By Donica Farwell
In 1994, Disney released one of the most memorable animated features of all time: The Lion King, directed by Rob Minkoff and Rodger Allers. A touching and powerful coming of age story about a young lion named Simba and his internal and external struggles to reclaim his kingdom, The Lion King won the hearts of children across the globe. I remember watching the Lion King as a child. All of the colors, cute animals, and catchy songs led to many rewinds of that VHS tape. As the younger generation of children who grew up with the Lion King become adults, they can now appreciate this timeless movie on a deeper level. And if you thought you knew The Lion King, here are some things to appreciate, think about, or notice next time you have the urge to watch this Disney classic.
Disney is pretty well known for throwing in some subtle adult content into their movies. Both creative yet not damaging to the story line, these lines are hilarious to an adult audience. I had a completely different experience watching The Lion King as a college student than a 6 year old. Questioning the innocence of the movie and listening for inappropriate phrases is both a shocking and fun way to spend 1 hour and 29 mins. First off, Mufasa is the sole alpha male of a lion pride. Male lions lead a group of female lions and are the sole source of reproduction. Therefore, even though Mufasa is “married” to Sarabi, Mufasa has mated with all of the female lions in the movie and is the father of all of the young cubs, including Nala. This makes Nala Simba’s sister and they are betrothed to be married.
Other than the incest, The Lion King contains a few quick lines of inappropriate content that many adults don’t always notice. For instance, Pumba gets stuck under a log when trying to escape from Nala. Timon is trying to push him out. Timon screams, “Why do I always have to save your AAAAH!” Since Timon was pushing on Pumba’s rear it is not hard to guess what Timon was going to say before Nala jumped into view. Speaking of rears, I have never seen a movie with more fart jokes. For just a few examples, during “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” Zazu follows young Simba and Nala through the center of a group of zebras. When left alone the zebras turn around and lift up their tails leaving Zazu looking horrified. Also, a prevalent character trait of Pumba is that he has no friends because he passes gas. While he later uses this as a weapon against the hyenas, during Pumba’s serenade during “Hakuna Matata” Pumba claims, “Every time that I…” Timon interrupts with, “Pumba not in front of the kid!” Apparently Disney didn’t want the word “fart” in a rated G movie. Later in the movie, Simba asks Timon to be a distraction for the hyenas so he can confront Scar. Timon responds with, “What do you want me to do? Dress in drag and do the hula?” The movie then shifts scenes to Timon doing a pelvic thrust in female Hawaiian attire singing a sound about, “eating this hunky mass of juicy meat.” Obviously referring to Pumba, at least we hope, who sits with an apple in his mouth on a platter.
During The Lion King’s most romantic song, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” Simba and Nala trip and fall down a hill. They land on top of each other while Nala gives a pretty obvious seductive look and proceeds to lick, the human equivalent of kiss, Simba. In the wild, after the male has chosen his mate from the pride, he rubs his neck on her; therefore, signaling he wants to mate with her. There’s at least 20-30 seconds of lion neck rubbing in The Lion King. Simba and Nala soon fight after their “encounter” about Simba not wanting to face his past which ends with Simba asking, “Now are you satisfied?” Nala replies, “No, just disappointed.” A G rated Disney version of a sex scene? Take of it what you will.
Of course there’s also the controversial scene where Simba throws himself onto some grass over a cliff and many claim that the dandelions and leaves that float into the air as a result spell “sex.” There are pictures all over the Internet showing this image. However, after watching the movie many times I did not see it. I also do not think that the animators would mess with such an important part of the movie: these dandelions and leaves are what float to Rafiki and lets him know that Simba is alive. Without Rafiki coming back, Simba might not have ever returned.
Filled with clever puns, subtext, and memorable quotes, The Lion King script is incredibly interesting and entertaining to focus on. As a fan of puns, I noticed so many creative play on words the last time I watched The Lion King. For instance, when trying to help Simba and Nala escape the hyena trio, Zazu nervously says, “Oh look at the Sun it’s time to go.” Ed, one of the hyenas, asks during this scene as Simba, Nala, and Zazu run away, “Did we order this dinner to go?” The Lion King, like many Disney movies, includes a few Easter eggs. One in this movie is when Scar forces Zazu to sing in his cage made of bones. Zazu sings, “It’s a small world after all.” Scar interrupts, “No…ANYTHING but that.” Speaking of Scar, a slick, cunning, and arguably one of the most hated antagonists in Disney history, was actually originally named Taka in The Lion King: The Tale of Two Brothers book. Mufasa, whose name means king, was chosen to rule. Taka means garbage. Uru and Ahadi, Mufasa and Taka’s parents, named one of their kids “King” and the other, “Garbage.” No wonder Scar turned out the way he did! During Scar’s song, “Be Prepared” hundreds of hyenas appear out of nowhere and walk in sync while Scar sits on a high cliff which displays his dictator power and basically tells the audience exactly what is going to happen.
Arguably the most tragic and heart wrenching moment in Disney history: Scar kills Mufasa. He makes Simba think his roar started the stampede and proceeds to tell him to “run away and never return” before telling the hyenas to kill him. When Simba pleads to his dead father, “Dad…get up. We got to go home,” I still cry. Especially since Simba previously asked his father during their deep discussion of the stars, “We are always going to be together right?” No Simba, you aren’t. However, Mufasa’s death was almost necessary to hit home hard the theme of the circle of life. Simba had to learn that his father lived in him. These are extremely challenging messages for a child watching The Lion King to comprehend.
A final thing to think about next time you watch The Lion King is exactly how powerful the message is. Not just a story about taking back a kingdom, The Lion King is about overcoming tragedy, taking responsibility, and appreciating the constantly moving force of life that continually begins and ends. My favorite quote is from Rafiki when he gives advice to Simba about dealing with his past, “Oh yes the past can hurt. But the way I see it is that you can either run from it… or learn from it.” This is a very relatable message to all college students. Mufasa’s warning to Simba, “Look inside yourself. You are more than what you have become” is another prevailing message.
Like the beginning of the movie begins with Rafiki holding up Mufasa and Sirabi’s baby, Simba, with Mufasa’s father looking down on him, the movie ends with Rafiki holding up Simba and Nala’s baby, Kiara, with Mufasa looking down on them. Next time you watch The Lion King look for all of these elements and embrace the comic relief, triumphant characters, and incredible themes.