Music in The Lion King Animated Films
Music plays a particularly important role in the films released by Disney studios. The first animated film from The Lion King series was released in 1994. Nowadays, the animated film is considered classics. Furthermore, The Lion King is often referred to as one of the most exquisite works ever released by Disney studios. The Lion King and The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride should both be understood as allegorical films. In this respect, one cannot help but admit that music is the essential part of both films under consideration. Music in animated films creates a fuller and a more vivid vision of the African savanna. The Lion King is a story of coming of age. The Lion King II, in a certain way, is more complex, for in the animated film the story of the main character’s coming of age is coupled with the motif of generation gap, child-parent relationship, romance, and responsibilities that come when one proceeds from childhood to adolescence and from adolescence to adulthood. The problems addressed in the first Lion King film, on the other hand, are more of ethical nature. Simba, who the viewers meet as a lion cub, is the main character of the first film of the Lion King series and one of the central characters in the second film. Evidently, music in both films correlates very accurately with the development of Simba.
The Lion King animated film was released by Disney studios in 1994. The film was directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. As it has been stated previously, the film is a story of the film’s main character’s coming of age. The main character in the first film of the Lion King series is Simba, a lion cub who loses his father and, deceived by his uncle, escapes into the wild. Simba’s father, Mufasa, is the beloved king ruling over all life within the borders of the territory called the Pride Lands. The Pride Lands are a picturesque land, presumably located in the very heart of Africa. The beauty of the Pride Lands as well as the beauty and uniqueness of the species inhabiting them is quite harmoniously and accurately reflected in the film’s opening theme, a song called “Circle of Life”. King Mufasa introduces his son, Simba, to the scheme of things, the laws that all life forms live by in Africa. Mufasa shows his son that all life forms are connected. Predators and preys, carnivorous, omnivorous, herbivorous, nocturnal, diurnal – all living organisms are important, being the integral parts of the system that on its own is perfectly harmonious and stable unless disturbed by civilization.
Considering the lyrics, the song “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” reveals how excited Simba gets when he learns that someday, there is going to come a time when he will be ruling over the Pride Lands. At the same time, in this very song his father’s counselor and assistant Zazu, a red-billed hornbill, gives Simba a note of warning. “Be Prepared” is a song that tells of terrible things that Mufasa’s brother and Simba’s uncle Scar is plotting. Scar wants to destroy Mufasa and take the rule over the Pride Lands. Scar seeks help from hyenas. As Scar’s plan is being put into action, Mufasa gets killed in front of Simba. Scar manages to convince Simba that the only way for Simba to escape lynching is to leave the pride and get to the wild.
When in the wild, Simba meets Pumbaa, the warthog, and Timon, the meerkat. Timon and Pumbaa feed on worms and insects. What is even more peculiar about Pumbaa and Timon is that the two live a trouble-free life since there is no way to change the past or fix it, anyway. Thus, the two friends thought why one should bother at all? For many generations of children and adults the song “Hakuna Matata” will relate to those particular characters, Timon, the meerkat, and Pumbaa, the warthog. “Hakuna Matata” represents Timon and Pumbaa’s “trouble-free philosophy” and, basically, everything that the two friends believe in. Another song which is the film’s calling card and is associated Pumbaa and Timon is the song called “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, originally performed by The Tokens.
“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is a song originally performed by Elton John. In the animated film, the song used creates an appropriate background, some sort of framing, of Simba’s reunion with his childhood companion, a lioness named Nala. The song is used to show how promises, love, and commitment can make one more responsible, caring, and courageous. Seeing each other brings back some fond memories for both Simba and Nala. Nala urges Simba to stand by his oath, go back to the Pride Lands, and fight for his homeland, for it lies in ruin. Mufasa’s spirit appears in the night skies after Nala and Simba have a fight, and Simba escapes. Mufasa says Simba forgot who he was, his family, and where they all came from. Simba meets Rafiki, a mandrill and a shaman. Rafiki reminds Simba of the old days and, again, of the fact that the real king of the Pride Rock is not Scar, but Simba. When Simba sees his own reflection in the water, he realizes how much he looks like his father. Simba decides to take back the Pride Rock and the Pride Lands that are rightfully his and his kin.
There is no point in denying the fact that what happens next in the film represents what happens in nature. Simba is young and strong. Clearly, he needs to finds a group of lions to join. In reality, in cases like that a fight between the leader of the pride and the newcomer is inevitable. Scar, Simba’s uncle, has grown older and weaker, but no less vile or villainous. In addition to that, no one knows the truth, including Simba himself, about how Mufasa died.
The rest of the songs in the animated film are mainly instrumental, expressive, and ominous. It has to be pointed out that the music that accompanies the final episodes of The Lion King accord with the general tones of the episodes themselves. Simba and Scar wager of battle. With the help of Pumbaa, Timon, Nala, and the rest of the pride, Simba has his vengeance. The hyenas are banished from the Pride Lands. The Pride Lands are in full blossom again. Simba and Nala get together. The circle of life makes another turn as Simba and Nala are blessed with a beautiful daughter, Kiara.
With quite a few exceptions, most of the music for The Lion King was composed by Hans Zimmer. All in all, the music makes the film a coherent hole. The story as such, music and visual solutions match one another perfectly. Critics are inclined to think that films like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Tarzan, and The Lion King are connected with the revival of the interest in screen musicals. Particularly, along with Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King is one of the animated films, screen musicals which were later adapted for stage.
Some critics have presumed that the first film of the Lion King series can be viewed as an attempt to artistically reconsider, and very much in an allegorical way, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, clearly and admittedly, from a different perspective. There are some critics who state that The Lion King is based on Osamu Tezuka’s series Kimba, the White Lion. Assuming that the foregoing statement is correct, a conclusion can be made that there is another work by William Shakespeare that The Lion King alludes to, namely, Richard III.
In addition, some scholars claim that The Lion King reinforces some social and racial stereotypes by means of the “formulaic voices and visuals” that are, in fact, “an obvious instance”. For example, “raw, masculine strength” in the film is portrayed as a positive force. With regard to this, it has to be pointed out that encounter with Scar has a more serious impact on the formation of Simba’s identity if compared to Simba’s relationship with his father, who is the incarnation of wisdom, fairness, patience, and righteousness. Apart from that, in the Lion King, the idea of the “supremacy of the strong” is claimed to be natural. Therefore, the idea mentioned above is emphasized in the film. Building on that, the assumption can be made that the principle of supremacy of the strong applies both to the animal kingdom and the human society. Certainly, that scheme does not work in civilized communities. As far as the social implications of The Lion King are concerned, it has to be pointed out that films such as the ones that are being analyzed can be used in class, for it is tutor’s mission to motivate students “to take their place in the circle of life”.
It goes without saying that in The Lion King race and class issues are depicted in an allegorical way. With this in mind, a conclusion can be made that the Pride Lands can be viewed as a fictional and metaphorical representation of literary any country in which the capitalist way of life is being promoted. Furthermore, it is possible to presume that The Lion King transcends the limits of time and space (as well as those imposed on it by the laws of the genre and the expressive means employed). In this respect, Scar and the hyenas represent the principle of historicism, while Mufasa, Simba, and their kin represent the so-called “circle of life”. With that vision in mind, it is possible to arrive at a conclusion that hierarchy, law, and order take a form of a social metaphor in the animated film as well. All in all, Africa in The Lion King is portrayed as a “site of history and ongoing struggle”. Lastly, the friendship between Simba, Pumbaa, and Timon (the species, any kind of the connection between which would otherwise be unlikely) represents how different social classes can interact for mutual benefit.
The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride was released by Disney studios in 1998. The animated film was directed by Darrell Rooney and Rob LaDuca. As far as the music accompaniment is concerned, it has to be pointed out that it is less diverse in terms of the variety of genres and styles compared to The Lion King film. Music for The Lion King II was written by Nick Glennie-Smith. Like in the first part of the Lion King series of animated films, the songs featured in The Lion King II serve the purpose of giving insight into the characters’ traits, their ambitions, and relations between them. “He Lives in You” can be viewed as Simba’s reminiscence of his own father. It is the song that in a nearly artistically perfect way reflects on the problems of the generation gap and relations between generations as such.
“We Are One” is a sort of conversation between Simba and Kiara. As Simba’s daughter, Kiara has so much of her father. She has disobeyed, walking so far from the Pride Rock. Kiara’s father, who is now the king of the Pride Lands, has to teach her a lesson. Simba has to point to his daughter the seriousness of what she has done. At the same time, Simba urges his daughter to consider the importance of the future that lies before her. Simba points out to Kiara that there is going to come a time some day when she will rule the Pride Lands. Simba’s parental feelings outweigh the need to edify. Each of the aspects mentioned above result in a song called “We Are One”.
“One of Us” gives an insight into the atmosphere in which Kovu, son of Zira and Scar, is being raised. Ominous, cruel, filled with nothing but vanity, he is only a shadow of real love that all children should receive from their parents. Kovu and Kiara form a connection of romantic nature, of which their parents do not approve. Fixing Kovu up with Kiara is a part of Zira’s plan to take back the Pride Rock and to avenge on Simba and his kin for Scar’s death. By and large, the rest of the songs that feature in the Lion King II serve the purpose of presenting and proving the idea that kindness and love are stronger than vanity, malice, and treacherousness.
Taking all the facts mentioned above into account, an assumption can be made that The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride was inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette. Assuming that this statement is correct, the similarities between Shakespeare’s work and the animated film being analyzed are self-explanatory. The Lion King II is more of a romantic story. Music that features in the film is, therefore, sweeter, softer, tenderer, and more melodic if compared to the music from the first part of the animated film series. Given that, one may arrive at conclusion that music in the second part of the Lion King series is less versatile but more homogenous, contributing to the wholeness of the piece itself.
The Lion King and The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride have very much in common in terms of stylistics even though they were directed by different directors and different composers wrote music for the animated films. Both pieces abound with “prosocial concerns that provide important lessons about life in community”. On the one hand, both films have received a great deal of positive and negative feedbacks from critics and audience alike. Particularly, some scholars claim that both films under consideration contain messages that upon a more careful investigation may seem to contribute to the spread of gender and racial prejudices. The assumption stated above makes sense. On the other hand, the evidence (mostly, the lyrics of the songs in the films) does prove that although the films are a product of mass culture, the mechanisms of manipulating human consciousness either were not used or can barely be detected.
Taking all the aforementioned facts into consideration, the following conclusions can be made. The two animated films under analysis, namely, The Lion King and The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, are the products of the entertainment industry, which can probably be taken as another plausible explanation why music plays such an important role in the film. Evidently, there are both minor and major characters, all of which, however, play a crucial role in the outcome of the story. The works by the icons of popular music such as Elton John and The Tokens have been perfectly incorporated in the stylistic canvas of the film to complement the original film score. Music is of great importance when it comes to the characters development, mainly because both pieces analyzed refer to the theme of coming of age. Music is also used to intensify the overall impression from the animated films. Judging from the volumes of information available online, the animated films received wide media coverage. Both works take special place among other released by Disney studios, such as, for example, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. In case of films being analyzed, respective film scores play unprecedentedly crucial role in terms of setting the scene and illustrating relations between the characters. Specifically, music accompanies the characters’ actions and, at the same time, it servers the purpose of showing their feelings to the audience. By and large, music in the animated films The Lion King and The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride makes the story clearer and thus easier for the audience to understand.
The animated films have a rather ramified structure, for all characters are well-developed. Hence, in each film, there are many subplots, each associated with a string of specific themes and motives. Simba, the lion king himself, is the protagonist of both animated films. The record shows that he has managed to pass on many of his qualities to his daughter Kiara, such as, for example, resilience, kindness, friendliness, and independence. Each quality mentioned above is reflected in the songs that feature in the films being analyzed.
All things considered, music humanizes the characters of the animated films. In addition, respective film scores are crucial in terms of building up suspense and tuning up the audience. The effect is achieved through the use of unusual harmonies, fluctuation of timbre and tempo. Lastly, respective film scores manage to represent the qualities of certain places with an utmost of accuracy.