As it does seem to happen often, one day a conversation with a friend gradually led to Disney movies. We were discussing our favorites, and when I mentioned The Lion King, he replied, “Oh, I’ve never seen that one.”
How is that possible? This is the quintessential Disney movie, the one against which every other installment in the fabled animation canon is measured up to for size! How had he never seen it?! So naturally, I forced him to watch it. (Help friend complete woefully deprived childhood: check.)
I discussed the matter with another friend, Emily, when talking about animation. I began, “I can’t believe Jeremy had never seen The Lion King until this year.”
“Well, I mean,” she replied, “I’ve seen it, but I hate it.”
What. WHAT. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT.
After taking both of them to the doctor to verify that they were human beings and not an estranged alien species…. I asked them to share their thoughts on what many would consider blasphemy: Never seeing The Lion King and hating The Lion King. Let’s start with the only person I know who thinks I look like both Christopher Reeve and Christopher Robin, Mr. Jeremy Herba.
Was there any specific reason you hadn’t seen The Lion King before now? Did you intentionally avoid it, or did you just never get around to seeing it?
Well, it’s not like I was deprived of Disney as a child. I had my share of great Disney movies. I can’t count how many times I watched Tarzan back to back. Lion King was just one of those classics I never got around to watching.
As a child, I watched a lot of Disney Channel. The Timon and Pumbaa TV show was a regular for me. So I had some small insight into the movie without watching it. On top of all the scenes that everyone always recreates and the songs that I basically knew by heart, I feel I had a good sense of the movie. That might have added to why it never bothered me that I hadn’t actually watched it.
Was it better or worse than you anticipated? In what ways?
I consider myself a tough movie critic, so I was really hoping this Disney classic was not going to be a disappointment for me. Overall, I fairly enjoyed it. The musical scenes were actually more “magical” than I had been anticipating. My younger self would have definitely loved it.
What was your favorite part? Favorite character?
My favorite part would have to be the “Hakuna Matata” song/scene, which would also be the reason why my favorite characters were Timon and Pumbaa. I actually laughed out loud for some of their lines. Definitely brought me back to watching them as a child.
What would you say was your biggest take-away from the film?
My biggest take away would have to be how a great soundtrack can make a movie. On top of the awesome story line, this movie was enjoyable from start to finish.
I will say that watching Jeremy watch The Lion King was great fun. There were plenty of random, misguided comments (“That Zoozoo bird is gonna get it”), erroneous questions (“Is Pumbaa a girl?”), and genuine emotional peaks (“If what that monkey says is true and Mufasa really isn’t dead, this movie FAILS!”).
And now, a chat with the person whose American Horror Story commentaries I always look forward to, Ms. Emily Gillenwater!
We recently had a conversation about Disney movies, and The Lion King got brought up, to which you said you disliked the film and I nearly had a conniption. What fostered this opinion?
I just think that if a movie “impacted” a generation it should have a really good
life lesson. When Mufasa tells Simba that he’s going to be king, Simba goes off on a little
musical number saying how he’s going to be the best king ever. After that, he deliberately
disobeys his father. Then, he makes friends with Timon and Pumbaa who teach him that life is
just peaches and cream and not to worry about anything. When Nala comes back around and
tells Simba to come back, the little twerp thinks that he can just come back and take back what
was “rightfully” his. Simba thinks he’s entitled to the throne just because he’s the prince.
When was the first time you saw The Lion King? Have you always disliked it or was it a gradual perspective?
I want to say I saw it the first time when I was 7. Of course, I didn’t have an
articulated answer as to why I didn’t like it. Back then I just liked other things like Harry Potter
and Lord of the Rings.
I do love the music. There are quite a few one liners in the film that I love,
especially ones made by Scar.
What would you say to someone who regards The Lion King as Disney’s greatest achievement?
I don’t think it is Disney’s greatest achievement. I think their greatest
achievement is making kids believe that they can do anything they put their mind to. Their
dreams really can come true if they work hard. They’ve inspired so many generations through all
of their films. You can’t pick out a single movie and say, “This is the best movie they’ve made,”
because eventually, something else better is going to come around. People thought that Star
Wars was going to be the best adventure film of all time. But, roughly twenty years later, Lord of
the Rings comes out. Something better always comes along.
And with that, I will let the dust settle just before Emily opens another can of worm about Star Wars vs. Lord of the Rings. It was very interesting to me to get insight into these two very different opinions, especially since they were perspectives I honestly never thought I’d encounter. As the credits rolled while watching with Jeremy, we discussed the film’s strengths, what he thought of it, and why it holds such a special place in the Disney legacy. “Yeah, I can see why so many people like it,” Jeremy said. “The strong soundtrack really made it.”
“You’re right,” I replied. “I love this soundtrack. The music in this and Hercules are some of my favorite Disney albums.”
“Hercules? Oh, I’ve never seen that.”