The Lion King is about talking animals having a civil war in Africa. But it's an upbeat musical just like all Disney movies.
Disney does acknowledge that maybe they fucked up a little with "Bambi".
At least they tried much harder to make the "circle of life" a wee bit less traumatic to learn about this time. The song "Circle of Life" itself is probably the single most beautiful song Elton John has ever written about animals dining on the corpses of other animals.
In nature, animals do kill each other though, and this isn't one of those movies where nobody dies. Still, there is an awful lot of singing, and that probably helped it get a G rating.
"The Lion King" was actually the highest-grossing animated feature ever...at least, until Pixar broke their record with "Finding Nemo" (a digitally animated film about a fish who has to look for another fish, who in the meantime has met a third fish). The honor of being the highest-grossing traditionally animated feature still belongs to "The Lion King" though. It's also become a modern staple of childhood cinema; a movie that almost everyone sees growing up or else gets teased for not knowing.
The movie also resulted in nearly 30,000 yellowish kittens being named Simba. What was once a fairly rare name is now one of the most common cat names in existence.
There is damn good reason for these things too. This really is one of the best movies ever, and seems to be very nearly as entertaining to adults as it it to kids. The story has the feel of Shakespeare or Bible stories, which has been widely acknowled as part of it's appeal. While many kids' movies simply rehash old formulas, "The Lion King" tries to refine them. Some of the ideas may have come from a Japanese movie though also. It seems that lots of details happen to be similar to an existing movie about "Kimba" the lion.
Wherever the idea came from, the animation is among Disney's best work, even winning over those who previously only liked the classic era of Disney. The voice work is also top-notch, with every actor expressing their character well; not only in dialogue, but in tone and style too.
It also has monkey kung-fu.
Sorry if this contains any spoilers. Probably everyone knows the story anyway (if not from the movie, then from Sunday School)...
Would you buy a baby from this monkey? We definitely would. He appears to know his product.
One day Rafiki the monkey shaman finds a baby lion cub, and he's all like "what the fuuuuck?" so he brings it to Mufasa, the king of the lions, and current heavyweight champ of Africa.
After looking at the baby and smelling it a lot, then asking Rafiki to hold the baby up so they can examine the underside as well, Mufasa and his wife agree to buy him, and they decide to raise him. Rafiki goes out and buys the fancy stick he has been waiting for, and starts to practice with it in his Jungle Jedi hideout.
Simba has to beat Scar at pod racing or he will lose his superpowers.
The baby is named Simba, and he is The One, but he doesn't know about it yet. He has to grow up just like any other young lion...singing songs with his friends, and talking to a plump bird but never eating it for some reason (possibly because it has a proper British accent, and therefore eating would be bad manners. Toucan Sam would not have fared as well).
Simba also has an uncle named Scar, who is totally badass, but also just kind of a violent crazy dick. He makes up some bullshit and convinces Simba that he doesn't need to go to school anymore, and that he should move to another country. Then he summons some laughing werewolves, and there's another dance scene.
After Simba runs away from home, he meets Timon, who is a gopher, and Pumbaa who is a pig or something. This is when he finally learns to swear in foreign languages, and they all eat bugs (presumably for the psychotropic effects, but it's a kids movie, so they don't go into that part explicitly).
They think they are sneaking past the Moon, but the Moon is actually passed out from heroin during this scene.
After Pumbaa farts in the tub, they decide to look for another place to live, and they meet Nala by accident. This is the lion Simba was friends with when he was little, but now they are both grown up. They do what nature tells them to do, and begin texting each other all the time.
Then they spend about an hour talking about how stupid adult lions are and how adult lions don't understand young lions now. Scar overhears this, and he's all like "oh, I'll show those little punk brats", and he puts stuff on their Facebook to totally embarass them.
Then Rafiki shows up and tells Simba he has to come and complete his training. Simba is all like "but my friends" and Rafiki is like "yeah, shut up with that" and hits him with the stick. However, he comes to love and respect Rafiki, and starts to learn how to use the Pounce from him. It doesn't matter that Rafiki is small, because he's also wise and old.
Then they find out that neonazis are going to invade, and everyone starts freaking out. Simba and Nala run off and have sex at last (just in case they don't get a chance later). Timon and Pumbaa have to close their law firm and come help out with the fight. Everyone gathers back where the movie started, so you can kind of tell it's almost over.
Lions always begin the mating ritual by shaking hands.
Then they have a huge fight, with werewolves going crazy and running everywhere. For some reason, there's some lava, and a couple of dinosaurs. The good guys start to get scared, and Timon's AK47 runs out of ammo right when more bad guys are about to show up. Everything looks bad.
Finally, Rafiki shows up and uses monkey ninja kung-fu and starts kicking ass left and right. Simba helps him, and he finally learns how go into Claw Time, so when Scar attacks him, he sees it going slow, and he gets the ability to lean way back. Then Scar pulls out a chainsaw and tries to saw Simba's head off, but Simba does a jump kick and sends him flying off the cliff. He falls on the werewolves, and they give him a terrible makeover, confiscate his chainsaw, and finally kill him with a frying pan. There's a hell of a lot of dinging for nearly a full minute (because he has a hard head) but they finally succeed. Then all the werewolves go back to the underworld and stop bothering everyone.
The day is saved, and Simba celebrates by having a party. Everyone throws pies and breakdances, and they finally eat that toucan.
Disney got the idea from the fact that real lions tend to sing a song every 20 minutes.
The actual direct-to-video sequel "Lion King 2" wasn't very well-recieved by everyone over age 7, though many did call it a good sequel (including "thumb position consultant" Ebert). While the first movie was loosely based on Hamlet, this one used Romeo and Juliet instead, with Simba's daughter falling in love with a lion from an enemy pride. Apparently, Disney forget to pay Elton John enough money to write more songs though. Maybe they tried to call, but he didn't hear the phone because he was still busy rolling around in the big giant pile of money he still had from the first Lion King soundtrack.
Disney still didn't want to leave it alone. Luckily, their next effort was somewhat clever and entertaining.
"The Lion King 1 1/2" was also direct to video, but in a surprising move, was neither sequel nor full prequel. Rather, it begins with Timon's village life and follows his progress toward meeting Pumbaa and Simba, largely taking place during the events of "The Lion King" itself; making it (quite intentionally) the "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" of the Lion King canon.
Kind of like Meerkat Manor, except more singing and less dying every 20 minutes.
While it still isn't as good as the original, it does have it's moments, and has a more fun and silly feel than most of the first film. Luckily, Timon and Pumba do not get executed as you might expect.
Childrens' TV audiences also got to have a couple of years of "Timon and Pumbaa", which wasn't always great, but at least was nothing like most of those terrible kids' cartoons they have these days. It helped a lot that they used Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella's voices (though Lane had to leave the cast later due to schedule problems, and was replaced with Kevin Schon, a voice actor who has specifically trained to imitate Lane). The overall quality finally dropped during the final year of production, when a new producer and director decided to target the show more towards kids than the whole family (as it had been up til then).
The original Lion King game for Super Nintendo was pretty great as far as these things go. You got to start as little Simba and grow up, upgrading your claw and teeth attacks, and facing tougher foes and environments, while roughly following the plot of the film.
The "The Lion King 1 1/2" game for GBA was also pretty good, and allows the player to switch between Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa, who each have different moves. Including belching.
Somehow, this wasn't enough, and the Lion King was made into a Broadway Musical. Now the music everyone had loved for years could finally be sung in such way as to begin to grate on people's nerves!
Wearing your head on top of your head looks totally normal, right?
Instead of just using the Disney on Ice costumes, they gave the actors weird new costumes that didn't really look like the Lion King. Presumably, this made the production seem original and fresh to adults, while alienating every single child who was dragged along to see their favorite movie get turned into something else.
Oh well, movies. You had this one coming for what you've done to books so many times.
This theater production still did just as well as the original film had, raking in millions of dollars from confused old people who thought they were going to see "The King And I".
It might be best for Disney to stop pushing it though. They're going to eventually Lucas out, and ruin this thing.
Don't fuck with lions.