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On June 24, 1994, Disney unveiled what would become one of its most beloved animated titles, The Lion King, in theaters. The film was an early summer hit that year and went on to gross more than $950 million worldwide since its release. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
The biggest roar at the summer box office may well come from Buena Vista’s magnificent animated feature The Lion King. Graced with heart, humor and boundless energy, this Walt Disney presentation should cut a huge swathe through all age groups. Young tots and adults alike well warm to its nourishingly wise storyline.
A certain blockbuster and a future classic, The Lion King is a scrumptiously delightful moviegoing experience.
From the stealthy array of talent selected to perform the voices, including such deep-tone stalwarts as James Earl Jones and Jeremy Irons, one almost expects a tragedy in the Shakespearean tradition. And, in certain aspects, The Lion King does fit this bill. Instead of the house of Hanover or Stuart, the drama centers on the reign of the mighty lion Mufasa (Jones), the king of a perfectly balanced African kingdom of animals who thrive in stunning abundance. A beneficent monarch, Mufasa, raises his young male cub, Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, then Matthew Broderick as an adult) to know that “we are all connected in the great circle of life.”
But, even in this teeming ecosystem, there is rancor; Mufasa’s avaricious younger brother, the dark lion Scar (Irons), plots to become king. He orchestrates a bloody internecine intrigue, killing Mufasa and sending the young Simba into exile in the wilderness.
Essentially, The Lion King is a coming-of-age story as the young Simba grows and matures to a point where he is ready to reclaim his birthright and, more importantly, carry on the harmonious work of his father. While weighty in theme, and propelled by several remarkable moral lessons, The Lion King‘s screenplay (by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton) bursts along at a spectacular dramatic gait, nourished with light humor, tending romance and frisky escapades.
Directors Roger Allen and Rob Minkoff, respectful of both the story’s epic grandeur and personal power, have fashioned a radiantly multidimensional film.
The crowning glories of The Lion King must be bestowed upon the legions of animators who contributed to its majestic, playful and glowing look. Composer Hans Zimmer’s throbbing, percussive musical score also is a highlight, while the songs of Tim Rice and Elton John not only propel the plot but add cheerful zest to the splendid terrain of The Lion King. — Duane Byrge
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