Film Follies, How Have You Not Seen That?

How Have You Not Seen That?- The Lion King

It’s not often you get an animated adaptation of Hamlet, let alone one that features talking animals on the plains of Africa. But with 1994’s The Lion King, Disney did exactly that and in the process made one of their best films ever. Obviously, The Lion King is not a straight-up adaptation of Shakespeare’s legendary (but not quite family-friendly) tragedy but the film certainly owes most of its characters and its basic plot structure to the Bard’s melancholy prince. When the greatest playwright in the world (posthumously) teams up with the most influential animation studio in history, it is certainly worthy of your attention. When they produce a cultural sensation like the Lion King and you ignore it you can bet someone is going to ask you the question How Have you Not Seen That?
Now I will remind you that this is early-nineties Disney. Quite possibly the era with studio’s greatest run of hits. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas. And smack dab in the middle of all of those hits: The Lion King. And while you can argue about which of those is the best or your personal favorite there is no doubt that out of all of those films The Lion King had the most all-around impressive voice cast. Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cheech Marin amongst others. And of course, James Earl Jones who brought with him perhaps the most impressive voice in all of cinema history. (Sorry Morgan Freeman, but you’re no Vader) Combine that with music from Hans Zimmer and Elton John? I mean if that doesn’t make for the best sound you’ve ever heard in a full length animated movie I’d love to hear what you think is better.
After 1994 there wasn’t a child in America who didn’t know the works to Hakuna Matata. And every new age crystal shop owner you knew wouldn’t stop talking about the Circle of Life. This film along with our previous entry Toy Story have been shaping childhoods since they premiered about a year apart. The film was so popular that is spawned a Broadway adaptation which is now the third longest running show in Broadway history. And because we live in the era of nostalgia Disney plans to release a live-action version of the Lion King sometime in 2019.
The American Film Institute called it the fourth-best animated film in American film history and magazines Time and Empire both rank it high it on their greatest films ever listings. It won Oscars and golden globes and secured itself a spot on the National Film Registry. There can be no doubt that if you make it into your teen years without having seen this film you will have missed out on a cultural touchstone the rest of the globe is firmly connected to. So before someone can say How Have You Not Seen That? go watch this enduring piece of all our childhoods.

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