As a breather between the Disney films we've been watching, we decided to peruse something from the Don Bluth (An American Tail, The Land Before Time, etc.) canon. So, without further ado, we give you...

The Great Mouse Detective

Oh wait. This is Disney?

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 6

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 9

Characters/Characterization + Voice Acting: 8.5

Art Direction/Design: 7.5

Themes, Archetypes, and Artistic Interpretation: 5

From RM:

If you don't like Rats of NIMH references, then you can just get out right now. Seriously, though this is a Disney film, believe it or not, it seems more Don Bluthian than you might expect. Indeed, if I came into the film five minutes late, I wouldn't necessarily assume this was Disney. It's particularly light in traditional musical numbers (an exception at this point in Disney history), features mice (An American Tail and The Secret of NIMH were both released around this time to great success, both by Mr. Bluth), and for a Disney film, it's VERY much in favor of showing drinking, smoking, carousing and burlesque in all it's mousy glory.

A lot of that is forgiven, in my mind, because of the film's tone. Despite being set in the gloom of a Treason plot in the late Victorian Era, this is one of the campiest and most light-hearted of all the Disney films. While the stakes are very high and the plot exceptionally well-developed, the film is never far from a goofy, yet intelligent sense of humor; from the overtly dainty expressions of the hulking behemoth of Ratigan to the slapstick chase of a peg-legged bat in a toy shop, the film is never far from a laugh.

The film's score, by Henry Mancini, is excellent, and it should be noted that this film was the first directorial foray by Ron Clements and John Musker, who would later go on to direct The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Hercules.

My problem with this film, as was hinted earlier, and as I'm sure my colleague will address in more detail, is how impossible this movie is to compare to most Disney films. From a technical perspective, it's better than many of them. But for some reason, it's always the forgotten Disney film. It's good, but never marketed like the heavy hitters of Beauty and the Beast, or Cinderella and their lot. It seems to, within months of it's release, be satisfied with it's relegation to cult status, where it enjoys a healthy and well-earned following. But it's lack of musical numbers, lack of some sort of love story, a minimal amount of character evolution (though, to the films credit the characters start more developed than most Disney characters ever become), and its root in contemporary fiction rather than mythology and fairy tales make it hard to argue across the board that this is a truly timeless Disney film based upon the standards that the studio itself has defined with its obvious favoritism for the films with Princesses, Princes, Magic and Mythology. However, as I said, its status as a vastly underrated cult film of great charm and wit is well-documented, deserved and protected.

From Wiry:

If there's a heaven, I hope I get into it. Because I want to eat curry with Vincent Price. I'll admit that, while I've been acquainted with Price for some time, I've only become a rabid fanboy in recent months. But still, seriously, Vincent Price is a giant among men.

So, that is to say, I'm inclined very favorably toward this movie, Bluthiness and all. Heck, it even has the villainous yet comedic little bat (though I'll admit the gravelly-voiced Fidget is a far cry from the... what is he supposed to be... Canadian-Jewish? No... Uh... well, whatever the tones of Bartok the Magnificent are). But let me lay down some plot for you first.

So, Scrooge McDuck has been reincarnated as a toy-inventing mouse with a very adorable daughter. After said toymaker is kidnapped, little Olivia meets up with Wat- I mean, DAWSON, a mouse returning from army duty in Afghanistan (see also The Great Mouse Detective II: The Case of the Missing Memories of War Trauma) . The two of them make their way to the home of Sherlo- I mean, BASIL of Baker Street, the titular mouse detective of much renown. After behaving a bit like Darkwing Duck on an especially inflated day (that is to say, a dismissive jerk), Basil agrees to take Olivia's case. Mostly because his arch nemesis is involved. That is to say, Ratigan. Oh, Ratigan. The world's greatest criminal mind, who is introduced in a Gaston-esque number (see, I'm trying to draw as many Disney connections as I can!) that features such great lines as "Even meaner? You mean it? Worse than the widows and orphans you've drowned?" and culminates in some good, old-fashioned flunky-slaughtering.

Long story short (too late), Ratigan's captured Olivia's Pa to create a robotic doppelganger of the Queen, so that he can seize power and rule all of mousedom. Olivia's dad balks at this for a while, until Ratigan's henchbat successfully kidnaps Olivia while the crew investigates a toy store. There's a burlesque mouse number in a seedy bar Basil and Dawson are investigating, which leads them to Ratigan's hideout, where they're captured and placed in a Rube Goldbergian death trap. They escape, interrupt Ratigan's performance with Robo-Queen, and chase him to Big Ben. There's a climactic showdown as Ratigan reveals his ugliest colors, but he is ultimately undone by a big bong. From the clock, that is. After that, everyone's happy, and Basil seems to have become less of a jerk along the way, as he asks Dawson to stay on as his partner. The end.

Phew! That's a lot of plot... More plot, in fact, than many of the films we've seen thus far. You'll note that we're dealing with an actual STORY here, as opposed to a paragraph-long fairy tale that Disney stretcheds into an hour and a half with a few musical numbers and diminutive sidekicks. As RM points out, there's few of the trademarks of Disney, which is I think part of the reason why it's an oft-forgotten film. It's essential in the canon, as its small degree of success following the failure of Black Cauldron provided the necessary confidence to move forward with that grand herald of the renaissance, The Little Mermaid.

But the differences make things sort of problematic. The movie, excellent as it is, is not especially memorable. Not only are there not many songs, nor are there princes to be action-figured and princesses to be dolled, the characters aren't plastered all over our Disney consciousnesses in the way Dumbo or Mickey or Ariel or Simba are. I attribute this both to a lack of continuous and pervasive marketing presence as well as the un-fairy-taleness of it. It's not some grand, archetypal story that's been around hundreds of years in every language before being canonized by Disney. It's just a good adventure. And while multiple versions of certain fairy tale characters exist, both in stories and visual media, the Disney representations of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty are the ones we remember most readily. Sherlock Holmes is a very memorable type, but, well, when I think "Sherlock Holmes" I think of Sherlock Holmes, not his mousy counterpart.

As wonderful and entertaining as this film is, it feels a bit like its center is hollow. There's great value in sheer entertainment, especially if Vincent Price is at the party, but I can't shake the feeling that so many Disney films aspired to be "art" above all else. We don't need to get in to a big "What is art?" debate (please, spare me), but there's a certain spirit in many Disney films, a je ne sais quoi that this film's missing. I know it seems unfair to critique an excellent movie for "not belonging," but keep in mind that the great Disney successes do not fall in this mold, whereas some of the big failures (action-oriented features with little to no songs) definitely do.

Still, though. Veeeenciiint Pryaaaaaaace... they don't make 'em like that anymore...

Final Grade: B

Final Rankings:
1.) The Lion King
2.) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
3.) Lady and the Tramp
4.) The Great Mouse Detective*
5.) The Jungle Book
6.) Fun and Fancy Free

* = This is the first of what will most likely be many films that ended up with an identical letter grade (Lady and the Tramp also received a B). When such situations occur, we default to the numerical score, which was .5 lower than Lady and the Tramp, and therefore GMD is lower on the final rankings, so there is no question of a tie. Ties are for bankers and commies.

Theeeese eees-a thaaa niiiiight.... and we caaaalll it....

Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 6.5

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 8.5

Characters/Characterization + Voice Acting: 8

Art Direction/Design: 8

Themes, Archetypes, and Artistic Interpretation: 5.5

From Special Guest Cherubino/Carmen:

Thees-a evening-a, I find myself quite heppy to have chosen to rescue Lady and the Tramp from the Pound-like pile of vintage cassettes in Wiry's own little corner of his own little living room. As I gingerly shoved the meatloaf-sized VHS into its playing machine, I surmised that perhaps the film would dredge up all sorts of memories of being 8 that I had let fall by the wayside by this, the eve of my 24th birthday. Well, as the end credits warbled away from the screen a mere 70 minutes after the opening credits had warbled onto it, I am sorry to report that I did not want to eat blue-raspberry flavored food, nor did I have the urge to play spit with my stuffed dog in the back of a minivan. So that rules out nostalgia for my obviously charming 8th year.

But what I will say is this: I ruv Rady and the Tlamp if you prease, and I will do the same damn thing if you don't prease, if you don't mind. Lately I have been bemoaning the loss of the auteur film director and the subsequent transition of cinema to simple filmed script. Cinema is supposed to be a magical art form about which I know next to nothing. It is supposed to use its medium to visualize emotions and stakes in a way unimaginable to a mere theatre peon like me. Therefore, it burns my ovenmit when "movies" like Margot at the Wedding, Lars and the Real Girl and other "indie gems" of the form just basically take a script and sit there with it. Come on, even Anchorman did something with it, and that's why it took me to Pleasuretown. But I digress. L&tT did something which, in 1955, I'm willing to bet was relatively revolutionary, especially for children's cinema. From its first moments, I was taken in by its excellent use of Point of View directing. Not only is it a great lens through which to tell a story, but it's also a non-condescending way to relate to the film's largely juvenile audience. This is the first and most noteworthy way in which L&tT uses its form.

Furthermore, though the proprietors of this blog and I did quibble a fair bit over our decided score for the film's musical elements, I am, always have been, and will always be, a little too obsessed with a good film score for my own good. This was a damn good score. It reflected each moment's emotionality perfectly, and unlike most Disney movies of its time, it truly had a life of its own. Its main themes were not built off some singable number. Most importantly, L&tT is not about small lives in magic, but small magic in lives. Therefore, I absolutely found the lack of the "big numbers" appropriate and quite bearable.

A little sociologist has been growing inside of me. It was bound to happen sooner or later, when one discusses deviance at the dinner table for 15 years. And although I've been trying not to eat for her, I have been forced to feed her dorky desires, lest she rise up, eat, and stratify me (Sounds hot, right? Well, it ain't). Obviously, L&tT poses a few questions of the racial/ethnic variety that must be addressed by anyone who does not still sport an overbite. Are the overly ethnic stereotype peripheral characters a lazy excuse for a supporting cast? I'll leave Wiry to address that one. What I will say is this: Yes, the movie is racist. I don't think it's appropriate to say that it is not racist because the stereotypes are "positive" (no such thing). The ethnic groups are still pigeonholed, normalized and comfortzoned so that no child might stop to consider the person's true identity behind the anglo-imposed ethnic stereotype. And, after all, if the point was to bring out the best in every ethnic stereotype, that would explain why Walt just couldn't find it in him to plop a Jewish dog up on that screen (unless it were dead by the side of the road).

Anyway. The racism's almost Christ-like redeemer comes in the way the dogs relate to one each other. Not consistently, but ... the credo that the dogs' dealings ultimately promotes. They approach each other, for the most part, without prejudice, embracing the more common bond of doghood over country-of-origin. No, that does not excuse the Siamese cats, except to say that they are cats -- a totally new sight to Lady and therefore "foreign", which, in 1955 was best expressed with blatant orientalism. It also saddens me to realize that, like American prisoners, the dogs who Lady encounters during her brief stay at the pound are largely forgotten by the end of the film. In a series of happy-ending one/two punches, viewers are certainly forgiven for not caring whether they lived or died. However, in the simple world of the film, metaphors aside, those dogs are there because they have the bad luck of having no owners, not because their race or creed made them genetically lazy, dirty or inferior.

All in all, a delightfully compact and bucolic romp through one year in the life of a gorgeous dog with a very-end message to which I can still relate. Yes, a lot can happen in a year. Like the year it took me to write this.

From RM:

Phew. If you want to step out for a second and get a glass of water after our guest panelist's critique, please be my guest.

*Taps fingers on the table*

You back? Good.

So, Lady and the Tramp is the story of one year in the life of Lady, a dog living in the upper-middle class of the All-American suburbs of 1904 (this date is a guess, the actual year of the film is never specified). It tracks her from her first night in her new home with owners Jim Dear and Darling when she was given as a gift from one to the other, to the birth of a baby in the home, to her encounters and infatuations with that lovable, titular Tramp, and their triumph over the rodent problem of the turn of the century, all the way to the next Christmas, where domestic bliss is prevalent in both human and canine families within the Jim Dear household.

The movie has some very timeless tunes, as well as the iconic dinner scene to "Bella Notte," and deserves credit for doing its best to take as many characters as they can and develop them into interesting, active characters, as well as broad ethnic stereotypes played up for laughs. I also can't tell you how refreshing it is to see a Disney Movie with two well-crafted, thought out and intricate leads. That is rarer than you might think.

The real charm of this movie, as our guest said, is the concept of "small magic in lives". The stakes are nowhere near as high as saving kingdoms and slaying dragons. It's mostly about understanding our roles in our loved ones lives and killing a rodent. The real charm of this movie is spinning an engaging narrative out of comparatively little plot, that is real and charming and caring.

From Wiry:

So, I was sort of the odd dog out on this one. I definitely have very distinct memories of that damn cat song, and my beloved sister singing it to me for the sheer purpose of (Chinese) torture. That said, though, with the exception of the infamous meatball, I came to this film pretty cold, with little to no memories other than a vague plot outline.

I can't really say I was utterly wowed, nor was I really disappointed. There's a reason this film has several iconic moments, and it must of course be acknowledged that this is really Disney's first Love story (as in, it traces the relationship of two actual characters, something that can't really be said for Cinderella or Snow White). It's a simple plot, and one we all know, but it takes its time (in a good way) to relish little moments with each character. The story pleasantly meanders about as it follows Lady from stereotype to stereotype, of both the human and canine variety. RM made the valid point, as I was arguing that the extensive use of broad ethnic types constitutes lazy shorthand in characterization, that (with the exception of some of the pound denizens) many of the characters go deeper than one would expect. In other words, Jock isn't a one-note Scottish joke, though he certainly is a Scottish type. Still, though, there is a difference between making, say, an owner of a restaurant who is clearly Italian, and making an owner of a restaurant who (though very nice) is rooted in caricature.

Still, the dogs do all get along with one another. And there's a very blatant "morning after" scene too. Really, what's not to like about the film? Mostly, it comes down to me as lack of stakes. Yes, we all know things tend to turn out pretty well at the end of Disney movies, but this film had built-in tension-releasers and not much in the way of real menace. The rat's scary, yeah, but it's no Ratigan. What's it gonna do, nibble the baby's rattle?

I don't have much else to say... apologies for the lack of enthusiasm on my part. The film's straightfoward and solid but not mind-blowing, so it's hard for me to get worked up either in ecstasy or indignation. It's beautiful in its way, in its crafted and Pixar-esque focus... but... would some more (and better) songs have hurt? Just sayin'...

Final Grade: B

Final Rankings:
1.) The Lion King
2.) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
3.) Lady and the Tramp
4.) The Jungle Book
5.) Fun and Fancy Free

Why stop now? Let's continue our search of the deep underbrush of Jungle Land and Explore....

The Jungle Book (1967)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 7.5

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 7

Characters/Characterization + Voice Acting: 7.5

Art Direction/Design: 6

Themes/Archetypes/Artistic Interpretation: 5

From Wiry:

I'm thrilled to be doing the plot summary this time around, as it's probably the easiest one we'll ever do. Abandoned boy is found by a panther in the jungle, baby grows to boy, panther tries to get boy to the human village to protect him from the big man-hating tiger, hijinks ensue, boy defeats tiger, Jesus-bear resurrects, and a deus-ex-hussy brainwashes boy into the human village. Roll credits.

The Jungle Book's got a lot going for it, including a pretty solid (especially for mid-Disney) jazzy soundtrack. And let's not forget that its characters (well, some of them) were memorable enough to be recycled into the much-beloved Talespin. What's not to like? Baloo reminds me of an aged hippie I once saw perform at a coffeehouse - sure, some of the college kids there laughed at the guy, but I had a strong respect for a guy who lived his life according to the "bare necessities" style. Distinct from the "run from your troubles" philosophy espoused by the likewise bug-eating Timon and Pumbaa, Baloo advocates relaxation techniques, an appreciation of the simple things, and a high-fiber diet. Sure, he's a bit irresponsible, but ya love the guy.

And then there's the supporting cast - Shere Khan, who's like Scar before we had Scar (though a little less campy). Kaa, for all of you who wondered what Winnie the Pooh would sound like if honey could fight back. King Louie, who some have called out as an African-American stereotype (though Louis Prima, his voice actor, is in fact Italian-American) - it's true, the jazzy tunes of the movie sort of come to an awkward space when you've got a bunch of monkeys talking about being like man. But, this is a movie filled with all sorts of stereotypes, and I really do think the girl is really the worst one. Not that it's ever good to play the "which is worst" game when we're talking stereotyping, but I don't see why King Louie should be singled out as particularly egregious, especially when we consider the profiling and sticky racial matters wrapped up in many fables and tales (and their Disney extensions).

But here's the problem. Bagheera's the beating heart of the story's plot as it moves forward, and Mowgli's front and center there too. But, uh... if this is supposed to be a story about Mowgli growing up (a la Lion King)... why does his character never develop? I'm okay with Bagheera being a bit of a stick in the mud and all (even if he's preachy and just a teensy bit evangelical sounding), but how are we supposed to look at the movie as a whole when Mowgli suddenly has a drastic shift away from his objective, even though his obstacle (Shere Khan) has been eliminated? Oh! Look! A deus-ex-hussy, batting her ten-year-old peepers and singing about being a submissive wife! Of course! MOWGLI IS TEN YEARS OLD! Come on! Does anyone really think a ten year old boy would choose shacking up with some random chick over bumming around with his buddies? Unlike Simba, he's not running from some sordid past. He has to go back to the human village simply because "different species don't belong together." It's "natural." Well, I just think that's silly. Maybe if Mowgli had slowly started to see that the jungle wasn't the place for him, or, maybe if Baloo had in fact been killed defending him, maybe then Mowgli might actually make a choice (perhaps even with a flirtatious dame as his tipping point). But, without that, the ending manages to be both sad and disappointing.

From RM:

A brief note on Phil Harris. The voice of Baloo, Little John in Disney's Robin Hood, and the apocryphal O'Malley from The Aristocats. Awesome voice. Indeed, the voice acting they trot out for this film is really top notch. From Phil Harris to the aforementioned Loius Prima, Sterling "Pooh Bear/Smee" Holloway as the surprisingly menacing Kaa, Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera, and the Elephants (Who sound like British Safari Colonels, my favorite kind of Colonel), it really is a stellar cast. Which is why some of the other points falling a little short is a bit of a shame. The score has two truly timeless tunes, in "Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You" are in the elite pantheon of great Disney numbers. The others, while impossible to remember five minutes after you heard them, are also catchy and fun, except for maybe the girl's song where she basically says a career as a schoolmarm, nurse, secretary or stewardess is just a little to new-fangled for her simple housewifey dreams.

The politicization of the jungle is put in a very stark contrast in this film in comparison to the other Disney films we've watched so far. That is to say, The objectives for each character are so clear that crystal looks like shit in comparison. Everyone in the jungle is out for number one, except for Bagheera and maybe the buzzards at the end. Even Baloo makes it clear that the reason he likes having Mowgli around is mostly selfish. There is no clear hero->hero's sidekick->villain's sidekick-> villain progression. Everyone has the possibility to do good or harm to our little living prop, Mowgli. And that was satisfying to see, even if the end is a bit of a cop-out. The art, as well, is not only low-budget (not Disney's fault) but repetitive (very much Disney's fault).

I'm also willing to forgive a great deal of the lack of female characterization in this film because of the source material. If I had to look at any author in the English language and pick the guy who really HATES women, Good ol' Rudyard has to be near the top of the list. So to a certain extent I forgive that.

You may think a B- a little harsh for this process. Don't get us wrong. It's a great film. It's just there are a lot of these little problems that add up, which keep it from being in the elite level of Disney cinema.

Final Grade: B-

Final Standings:
1.) The Lion King
2.) Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
3.) The Jungle Book
4.) Fun and Fancy Free

I should explain my Lion King/Hamlet biases a little more clearly. It's not that I deny the similarities, or even the potential inspiration of the Bard to this film. My issue is that people take some similarities and force the entire square-peg film into the round-hole of Hamlet. There are some similarities, and I'm sure some of them are intentional. But it is not a top-to-bottom interpretation of Hamlet. It is Hamletish. I apologize for any misconceptions.

Still, it seems as though some fine chap at Disney thought they should continue along similar lines for subsequent films... and so, without further ado, we bring you the smuggled list, obtained under very dangerous and indubitable circumstances:


The Three Noble Caballeros


The Many Adventures of Lear-y the Pooh

Henry V's New Groove

Timon and Pumbaa of Athens

The Mermaid of Venice

Bambi Andronicus

This week, we're taking a look at one of the most iconic films in the Disney lexicon, and one of the more recent. Strap on your safari boots (and, if I were you, get some traveler's checks), its time to go check out:

The Lion King (1994)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 8

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 7

Characters/Characterization + Voice Acting: 8.5

Art Direction/Design: 9

Themes, Archetypes, and Artistic Interpretation: 10

From RM:

It's hard to find fault in this movie. In fact, it took us a long time to find and nitpick stuff that we could have issues with to keep an impartial eye in this project. Especially since this was the first film so directly associated with our childhood. As you can tell by the title, my biggest issue with this film is it's completely bogus comparisons with William Shakespeare's Hamlet, but more on that in a moment.

The Lion King is the story of Simba, the young prince of The Pride Lands, an unspecified territory somewhere in Africa ruled by Mufasa, his father. Mufasa's brother, Scar, was the heir apparent until Simba arrived, and from early on it's clear his goal is to take the throne for himself. Scar succeeds in killing Mufasa, and scares off Simba, who is convinced that it is his fault his father is dead. After hiding away in the jungle for many years, Simba is inspired by a vision of his father to return to Pride Rock, confronting Scar and his past, and assuming his rightful place as King.

This exempts many of the timeless characters, such as Zazu, The Hyenas, and of course, Timon and Pumbaa, who are also invaluable contributors to the film.

The only problems from my reckoning of the film were these: the film has only five original songs, fewer than any of the subsequent musicals Disney created until they stopped making "traditional" musicals, and one of the songs the iconic "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?", isn't really all that necessary and is sung by a disembodied voice rather than an actual character. There are plot and archetype issues as well, but I leave those to my esteemed colleague.

My beef with this film is the "Hamlet" references. Let it go. The Lion King is unique in that it doesn't rely on any particular source material, but rather on a familiar "myth" or story archetype of the prodigal son. Some people have equated this to Hamlet, and it isn't entirely implausible. There are some similarities, including a conniving uncle, an indecisive prince, and two wise-cracking friends. However, those friends are not agents of Scar and are not killed by Simba, Nala doesn't go insane and kill herself, Sarabi doesn't sack up with Scar after Mufasa's death, Zazu has no son named Polonius, and there isn't a Thompson's Gazelle named Fortinbras skipping around. Many more people live at the end of this than Hamlet. And if you say "Well, it's a Disney movie...", this one wasn't afraid to go dark, let me tell you. But I save that for my esteemed colleague.

From Wiry:

You know how The Lion King begins. You can mock-sing those African words with the best of them. And you do get a bit choked up when every animal from aardvark to zebra bows to the befuddled cub we will grow to know and love. While most other Disney movies start slow, gently easing us in, this one commences in sheer confidence. Quasi-African music for Western ears? Okay... Sweepingly beautiful visuals? Drumbeat-title? These are the actions of confident filmmakers. And lucky us for that.

I mentioned the quasi-Africanness of the movie. I think it's important to note the strong distinction between the cultural references here versus, say, Aladdin (yes, I know we haven't gotten to it yet but bear with me). Some might look at Aladdin and see a bunch of negative Arabian stereotypes... but really, what I see is a more parodic Orientalism. In other words, let's do Arabia as Victorians would have seen it, that Arabia that is written about in children's books by people who've never been there. Even the music bears this out - there are traces of influence there, but it's about as Middle Eastern as The Hootchy Kootchy Song. With The Lion King, however, you can tell they're going more for representing Africa as it is (well, except for the whole human being part) - they take great pains to do the natural elements and fauna in ways that, though often still very Western, pay far more respect to the African cultural setting. And it's all very pretty.

I only wish this was the case with the music too, which (unlike the Broadway adaptation) lifts only barely from African music. I actually found myself enjoying Zimmer's instrumental bits from the film more than some of the sung numbers, mostly due to the negligible lyrics and pop sensibility of the latter. Do we really need to feel the love tonight? Especially since this isn't really a love story? I'm not going to bitch too much, but I could have stood for more African, less pop.

I found myself most struck by the themes and archetypes of this movie while watching it this time around. From a more adult perspective, it's easier to see the film as Simba's journey from a spoiled brat to an irresponsible bachelor to a complete, regal (family) man. Marketable as they are, Timon and Pumbaa are not meant to be endorsed - "Hakuna Matata" may be charming, but gnawing roaches all day with your mates can't be a permanent solution to a troubled past. I don't mean to seem pretentious by invoking the stories of King Arthur, Moses, and Joseph, or Henry IV, Richard III, and Hamlet in talking about The Lion King, but it does seem as though they stretched past fairy tales and into an archetypal realm from which many such stories spring. It's quite fascinating, though I think it somewhat carries the danger of predictability. "What Disney movie isn't pretty predictable?" you might ask. A good point to raise, but I'd argue that the taking of an already-established tale and re-envisioning it (as in the fairy tale films) gives more imaginative wiggle-room. The Lion King is grand, but I do feel as though the increased freedom in scripting the film, coupled with several models in mind, actually resulted in some "we know what's going to happen" issues. For example, we know the whole film that Simba wasn't responsible for Mufasa's death, so... all his self-torment isn't all that interesting to watch. And Scar's final reveal at the end is something we've known for a good hour. Not a huge squabble, but there ya go.

Also, I know this is a boy's kind of story (just look at Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat... or don't, whatever), but you know things are bad for female characters in Disney flicks when Nala makes Jasmine look important and interesting by comparison. Yes, Disney has issues with the love interests of its main characters (see also Disney Personality-less Prince Syndrome), but it's especially an issue in this story that's really not about romance for a change. At least they made Rafiki a woman for the Broadway show. And, to close with a question: what IS the deal with Rafiki?

Final Grade: A-

Final Rank:
1.) The Lion King
2.) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
3.) Fun and Fancy Free

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