Monday, September 19, 2011

The Lion King (In 3D) - The King Roars Again

As the screen lit up to the magical glow of the rising sun and the display of the wonderful animal forms over the vast African savannah responding to the majestic beauty of Elton John's unforgettable 'The circle of Life', my heart felt overwhelmed at being able to catch the classic 1994 Disney original 'The Lion King' in theatres 17 years later. When I heard that Disney was planning on milking its biggest cash cow one more time in 3D, all I could feel was the sheer joy of introducing my daughter to the magical tale of Simba on the big screen. Though 3D is a definite gimmick in earning some extra money with little effort, the tale itself is so rich and powerfully filled with life lessons, that every generation deserves a fresh viewing.

At its original release, it was hailed a landmark film that allowed Disney to turn a corner from animating beloved fairy tales of yore to come up with an original story that had all the essential morals of valor, determination, responsibility and did not shirk from the darker subjects of death, evil, guilt. Added to it a dose of essential humor, the voices of memorable characters helmed by Hollywood heavyweights sprinkling that extra zing, Sir Elton John and Tim Rice's award winning lifting soundtrack(Hakuna Matata, Can you feel the love, The circle of life) that never ages and a formula for the future of animation movies was successfully laid out, that carries to this day. Agreed that the times of hand drawn animation seen here have since made way to CGI, but 'The Lion King' was the new dawn of family entertainment spawning a succession of wonderful animated tales of which, in my opinion, it still remains king.

Indeed, the tale of loss of innocence in the face of guilt and wickedness, and the eventual finding of courage and responsibility to step up and take charge is a great teacher of character building that parents will want to imbibe in their little ones. Playful and trusting Simba, voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a cub and Matthew Broderick later, loses his father and guide King Mufasa (royal voiced James Earl Jones) in a cunning setup by his devious Uncle Scar (unforgettable Jeremy Irons), who has his eye on the throne of Pride Lands. Blaming him for the accident, Scar induces shame and guilt in the cub, making him leave his land forever.

Befriended by the delightful duo of warthog Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) and Meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane), Simba whiles away his years with the now famous 'Hakuna Matata' philosophy, even as his kingdom is in shambles under the torturous rule of Scar aided by a pack of hyenas (a devilishly funny Whoopi Goldberg among others). Finally, destiny beckons Simba to his rightful place in the Circle of Life. Loosely adapted from Shakespeare's Hamlet with deep biblical undertones, this is a powerfully relevant tale through the ages. On board the film was a total of 29 writers penning this classic. A special nod to the inspiring musical score by Hans Zimmer, which adds to the entire experience because lets face it, what would a motion picture be without music to enhance our senses.

Watching it in 3D did not add novelty to the experience. As I had mentioned, the 3D is a gimmick to sell tickets to a generation fed on it. It works perfectly well in 2D even though for a movie with hand drawn animation, the 3D conversion does not distract from the viewing experience and indeed adds to some of the wide angle shots. As the 2D version is running simultaneously, the audience can take its pick. To be able to experience 'The Lion King' in the theatres, 3D or not, is the real treat here and one that shouldn't be missed.

As we came out of the screening, my five year old had all the right questions and it has been a pleasure to explain to her virtues and character traits we all want instilled in our beloved futures. For this reason, it has resonated with millions and will continue to do so. The king roars on the big screen for just two weeks and I happily paid my obeisance.

Originally released in 1994
Playing in Theatres in 3D for a limited time
My Rating: 4.5/5

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