The Lion King

The Circle of Life

June 15, 2021

An often repeated conversation in my household goes like this:

Hubby: “What movie would you like to watch tonight?”

Me (Scrolling through the list showing up on the TV): “How about __________________ (picks some random 1990’s era movie). We haven’t seen that one.”

Hubby: “Yes we have.”

Me: “Maybe you have. I didn’t see any movies in the 1990’s.”

This statement is not, however, entirely true. I did see movies in the 1990’s but most of them were rated “G” or “PG” and the main characters were animated.

On June 15, 1994, when The Lion King was released, I had a four year old and a one year old. It was one of the rare movies we went to the theater to see. More on that in a bit.

The Lion King is the story of Simba – a cub born to parents Mufasa and Sarabi. Mufasa is the king of the lion pride much to the consternation of his younger brother, Scar. Jealous of Mufasa, Scar convinces a pack of hyenas to trap and kill Mufasa but pins his brother’s death onto his young nephew Simba. Simba is driven from the pride and ends up in an unlikely friendship with a warthog and meercat (Pumba and Timon).

Eventually Simba grows up and, with the help of Pumba, Timon, and lioness Nala, battles with Scar. Victorious, Simba assumes his rightful place as the heir to Mufasa’s kingdom, ascending to the top of Pride Rock.

According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The Lion King was released on June 15, 1994, to a positive reaction from critics, who praised the film for its music, story, themes, and animation. With an initial worldwide gross of $763 million, it finished its theatrical run as the highest-grossing film of 1994 and the highest-grossing animated film. It is also the highest-grossing traditionally animated film of all time, as well as the best-selling film on home video, having sold over 30 million VHS tapes. (snip) The Lion King garnered two Academy Awards for its achievement in music and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. (snip)

In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’.  It is, as of December 2019, the only Disney film to have been dubbed in Zulu, the only African language aside from Arabic to have been used for a feature-length Disney dub.”

The film appealed to both children and adults. The script was full of subtle jokes aimed at the grownups and lovable characters to inspire the imaginations of kids.

Soon after its release our family of four went to the theater to see it. Both our children loved the animated Disney movies. Peter Pan and Robin Hood were particular favorites of our four year old son. But as soon as he saw The Lion King, it took over his imagination.

‘Pride Rock’ was in the thick of play time from this March 1995 photo. The evil “Scar” is literally hanging from the edge.

That summer we would drive from our home on the east side of Lake Sammamish clear to the Burger King on 85th in Kirkland. Every week we made the trek in order to collect The Lion King figures from the Kid’s meals. Soon each child had their own Mufasa and Simba and all the rest of the characters. The two lion brothers would frequently engage in battle through the imagination of my child.

When The Lion King was released to VHS on March 3, 1995, the obsession really ramped up.

Our four year old had some other interests as well, of course. Chief among these was to build things. He loved hammers and nails and would spend hours pounding nails into Dad approved boards. The child even had his own workbench with real tools.

Getting in touch with his inner Simba in a Mom created costume for Halloween 1994

The acquisition of the VHS movie, however, turned into a daily viewing of the film. Soon there were elaborate sets constructed for the Burger King toys including a version of Pride Rock. Of course it really looked nothing like the Pride Rock from the movie. It was about 18 inches tall and built from 2 x 4’s and plywood. But in my son’s eyes it WAS Pride Rock.

I don’t recall when the compulsion ended. What I do know is that I heard the songs so often that I know all the words and can sing every one. Eventually the wooden Pride Rock was disassembled and he moved on to new interests which included, at various times, dinosaurs, rocks, coins, Pokemon trading cards, Legos, and video games, to name a few.

For a parent there is a particularly poignant moment in the movie when Simba – still a cub – is frustrated by having to follow his father’s rules and declares, via song, I Just Can’t Wait to Be King. It is the oft heard child’s lament, in a hurry to grow up, not knowing just how special it is to be a ‘cub’ without real world worries.

For me, I think it was okay to not see the majority of ‘grownup’ TV shows or movies from the 1990’s. It’s one of the best things about having kids – one gets to immerse themselves in the child’s world – and, for a short time, see the world through their eyes. It’s the circle of life.

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