Friday, September 23, 2011

The Lion King

*Spoilers ahead*
 I went out and saw the recent re release of The Lion King in glorious 2D (the first time since I was very small and it was on VHS) and I wanted to impart a few thoughts:

The first opening shots are probably the best in the movie, in particular the shot of the gazelle jumping through the mist onto a puddle of water. It's an immediate reminder of the beauty traditional animation can present. It quickly brought the audience of kids to attention and sucked them in.

The first half hour of the movie was the best part. That's when it felt most adventurous and took itself seriously. But after Simba left his pride and met up with Timon and Pumba, the movie became a little more self-aware (breaking the fourth wall), a little more cheesy, and a bit more light-hearted, much to its detriment. I didn't feel like it had the same amount of weight that the first act had, mostly because of Timon and Pumba. I'm not saying Simba should have had some deep existential crisis for all of the second act, but they could have toned down the kiddiness of it. There was a real sense that the dialogue was beginning to pander to a younger audience and was dumbed down. A lot of the jokes weren't as funny as I remembered them.

A few songs sounded pretty dated (I was cringing when the love song for Nala and Simba came on). But the more musical, choir stuff was still effective. I had a problem with some of the voice acting though. Simba had nice voice actor for when he was a cub, but when he becomes an adult, his voice sounds like a typical, generic Disney lead. There was no individuality to it and it's immediately forgettable, unlike his father's awesome baritone. I also didn't like Timon's voice. It was so grating and out of place.

Not this
I still think killing Mufasa was a ballsy move and added much needed weight to the film. Andreas Deja, who did a lot of the animation for Scar, did a really good job as well. Some of the animation for Nala was pretty good too, like the scene where her mom is giving her a bath.

Good, solid animation.
One of my favorite shots

I just wish the film was more Miyazaki than Hollywood. I don't think it needed the musical numbers or the one-liners or a second act with two annoying side-kicks making fart jokes. When the opening title comes on screen, it implies an epic adventure. Toning it down in the second act really undermined what I felt it was originally going for and, in turn, undermined the intensity of the third act (having Timon and Pumba help Simba fight off hyenas definitely didn't help). 

What is this doing in the epic final action piece?

But that said, it's still a joy to watch traditional animation on the screen. I still feel like there's more of a sense of honesty in the eyes when they're drawn than with CG. Hopefully with the complete domination of the box office this re release has had, Disney will take a cue and put on track more hand-drawn features. With today's technology, they should be easier and cheaper to make then ever. The audience doesn't care if it's drawn or CG as long as it's appealing and has a good story (more so appealing. Audiences can shell out for some pretty badly told stories. But if it's ugly? Well, just look at Mars Needs Moms). With the cheaper price, Disney should be OK letting directors have more personal visions and take greater risks. Not every animated film has to be the biggest thing ever. Can't we have some smaller stories and settings? Where's the US version of Kiki's Delivery Service or Totoro?

Ugly as hell. No one went to see this movie.

Anyways, so yeah, The Lion King is a bit overrated, but if its box office is any indicator, traditional feature animation isn't completely dead to US audiences (whew!).

No comments: