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The Lion King (G)
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Caution: spoilers!

This is basically the crowning jewel in Disney's Renaissance era. I guess it's vaguely based on Shakespeare's play "Hamlet," though I haven't read that (nor seen any productions thereof, an oversight which I hope to remedy someday). The movie has a pretty awesome cast, including James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Robert Guillaume, Rowan Atkinson, Moira Kelly, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cummings, et al. And of course every song in the movie is freaking awesome. Every. Single. One. There's some decent humor, a ton of drama, great characters, great action, gorgeous animation, soul-crushing moments and heartwarming moments, and... hell, it just has everything you could ask for in a movie.

The story basically begins with the birth of a lion cub named Simba, whose father, Mufasa (Jones), is the king of the Pride Lands. Mufasa's younger brother, Scar (Irons), is upset about Simba's birth, because it means he's no longer first in line of succession. Before long, the movie flashes forward a bit, to when Simba is a little kid. He has a best friend named Nala (to whom he is betrothed, but they don't like that idea). One day, Scar basically tricks Simba into exploring a forbidden area, which Mufasa had told Simba never to go to. And he takes Nala with him, but they first have to ditch a hornbill named Zazu (Atkinson), who is Mufasa's majordomo. Oh, incidentally, I want to mention that the movie doesn't shy away from at least mentioning that lions eat some of the animals that are ostensibly among the king's subjects, even if we don't exactly see it. This, I think, is rather a problem of any attempt to anthropomorphize animals and still retain any degree of realism. Clearly, all the animals are intelligent, and while it's all well and good to talk about the "circle of life," how can it be acceptable for one intelligent being to eat another? But that's overthinking things; it's not really important to the plot. Still it's weird that some animals are friends and colleagues with lions, while others are prey.

Anyway... Simba and Nala are nearly killed by a trio of hyenas: Shenzi (Goldberg), Banzai (Marin), and Ed (Cummings). But they're rescued by Mufasa. However, we soon learn that Scar is in league with the hyenas (a whole army of them, though those three are the only ones we get to know). And he makes plans with them to kill Mufasa and Simba, so he can become king. After Mufasa is killed, Scar convinces the young Simba that it was his fault Mufasa died. So even though Simba escapes the hyenas, he doesn't want to ever go home, believing his mother and everyone would hate him. Soon after that, he meets a meercat named Timon (Lane) and a warthog named Pumbaa (they're the story's primary comic relief), and becomes friends with them. The movie then flashes forward to when Simba (Broderick) is an adult.

One day, Nala (Kelly) shows up, and is shocked to find that Simba is alive. They renew their friendship, which quickly becomes more than that. But when she wants him to return home to challenge Scar (whose leadership has turned the kingdom into a terrible place), he refuses. Of course, he doesn't tell her why. But then a mandrill named Rafiki (Guillaume), a shaman and old friend of Mufasa's, shows up and changes Simba's mind. So Simba, Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa head back to set things right... and that's all I want to say about the plot.

I feel like I'm probably forgetting things I wanted to say about my thoughts and feelings about the movie. But I've probably said enough. I should mention that there are like one and a half direct-to-video sequels that I haven't seen, but would like to. And there was a spin-off TV series, of which I saw at least a bit. Anyway... if I think of anything else, I can always edit this. But for now I'll just conclude by reiterating how awesome the movie is. It's awesome.

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