The Lion King: A Retelling of Hamlet

Zarlacht Atiqzoy
March 15, 2011

Disney animations are synonymous with childhood memories. Well, for most of us anyway. Many of us can remember exactly where we were when we first watched Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, and Aladdin... just to name a few. For me personally, this was when I'd take my kid sister to the movie theater and share popcorn, then we'd cry at the end together. We'd play the soundtracks over and over again, and sing the movie lyrics for several months afterward (or in our case, sometimes years).

The Lion King was especially heartening to watch and experience on the big screen, mostly for the incredible music composed by Elton John.  Remember "Circle of Life," anyone? Oh, it makes me tear just thinking about the animals bowing down honoring the birth of the new "king." And let's not kid ourselves -- even I find myself still saying "Hakuna Matata" when I'm wishing for a better day.

More than the memorable music and catchy phrases, it is the classic plot, conflict, climax and resolution that we are drawn into -- story elements similar to those that date back more than 400 years ago to none other than the great William Shakespeare and his play Hamlet.

Although The Lion King was directed for the minds of today (okay, the '90s), we are still moved by the playful animals on screen (cute cubs, funny hog, and scary-looking hyenas) mimicking characters of the Danish royal castle. Both princes experience the loss of a father at the hands of an uncle and struggle with their guilt and sadness. The ghost of their fathers appear to both, urging them to take back what is rightfully theirs: title to the throne.

No doubt, the production of The Lion King has touched chords with millions; Disney's viewers have ranked it first on its "Best Animated Disney Movie" list.

We first watched The Lion King together with our preschoolers, and they had a handful of questions and wonder while watching the events unravel: Why is Scar so mean? Why wasn't Mufasa saved from the stampede? What does revenge mean? Why did Simba run away?

And just as many great literature studies followed Hamlet, critiquing and analyzing Shakepeare's work, so too can families talk together while watching The Lion King -- in understanding life and death, honor and betrayal, courage and inner struggle, and much more.

And although the endings veer in different directions, it is the original tragedy and characters that have influenced the animal kingdom of Pride Land. A retelling for the younger generation, if you will.


From the Parents

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