So you’re a big animation studio – THE big animation studio. You’re in danger of falling out of vogue forever by virtue of technological advances in computer animation, and out-bounded by some of Pixar’s braver creative leaps. You’ve rinsed the DVD market with straight-to-retail sequels, prequels and threequels (Aladdin Trilogy? Really?). What’s left to do?
Well you COULD make a go of what you were good at in the first place, and chalk recent failings up to “an off decade”. Or safer yet, just re-release your greatest hits at the cinema again! In … I’ve got it! 3D!
For me, this culminated today with me going to see The Lion King 3D. Now I have no problem with saying it’s one of my favourite Disney movies ever, but in recent years I’m really not sure quite WHY. There is something about it for sure, but is it being propped up by childhood nostalgia in the same way I still think of Short Circuit as a viable option for a DVD purchase?
Well let’s focus on the good. The songs are still largely great (though I never really liked Hakuna Matata) even though either the sound system in the cinema was broken or the soundtrack was not beefed up enough. The story is pacy enough to keep everyone interested. It also takes us back to the pre-Shrek days when you could just have nice jokes based around food chains or grubs or whatever, without this self-referential humour and abundant “twists on the old classics”.
It’s the first time in a while I’ve really had to give the film my full attention, and now I realise that there isn’t really a strong lead. Simba is the de-facto main character, but only really has a passive participation in the storyline, a pawn for Scar (who eventually ends up undoing his own scheme with little involvement from Simba). Timon and Pumbah add a bit of comic relief in theory (Timon never really did it for me). Maybe the titular King is really Mufasa, the only one who really owns his role, even from beyond the grave.
One thing also bugged me, this whole circle of life idea just about works as a principle, but grass just sort of happens. I think if the lions never died, the grass would still grow. Maybe this is an issue with African education too big to fully explore here.
Most baffling though is the addition of 3D to a 2D hand-drawn movie. It really added nothing to the movie at all, apart from £1.30 to the ticket price and an excuse for Disney to re-release it (and the 3D Blu-Ray naturally). And so the circle of life continues …