Nostalgia Trip: The Lion King

Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaants ingonyamaaaaaaaaaaaa bagithi babaaa.” I’m sure each and every American child has been wondering what that phrase has meant since The Lion King first conquered our hearts and minds in the summer of 1994. Well after all these years you finally have your answer. It’s a Zulu phrase that translates to “There comes a lion.” Shocker. Seventeen years of waiting and it’s really that simple? Honestly, it may have been better had the words just been jibberish-in-the-style-of-Zulu. And that humming after those breathtaking opening lines? As you may have guessed, they’re equally disappointing: “Sithi uhhmm ingonyama” translates to “Oh yes, it’s a lion.” What’s next, do we find out the Simba was voiced by Ferris Bueller and JTT? Well, that’s true too.

So why all this Lion King talk? Sometime between Cars 2 and Tangled, Disney decided to celebrate The Lion King‘s 17.25 year anniversary with a 2 week theatrical re-release in….[drumroll]….3D! This way the company can get 16 dollars a ticket enchant a whole new generation of children with its modern classic. Read the 5 things your preschool-aged self definitely didn’t realize about Disney’s last great non-Pixar film after the jump.

  1.  It’s Based on Hamlet: The original treatment for the film, then known as “The King of the Kalahari,” was conceived as an adaptation of Hamlet by the darkly ambitious mind behind The Brave Little Toaster and several award-winning science fiction novels, Tom Disch. Unfortunately, as one may expect, Disney did its best to beat the Hamlet out of Simba, the Gertrude out of Sarabi and definitely the Ophelia out of Nala. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with taking the bizarre, manic, and Oedipus-infused elements out of the Hamlet tale–this is a kid’s movie after all–but one can only imagine what kind of twisted shit Disch had in mind originally. Can you picture Simba shouting “Frailty thy name is woman?”  I smell a YouTube sensation.
  2. Rafiki was the Original Jar Jar Binks: Well not exactly, since The Lion King was completely animated and thus this baboon was not on the same level as George Lucas’s CGI Gungan from hell. Still, watching Rafiki – a horribly blunt racial stereotype – speak in the third person, act silly and prance around scenes like a madman, one can’t help but call to mind the “Mees-a” and “yous-a” spouting CGI character that almost single-handedly alienated two generations of Star Wars fans in 1999. To give Disney some credit, Rafiki actually played some role in the plot – remember this scene? Still, he’ll always be more remembered for singing “Asante sana squash ba-na-na.”
  3. There’s Hidden Imagery: No matter what the guys at Disney say about it being a tag for a special effects company, the nighttime stars that precede Simba’s climactic anagnorisis spell out one very special word: “SEX.” As to whether or not this contributed to our generation’s sexual promiscuity, we’ll let the psychologists figure that one out.
  4. It was in Development/Production for 6 Years: As children, we thought a movie just appeared out of the blue as an advertisement on Nickelodeon and then mom took you to see it. But Disney’s The Lion King, which was in production at the same time as the significantly less awesome Pocahontas, took almost 72 work-filled months from Disch’s treatment to the silver screen. As a primarily hand-drawn cartoon – as opposed to the computer-drawn animation that dominates today’s films – over 600 artists worked for years studying animals in Kenya and creating concept art, story boards and ultimately the actual scenes for the film. That awesome sunrise at the beginning of the film? People drew that. Still, no amount of appreciation for by-hand animation can forgive the botch-job that is The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  5. You Would Still (Probably) Like It as an Adult: The Lion King, and almost every movie from the aptly-dubbed Disney Renaissance, holds up incredibly well. Even in light of Pixar’s campaign to be the Amblin Entertainment of the animation world, The Lion King is fun, beautiful to look at and surprisingly pure-hearted. The characters, while not too sophisticated, are often great fun – especially Timon and Pumba – and it never gets old to hear Claudius Scar scream “I’M TEN TIMES THE KING MUFASA WAS!” Unless your idea of a good time is watching the Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) with your wrists bound, you’ll probably still get a kick out The Lion King.

So there you have it, some somewhat interesting information on the greatest children’s film of our time – besides Toy Story. The Lion King will be starting its 2 week run this Friday, September 16 nationwide (that probably means Providence Place, but then again, it’s Providence Place).

3 Comments

  1. Josh

    Scar would be Claudius, actually, not Polonius. Polonius is the obnoxious blue bird.

  2. Mike

    What about Mulan?!

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