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Sunday, November 08, 2020

Bah-tuna Meh-kaka

I finally watched The Lion King today, expecting greatness given the film's position on many best-of lists. But the film left me cold. I felt nothing for any of the characters except mild annoyance, the music left me unmoved when it wasn't actively annoying me, and I felt the story was not only generic but told in the laziest possible way. 

I didn't always feel this way about Disney films with singing, dancing, and talking animals: I remember enjoying Lady and the Tramp and Robin Hood back in the 70s. Therefore, I don't think it's my general indifference to animals* that's affecting my enjoyment. And it's not as if there's anything wrong with the animation, the screenplay, the music, the editing, the performances, or any of the other factors so important to film. I recognize the artistry and competence of the creators. 

Sometimes a film clicks for you, sometimes it doesn't, I guess. Hakuna matata, as they say. 

*By "indifference," I mean that I feel no particular affection for animals in general. However, nor do I wish them harm, and I recognize that not only are they vital to our ecosystem, they also deserve respect as living creatures for their own sake.

And yet, for reasons I don't understand, I simply don't feel the emotional bonds that most people form with animals, no matter how cute those animals may be. I feel a lot of guilt about this and I've spent my life trying to change it, but that fundamental bit of humanity just seems to be missing in me.  


Jeff Shyluk said...

It would be interesting to go back and see where you stopped enjoying stories about animals. Speaking as an amateur Disney historian, I'll make mention that Walt Disney built his film empire on animals, lost it, and built it again on slightly different animals. Animals make for interesting analogues to humans, but in many ways they are easier to draw than people once you get the knack. Or at least you can cheat drawing animals more than you can humans. Not that there was much of that in The Lion King, they pulled out all the stops for that one.

In the same way, music makes animation easier because you can time keyframes to predictable beats. Plus, people like music and they like animals. Maybe audiences were trained this way because Disney films tend to be spectacular and memorable, or maybe audience preferences brought animated animal musicals to the fore. Probably both factors combined with negative effect regarding the extreme effort it would take to mount a live-action animal musical without the use of pre-arranged electric shocks.

When The Lion King was released I wasn't happy with it either, but over time I've come to enjoy it and rate it as one of the better Disney films. It capped off a tremendous run of production that began with The Little Mermaid. I consider subsequent Pocahontas to have some of Disney's best character work and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame to have the most sophisticated line animation Disney ever created, but those films lack the creative spark that illuminated the earlier pre-Pixar shows. And then after that: Pixar! Don't get me started on Pixar.

Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

Fair points, well made, with integrity and transparency. This review encapsulates the reason I have stopped encouraging you to read The Lord of The Rings...