Most nights, Simba is cradled in the crook of Jason's arm, the toy's worn fabric brushing against my son's soft cheek as he sleeps. This sight tugs not only at the clichéd heart-strings, but at threads of memory as well. His connection to the plush toy might very well be a learned behavior, as I spent most nights growing up cradling a similarly sacred stuffed animal, Bugs. Now, my Bugs (a gift from my Madrina when I was one) resolutely rests on a shelf in my children's room, sitting as a sage sentry amongst the other stuffed animals. So, the opportunity to take our son to see Simba on the big screen, in 3D no less, was not one my wife and I would pass on.
Last weekend, Disney re-release their 1994 blockbuster in 3D. It became the first re-released film since "Return of the Jedi" in 1997 to hit the box office at #1. (Don't worry, good ol' Georgie has set the Star Wars franchise on the 3D train track, "The Phantom Menace" inexorably chugging toward a 2012 re-release. More importantly, "A New Hope" is set for a 2015 3D re-release.)
"The Lion King" is arguably Disney's greatest hand-drawn animated feature film. The story's original treatment was written in 1988 by Thomas Disch, best known for "The Brave Little Toaster", and it has strong connections to William Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet. It also sports strong a premeditated murder scene that had my son twisting in his seat, cowering behind his Simba. (Of course we let our son bring the stuffed animal to the movies!)
I've watched many a Disney film in my life, and "The Lion King" is the only one that comes to mind where a murder is planned AND executed on screen. Scar's murder of his brother Mufasa pushes the boundaries of the film's G-rating, probably much more so than some of the other G-rated movies where the title characters lose a parent. (See: "Finding Nemo" (2003), "Tarzan" (1999), "The Fox and the Hound" (1981), and/or "Bambi" (1942). In all these features, parents are killed, usually by a hunter, but always off-screen.)
Jason squirmed when Mufasa was murdered, so much so that I raised the arm-rest in the theatre and let him rest against me for the next thirty minutes or so of the film. It's really the murder of Mufasa that ties the strongest link to Shakespeare's Hamlet, and although the Bard's tragedy opens after the murder of the king of Denmark, many of the connections are still quite strong. Scar and Claudius both usurp the thrones and their brothers' wives, although Claudius does repent in the end. We see both Simba and Hamlet Jr. delay their retribution, while Mufasa and Hamlet Sr. both become heralds for their sons in death. There are even links between the duos of Timon and Pumbaa and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. That being said, thankfully Disney did not end the script as a tragedy like Shakespeare. I mean, killing off the King, the Queen, the Prince, the Prince's Love Interest, and giving the kingdom to a foreign Prince would have been a bit much for Disney viewers.
|You be the judge.|
|Abby loves Simba, too.|
Now, Disney just has to stop killing us parents.