Last night, after seventeen years of waiting, I saw The Lion King once again in the theatres. The first time I saw The Lion King, I was three years old. I don’t remember much of the experience, but I do remember it was the first movie I had ever seen in the theatres. I also have a vivid memory of sitting on my dad’s lap during the stampede scene. The conversation went as follows:
Me: “What happened?”
My Dad: “Simba’s Daddy got hurt really bad.”
Me: “Will he be okay?”
My Dad: “Um… I think he’s just going to rest for a little while.”
I was then confused later when Simba grew up, because I thought that was Mufasa, and I kept asking where Simba went. Ahh, the mind of a three-year old. Such a magical, naive thing.
This time seeing it though, I was nearly 21 (9 days!), I knew every single song by heart (both from the movie and the Broadway musical), and I was squealing with anticipation (I really was; ask my friend Rae. I think I annoyed her). On the way to the theatre, we listened to the Broadway soundtrack and belted out the lyrics–well, what we thought were the lyrics. I’m a suburban white girl; I have no idea how to speak Swahili– all of which psyched me up even more for the evening.
I was a little apprehensive about the 3D aspect. I’m not a solid hater, for there have been a few movies that did quite well with 3D, but there have been a lot of botched movies too. And The Lion King is so perfect in its own way, I was worried that adding 3D would somehow change it. It changed it alright, but for the better.
First off, the scenery. The movie already has stunning panoramic views of the African Savannah, but add dimension and it feels as though you are actually sitting there watching the wildlife go by.
It wasn’t as though things were popping out at you, but rather you were included in the scene. There was more depth than just a flat cartoon. There were a couple scenes in particular that literally made me say, “Wow.”
The Stampede/Mufasa’s death: I had high expectations for this scene. It is on all accounts epic even in the original. The way they do it in the Broadway show is incredible. So adding 3D to it had to make it even more epic, right? Right. I felt like I had to bob and weave to keep from the wildebeest hitting me. My palms were sweating and my heart was racing, even though I had seen this movie hundreds of times. I was so invested in the scene and worried about Simba’s well-being that when Scar throws Mufasa back into the stampede, my heart skipped a beat.
Being older now and understanding this scene made such a bigger impact than it did seventeen years ago. No, Simba’s Daddy is not going to take a little nap. He sacrificed himself so that Simba could live. He’s dead, and will never be alive again. Simba is now fatherless, and thanks to Scar, guilt tripped into thinking his father’s death was his fault. What completely set off the waterworks though was the little boy sitting behind me. He couldn’t have been more than five. During all this he kept whispering to his parents, “Mufasa is hurt isn’t he? Is he dead? Is he going to be okay?” Deja vu. It was like my past was sneaking up behind me and I was overcome with emotion.
But enough about the weepy parts (although they are SO GOOD). We continue…
The Final Battle Between Simba and Scar: I always loved this scene, because Simba was so hard-core. Plus, the slow motion slapping always made me giggle just a little bit.
I felt as though I had ring-side seats to the big showdown, which was awesome, that is, until this happened…
When Scar jumped through the fire, I literally scrunched down in my seat because it looked like he was coming right for me. My heart was pounding and I couldn’t breathe for a moment. It was truly terrifying (which in reality it probably wasn’t, but I get scared easily. So I guess you’ll have to take the previous statement with a grain of salt).
Visual effects aside, it was still the same, great movie that I grew up with. It was fun seeing it in a college town, because 95% of the audience was my age. We were kindred spirits, watching our childhood unfold before our eyes. At nearly every moment of the film, there were quiet murmurs– people singing along, quoting the lines, or commenting on what was happening. And I’ll admit, I sang along with every song. I quoted my favorite lines. I bopped my head along with Simba, Timon and Pumbaa as they walked across the fallen tree in “Hakuna Matata.” The Lion King is one of the most beloved Disney movies, and it’s easy to see why: seventeen years after its original release and it still captures its audience. It is timeless, and will continue to live on for generations to come. And for those who think otherwise: Hakuna Matata. You’re wrong. It’s the circle of life. Whenever someone grows out of wanting to watch it (and they are idiots, by the way), there will always be someone new to take his or her place.