Thursday, May 3, 2012
#32: Look Harder
watched April 15, 2012
If Aladdin was the film that began my love for Disney, then The Lion King cemented it. This movie is everything I love best about Disney: artistic, funny, scary, sad, and memorable. And to top it off there are adorable baby animals. (If you didn't "awww" at the first glimpse of baby Simba, I'm not sure we can be friends.)
Rather than fully adapting a single story, The Lion King combines various narratives found in literature and history. It is a form of storytelling unique to Disney that succeeded, as The Lion King remains the highest grossing Disney animated feature both in the box office and home video/DVD sales.
First, LK bears a strong resemblance to another Disney classic: a coming of age tale featuring a young prince, whose birth to the monarch of the forest (pride land) is witnessed by the entire animal kingdom. After losing a parent at a young age, he grows up and learns the ways of the world, joined by his two buddies and childhood sweetheart.
In addition, the film borrows from Shakespeare's Hamlet (an acknowledged source): A jealous brother kills the king and drives away the heir to assume power. The king's ghost later visits his heir.
Simba also reminds me of one of my favorite Bible characters, Joseph. As a naive child, he can't wait to possess the power that he knows will be his some day. But a jealous relative sends him to a place where he is "good as dead," and he spends years wondering if he will ever become who he was meant to be.
There's one more parallel. We don't fully recognize it until we hear the voice of Mufasa coming from the sky: "You are my son, and the one true king." Sound familiar?
The Lion King stands as Disney's most successful animated movie partially due to its loud echo of the Ultimate Story, the story that is the very heartbeat of humanity. Simba symbolizes the "chosen one," destined to be king and to carry on the "circle of life" that his father set in place. He's the one on whom all hope rests.
While Simba is a shadow of the One who restored our world, he also holds a mirror to those of us who believe in Him. Because unlike the Son of God, the son of Mufasa is reluctant and afraid. For years, Simba hides, reinventing himself as a carefree, bug-eating friend of warthogs and meerkats. But he never completely evades his true purpose.
And doesn't this sound familiar too? Our calling to live for Him seems a daunting task. We face doubt, fear and remorse over past mistakes. We try to escape or go the easy route.
During Simba's identity crisis, a wise baboon helps him look harder. And what he sees is power and courage, coming from the one who lives in him. As he embraces this indwelt life source, triumph is achieved. The enemy is defeated. A desecrated kingdom is restored.
Likewise, in us lives the one whose power makes our weakness strong, and whose sovereignty makes our failures succeed. When we look harder, we see him, and we triumph.