder his own mortality the way Hamlet did. He does ponder mortality.
Simba: The great kings of the past are up there, watching over us.
Oan [v/o]: But he ponders it in a very specific context.
Oan: Hamlet is obsessed with death, and what is Simba obsessed with?
[Cut to the song sequence for "Can't Wait to be King"]
Young Simba: [singing] Oh, I just can't wait to be king.
Oan: The Lion King is about kingship ....... di-doy.
Oan [v/o]: That's the central theme of the film. Simba is constantly being taught how to be king, what it means to be king, what happens to past kings. The heavens open up and tells him, "you have forgotten who you are," and summarizes his entire identity as...
Mufasa: [appearing in the sky] You are my son, and the one true king.
Oan [v/o]: Simba is The Lion King and nothing in the pride lands can be set right until Simba accepts it. [Fade to a picture of Hamlet seeing the ghost of his father] Hamlet's father doesn't seem to really give a damn about whether or not Hamlet takes the throne. He just tells him, [along with caption] "let not the royal bed of Denmark be a couch for luxury or damned incest," with no follow-up as to whether or not Hamlet should actually fill that royal bed. Likewise, Mufasa somehow fails to mention that the last thing he saw before being trampled by wildebeests was his brother looking straight into his eyes, saying an ironic one-liner, and tossing him off a cliff. No, it's more important that Simba stop dicking around and accept his responsibilities as heir-apparent. They're both afraid of responsibility, but it's telling that Hamlet's fear manifests on a monologue about death, while Simba's fear manifests in a song about hedonism.
[Cut back to Some Jerk with a Camera and his back-up singers; they sing a song that carries the same melody as "Hakuna Matata."]
Some Jerk: [singing] To be or to not be, all those arrows and slings.
Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa: [singing] It's our problem-free, philosophy.
Oan: Though, actually, Shakespeare did write a play about a young prince in line to the throne that wasted his youth on pleasurable pursuits hanging out with a bunch of glutinous layabouts. Back to Henry IV.
Oan [v/o]: It's less well known than Hamlet and if you consider that the main story actually stretches across three and, by some accounts, four plays, it's a grander story. And, if we're going to talk about Shakespeare's attitude towards kingship, it's much more relevant. Henry IV is NOT the main character, his son, Prince Hal, is. And Hal's story arc is much closer to Simba's than Simba's is to Hamlet. Hal starts out as a reckless kid abusing his priviledge and hanging out in the bad parts of town, getting mixed up with flatulent gluttons to enable his laziness and make fun of the monarchy.
Timon: You mean a bunch of royal dead guys are watching us? Pthh!!
Oan [v/o]: Simba, like Prince Hal, is in danger of abandoning his responsibility to the throne... um... the rock. Simba's first song is all about the whimsical joys of the abuse of power.
Simba: [singing] Free to do it all my way.
Oan [v/o]: And attitude to kingship that's shared by the villain.
Scar: I'm a king. I can do whatever I want.
Oan [v/o]: And look how well that approach goes.
Oan: It's a simple lesson about the burden of royalty, famously summed up in King Henry IV's famous line: "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown (pt 2, III.I, line 31)."
Oan [v/o]: But both Simba and Hal come through, proving themselves worthy of the throne/rock. Hal proves it by demonstrating that he understands the great burden of being king, telling his father on his deathbed that should he wear the crown: "If any rebel or vain spirit of mine, Did with the least affection of a welcome, Give entertainment to the might of it, Let God for ever keep it from my head, And make me as the poorest vassal is, That doth with awe and terror kneel to it! (pt 2, IV.V)" Simba also has to learn about the great burden of being king. He demonstrates that he understands the power by throwing his uncle off a cliff and letting hyenas eat him. And then he roars and makes the plants grow back. Okay.
Oan: But even Henry IV isn't that close to The Lion King's story.
[Cut to Some Jerk with the Camera. He has officially given up on Hamlet-inspired song parodies and his back-up singers are fiddling around in the back]
Some Jerk with the Camera: [not trying to sing] Can you feel Henry the Fourth? I'll work on it.
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