Friday, March 21, 2014

Project Disney- The Lion King

Project Disney: The plan is to tackle all of the Disney films, re-reading the classic stories and tales that inspired many of them and to look at how the changes the filmmakers made, the new elements they introduced and the essential elements they kept. We will, of course, be talking about the films as movies as well, saying why we enjoy them and what some of our favorite moments are, but our focus will be on looking at them as adaptations. For the films that are not drawn from any one work we’ll be looking at some of the possible literary influences that we see in the stories. I am participating in Project Disney inspired by Picture Me Reading!  

This week's Project Disney is The Lion King based off of Hamlet by William Shakespeare. You may have seen The Lion King but you may not have been aware that it is based off a play by Shakespeare.  For this Project Disney, Hamlet is actually the first time I have read Shakespeare.  Of course there are many differences.  We have animals VS humans. But.. if you think about it the two have a lot of comparisons.  A jealous brother (Claudius) kills the king, and then the son (Hamlet) finds out and wants to get revenge on his uncle.  There are two characters in the play named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who distract Hamlet.  In the movie this is  Timon and Pumba who distract Simba.  The Lion King has many inspirations including the Bible (Joesph and Moses' stories), King Author, and other Shakespeare plays but the one I chose to go with is Hamlet.  Of course the biggest difference between Hamlet and The Lion King is that everyone dies in Hamlet.

Scar holding up skull, tribute to Hamlet?

While looking through the internet there is extensive research on comparing The Lion King and Hamlet. So let's talk about the Lion King plot first. I won't give too much because... well hopefully you have seen this movie. Africa's savannah is very excited because of the birth of a new lion cub. This lion cub, Simba is the son of the King of the jungle, Mufasa which makes Simba next in line to the throne.  Scar, the uncle, is displeased with this and decides to murder both Simba and Mufasa. Scar lets Mufasa fall off a cliff (such a tearjerker!!) and tells Simba it's all his fault. One of the differences between Bambii and The Lion King is that Bambii never actually sees the body of his mother.  Simba actually does find his father's body which is so sad to watch. So Simba runs away and luckily makes friend with meerkat and warthog duo Timon and Pumbaa.  He grows up and then Nala a childhood friend comes and finds him and tells Simba to come back to the herd to get rid of Scar.  Which they do and Simba and Nala have a little baby of their own to continue the Circle of Life.

I think another reason this is such a loved movie is because Disney does such a good job of even the side characters.   There is aside from Timon and Pumbaa, Rafiki the mandrill, Zazu the hornbill, and the hyenas (does anyone know their names???).   In both Hamlet and the Lion King there are ghosts.  Simba and Hamlet both speak to their father's as ghosts.   Rafiki and Zazu provide Simba with guidance while Hamlet really has no one to guide him.  By the way.. Rafiki and Zazu are pretty hilarious on screen.  And the voice actors in the film!! YES!!!  James Earl Jones, Whoopie Goldberg, Jeremy Irons, just to name a few.

The music in the film is also another reason it is so successful.  I love singing to the songs.  I have even been to the Broadway Show of the Lion King which is absolutely fabulous. If you ever have a chance to see it, go! Songs like "I Just Can't Wait to be King" and the "Circle of Life" are masterpieces, not only in the film by also on the radio version performed but Elton John. 

When I was younger I didn't LOVE this film.  But the more I watch it and the more I really listen and try to understand the story the more I love it.  I appreciate it more and more. Especially after reading Hamlet and relating that book to the film.  This is actually a really deep Disney film.  It really shows to me how important good friends and family really are.  It is also one of Disney's darkest villains, Scar.  Honestly I think this film does a fantastic job of showing how one goes through grief and has to go on with life.  It's beautiful when Mufasa tells Simba that anytime he feels alone to look up in the stars and he will always be there for him.

Hakuna Matata!!

Check out my other Project Disney:

Snow White
Peter Pan
Treasure Planet
Sleeping Beauty
The Great Mouse Detective 
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Princess and the Frog
Beauty and the Beast
Lady and the Tramp
Alice in Wonderland
The Rescuers
The Rescuers Down Under
Oliver and Company
The Little Mermaid
101 Dalmatians
Fantasia 2000
The Jungle Book
The Emperor's New Groove
The Sword in the Stone
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
Robin Hood
The Black Cauldron 
Mary Poppins
Lilo and Stitch 
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Make Mine Music
Fox and the Hound 
Melody Time


  1. I really love this movie! I don't remember when I learned about the Hamlet connection, but I think it's great. Definitely a powerful film.
    Lauren from

  2. I adore The Lion King! Like you say it is really quite deep and so moving! It feels so different from the average Disney movie, more sophisticated somehow - it probably helped that they took inspiration from Hamlet. This was a great post Angie!

  3. I always heard about the Hamlet connection but never really looked into it until this project. I am glad I was also introduced to Shakespeare!

  4. You know... I didn't love the Lion King at first. The more I watched it though the better it would get. I just loved researching it and really there is a lot of information out there on the web about the Lion King. People compare it to sooo many different books and themes.

  5. Lion King 1 1/2 is based on Rosencratz and Gilderstein (sorry for my bad spelling) Are Dead. :)

  6. Oh you're right, this IS Hamlet. I never knew that! I have always loved this movie. I even know someone who has a baby Simba "remember who you are" tattoo. :D

  7. Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. It was funny because Ed is the one that was super insane (with his tongue out all the time) and his name was so different from the other two. I watched this movie SOOOOO many times because my baby cousin loved it, that I can quote most of it from memory. It is wonderful though! I didn't know there was a correlation between Hamlet. I've read Hamlet, but never really saw that :D Thanks so much for sharing! Jaclyn @ JC's Book Haven.

  8. Lauren's Loquacious LiteratureMarch 22, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    This is an amazing concept, I LOVE IT and I can't wait to check out your others as well. The Lion King was always my favourite Disney when I was a kid, and you're right: they did a great job of all the characters and I liked that they were humour than some of the later sidekicks like Mushu in Mulan or the raccoon and hummingbird in Pocahontas.

  9. I was surprised the first time I realized this was based off of Hamlet, but it's a really great way to make that story accessible to a much wider audience. I'm really enjoying these Project Disney posts - I'm remembering all my favorite movies through them :)

  10. Thank you!! I love Project Disney! I have had really a lot of fun with it. Sometimes when I am in a blogging slump I think of my next Project Disney and get excited about blogging again. I don't know what I am going to do once I finish all the films.

    I like that in the Lion King side characters are just as meaningful as the main characters. It really does make a big difference in the story telling.

  11. I love that you are having fun reading them!! Honestly.. Project Disney has allowed me to revisit a lot of the films I haven't seen in a long time, also letting me revisit them as an adult too. I see the films much differently.

  12. I can't stand shakesphere so I will probably never review this movie for project Disney. I love the Lion King. I have watched the movie countless times. We used to always watch movies before we went to bed as kids and when it was my brothers turn to pick he would always pick The Lion King. I have always loved the music and this movie. I actually just watched it again on Friday night although I slept through most of it.

  13. I didn't love Shakespeare but it didn't bother me enough to not read it (unlike the Once and Future King that I read for Sword in the Stone). I have to read another one for Pocahontas so you might end up skipping that one too!

  14. I knew this link had to be you before I clicked it! I love 'The Lion King' because it's an alternative Disney movie that I don't have to do the princess battle with The Girl. (Of course it's also notably short of strong female characters as well, but what are you going to do?)

    I knew it was (loosely) based on Hamlet but never dug to deep to find all the references. (I too, dislike Shakespeare)

    Thanks for linking up!

  15. LOL! I didn't know if I should post it.. most of the links aren't book related. But I figured who doesn't love Disney??? Yes this is a good Disney movie for those who don't want to have to watch Princess movies. I do fast forward past the death scene but otherwise it's great!