When we look back at the famed Disney Renaissance, there are a few animated movies from that period that have become modern-day classics and are considered some of the greatest animated films ever made. This includes "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast", "Aladdin", and of course "The Lion King". The latter in particular is often the one that is highly regarded today. Back when it came out in 1994, no one at Walt Disney Animation Studios could've expected the film to do as well as it was going to do. The film was seen as an experimental project by the studio as they believed "Pocahontas" would be the real winning film. Instead, "The Lion King" went on to become a huge critical and massive commercial success and is now regarded to be one of the greatest animated movies of all time. Now that twenty-five years have passed, I can easily say that statement still holds up. This film is a cinematic achievement and is easily one of the grandest animated movies to be put to screen.
In the Pride Lands of Africa, a lion king named Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and his queen Sarabi (Madge Sinclair) have had a new cub they call Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas and then Matthew Broderick) whom now becomes the next in line to inherit the throne. Mufasa even tells Simba about his responsibility of being king and how it's part of the circle of life. The news of his birth, however, doesn't sit well with Mufasa's younger brother Scar (Jeremy Irons) who wanted to be king instead. Wanting the throne, he devises a plan to eliminate Mufasa and Simba. When his first plan involving killing Simba and his best friend Nala (Niketa Calame) in an elephant graveyard fails, Scar then succeeds in luring Simba into a wildebeest stampede which then results in him assassinating Mufasa. He then manipulates Simba into believing that Mufasa's death was his fault and tells the young cub to flee the pride lands and never return. After escaping the pride lands, he runs into a meerkat and a warthog named Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella) who tell him to forget the past and live a carefree life. Many years pass and a now grown-up Simba (Matthew Broderick) runs into Nala (Moira Kelly) who informs him of Scar's evil-doing as the king. It is then up to Simba to decide if he should return to the pride lands and face his evil uncle or ignore it and continue to live his carefree life.
I don't know what else there is to say about the film that hasn't already been said. This movie has gone down to be considered not only one of the finest animated films to be released by Walt Disney Animation Studios, but also one of the greatest animated movies ever made. Honestly, those claims still hold up all these years later. The story is still emotionally riveting and effective all these years later. The film takes its roots from Shakespeare's Hamlet and puts a unique spin on it to make the story interesting for a new audience. Also, the film has a gigantic feel to it right from the opening shot and the very first scene of the song number "Circle of Life" which has gone down as being one of the most iconic opening scenes to a movie ever made. Speaking of that shot, the animation in this film is top-notch. It's simply gorgeous and the vibrant colors leap off the screen and show both the beauty and also the devastation of the African jungle. It also has grand impressive moments as well including the wildebeest scene which took two years to craft. I'd say all that hard work paid off in the end. As far as the characters go, most of them are top-notch as well. While Simba may not be a fantastic protagonist, he is still likable enough and you do root for him throughout the film. Though characters like Timon and Pumbaa and Scar are the real scene-stealers of the film. Scar is a fantastic villain with a great motivation and evil desires as well as being beautifully animated by Andreas Deja and company and voiced by the brilliant Jeremy Irons. No one could've played this role quite like him. As far as Timon and Pumbaa go, they also have hilarious performances from both Lane and Sabella respectively and even have some funny jokes and animation to back it up. The hula joke still makes me laugh to this day. Also, I cannot talk about this film without talking about the songs. The songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice are some of the most iconic songs put to film and they really stand tall twenty-five years later.
In fact, "The Lion King" still stands tall all these years later as well. The story is still emotionally riveting and exciting, the animation is simply gorgeous, the characters are all fun and likable, and the songs are iconic and memorable. There's a reason why people still fondly remember this movie all these years later and rightfully so. It stepped up the game for animated movies and will continue to be a major inspiration for future filmmakers. It is an amazing achievement and it will continue to inspire and entertain for years to come.