This article was written by Rebekah Brannan as part of the Breening Thursdays series.
To start off a New Year of Breening Thursdays, I am going to breen another Disney Renaissance classic, 1994’s The Lion King. This animal retelling of the timeless story Hamlet has been a family favorite since its initial release, with some calling it the best of the Disney Renaissance films. However, even with its lovable lions and wily meerkats, it would not be considered acceptable for the entire family by the office of the PCA. While the moral of learning from your past and not running away from responsibility is a good one, this film is filled with unnecessary content such as vulgarity and violence. Unlike The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mulan, this film does not have serious problems at its core. Today, I will show how, with the elimination of some unnecessary surface problems, this film could have been made under the Code. Now, the lights dim, the theater hushes, and the screen come to life! Now, “can you feel the love tonight,” because here comes The Lion King!
- The first problem occurs in the opening song, “The Circle of Life.” While the song itself is alright, it has a rock beat to it. It is alright to have a beat, since the film is set in Africa, but it must sound decidedly ethnic, not like rock and roll.
- The second problem, which is one of the most serious in the story, is the characterization of the villain, Scar. The character’s movements, tone, and lines have a slight pansy flavor at times. While he may be cool and sarcastic, he must not seem effeminate at all.
- The next problem occurs when Zazu, Mufasa’s hornbill majordomo, visits Scar to demand knowing why he didn’t attend Simba’s presentation. Zazu causes Scar to lose the mouse he planned to eat, so Scar grabs the bird instead. Thankfully, Mufasa arrives and orders Scar to drop him. Scar spits him out in a ball of saliva. This is disgusting and must be changed. Scar may grab Zazu and spit him out, but no saliva should be shown.
- In the same scene, when Zazu is reprimanding Scar for not attending Simba’s presentation, he spits slightly as he talks. This is vulgar and should be eliminated.
- Later in the scene, when Mufasa reminds Scar that Simba is his future king, Scar replies, “Oh, I shall practice my curtsy.” This adds to the slight pansy flavor of the character and must be changed. Instead, he could sarcastically say, “I shall practice my bow.”
- The next problem occurs during the song, “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.” In the middle of the song, Simba and Nala are mocking Zazu, taking turns imitating him and making rude faces behind his back. The face-making is disrespectful and vulgar; it should be removed.
- Later in the song, when Zazu is not looking where he’s flying, he gets flattened against a rhinoceros’s posterior. This is unacceptable and should be changed. Instead, he should run into the rhino’s side.
- Later in the song, Simba and Nala walk through two rows of zebras with a spotlight on them. However, when Zazu follows them through, the zebra’s turn their backs on him, snapping their tails upright. This looks vulgar and should be eliminated.
- Later in the song, Simba sings, “Everybody look left,” and the crowd of animals runs to the right; then he sings, “Everybody look right,” and they go to the left. Although it does look opposite from the audience’s vantage point, by using any amount of intelligence, one can see it’s wrong. This is insulting to the viewers’ intelligence. A clever way to fix this problem would be to have Zazu, who is getting trampled under the animals’ feet, exclaim, “Other left!” and “Other right!”
- Later, when Simba and Nala venture into an elephant’s graveyard, they encounter a huge elephant skull. Nala morbidly says, “I wonder if its brains are still in there.” This is grotesque and must be removed. Instead, she should say, “I wonder what it looks like inside.”
- This same scene introduces the evil hyena trio, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. Ed has staring, goggle eyes and communicates only through hysterical laughter. This character is entirely too moronic and could be frightening to young children. His eyes should be made normal, like the other hyenas’, and his laughter should be made less moronic.
- Later in the scene, when the hyenas are chasing the two lion cubs, Simba scratches one of them in the face, making three red slashes on its cheek. The slashes are too violent and must be toned down. There should be three slash marks in its fur, revealing the skin beneath, but no blood should be shown.
- At the beginning of the next scene, Banzai complains about the wounds he got in the fight with Mufasa, saying, “That lousy Mufasa! I won’t be able to sit for a week.” The italicized word is a forbidden expression and must be changed. Instead, he should say something like rotten or crummy.
- Later, Shenzi and Banzai express how much they hate lions, calling them pushy, hairy, stinky, and ugly. The mention of lions’ odor is vulgar and should be eliminated.
- Throughout this scene, the hyenas slobber excessively. This is vulgar and must be toned down. When they are fighting, no slobbering is necessary. When they are begging for food, they should merely lick their chops and let their tongues hang out of their mouths.
- Scar brings the hyenas a leg which is quite plainly from a zebra. This is rather grotesque and must be changed. The leg should merely be plain meat which does not have a pattern suggesting any particular animal. Also, they should not be shown sucking it up with such relish while they talk. They must eat tastefully offscreen, and they should not talk with their mouths full.
- In the song, “Be Prepared,” Scar sings the lyric, “I know that your powers of retention are as wet as a warthog’s backside.” The italicized part of the lyric is unacceptable and must be changed. Instead, he should sing something like, “Are as little as I can abide.”
- In the break between verses of the song, when Scar tells the hyenas his plan to kill the king, they emerge from a pile of bones wearing skulls over their heads. This is unacceptable and must be eliminated.
- Later in the song, while singing along with scar, the hyena trio are shown from the back doing kooch action (excessive hip movement). This is unacceptable and must be eliminated.
- Later in the song, two hyenas shake a couple of animal skeletons in their mouths until they fall to pieces. This is unacceptable and must be eliminated.
- Later, when the hyenas are chasing Simba, Banzai follows him into a bramble and comes out full of thorns. When he tries to tell Shenzi they have to finish off Simba regardless, she replies that she’s not going into that bramble, saying, “You want me to come out looking like you, cactus –?” The dash represents a vulgar word for posterior. This vulgar nickname must be eliminated from the line. Also, as Banzai is pulling out the thorns, there should not be such a concentrated amount of them in his posterior.
- When Banzai pulls out some of the thorns and spits them out, they stick on Ed’s nose. This is violent and unnecessary and should be removed.
- Later, Timon and Pumbaa are shown for the first time when they save Simba from vultures. When Timon gets a look at his face and sees what kind of an animal he is, he exclaims, “Jeez, it’s a lion!” The italicized word is a forbidden expression and must be replaced with an acceptable expression like gee.
- Later in the scene, after Timon and Pumbaa decide to keep Simba, Timon says, “Jeez, I’m fried! Let’s get out of here and find some shade.” The italicized word must, once again, be changed to an acceptable expression.
- In the next scene, when Timon and Pumbaa are trying to cheer up Simba, Pumbaa says, “You know, kid, in times like this, my buddy Timon here says, ‘You got to put your behind in your past.’” His incorrect phrasing of this expression is inappropriate and must be changed. Instead, he should say something like, “You got to put your past in front of you.”
- The song, “Hakuna Matata,” contains a questionable message about just looking out for yourself and having fun while others might need help. Although Simba does eventually realize that this is wrong and face up to his responsibility, the message is not strong enough. At the end, a moment should be taken for Timon and Pumbaa to tell Simba that they’ve been wrong, and you can’t go around saying “Hakuna Matata” while the world is suffering.
- Later in the song, the two friends tell Simba Pumbaa’s vulgar backstory. This section of the song is completely unacceptable and must either be eliminated or entirely re-written.
- Later, during a brief break in the song, Timon and Pumbaa introduce Simba to his new home, and Pumbaa says, “Home is where your rump rests.” This is vulgar and must be changed. Instead, he should say something like, “Home is where you rest your feet.”
- Later in this scene, Pumbaa burps rudely and says, “I’m starved.” The burp is vulgar and must be removed.
- During this break in the song, Timon and Pumbaa introduce Simba to their diet by slurping up live bugs with relish. This scene is disgusting and unnecessary. It must be eliminated.
- In the next scene, when Zazu and Scar are singing a song about coconuts, Scar picks up a skull and opens and shuts its mouth as if it’s singing along. This should be removed.
- The next scene starts with a beautiful shot of the scenery of Simba’s new home. Suddenly, the peaceful atmosphere is interrupted by a rude burp, and the three friends are shown saying how full they are from dinner. The burp should be removed.
- In this same scene, the friends begin discussing what they think stars are. Pumbaa says, “I always thought they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.” Timon sarcastically replies, “Pumbaa, with you everything’s gas.” This response is vulgar and must be changed. Instead he should say something like, “Come on, Pumbaa. That’s ridiculous.”
- When Simba says someone once told him the great kings of the past watch over them from up there, Timon splutters incredulously. The splutter is rather vulgar and should be toned down.
- Later, when Nala appears and chases Pumbaa, he yells, “She’s going to eat me!” As he says this, he spits slightly. This is vulgar and should be eliminated.
- In this same scene, as Timon tries to save Pumbaa from the fierce lioness, he exclaims, “Jeez, why do I always have to save your….” He cuts off as Nala advances on him ferociously. The italicized word must be changed to something like gee.
- When Nala says Simba is the king, Timon splutters again. This splutter is quite vulgar and must be toned down.
- When Simba and Nala begin to show romantic feelings for each other, Timon jealously says, “I tell you, Pumba, this stinks.” Pumbaa ashamedly says, “Oh, sorry.” Timon replies, “Not you. Them!” This is vulgar and must be changed. Instead, Pumbaa should just say, “What?” Timon should then reply, “Them!”
- During the song, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” Simba and Nala roll down a hill together, landing lying down with him on top of her. This is suggestive and must be changed. Instead, they should run down the hill side by side and sit next to each other in the grass.
- Later, when Simba meets Rafiki, the wise monkey attempts to teach him a lesson about forgetting the past. As part of this lesson, he hits him over the head with his staff, and Simba exclaims, “Ow! Jeez! What was that for?” Once again, the italicized expression must be changed.
- Later, when Simba, Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa return to Pride Rock and plot how to get past the hyenas, Simba says he needs his pals to distract them while he and Nala sneak past. Timon incredulously asks, “What do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?!” The expression dressing in drag is unacceptable and should be eliminated. Instead, he should say something like, “What do you want me to do, wear a grass skirt and do the hula?!”
- When Simba fights Scar for his kingdom, Scar repeats the tactic he used on Mufasa, grabbing Simba’s paws with his own as he dangles off the edge of a cliff. While it was acceptable with Mufasa, it is too violent with Simba. It should be shot from a different vantage point, and no blood should be shown.
- In this same scene, as the hyenas attack Simba, Timon and Pumbaa plow through them, with Timon shouting, “Excuse me! Pardon me! Comin’ through! Hot stuff!” The italicized part of the line should be eliminated.
This concludes my breening of The Lion King. As always, with the removal of forty-three points, most of them merely surface points, this could have truly been an entirely acceptable film for the entire film. It is unfortunate that a film like this one, which is entertaining as well as having a good message at its core, was spoiled by these problems. Things such as the pansy flavor of Scar and the anti-responsibility message of one of the film’s most famous songs make this movie potentially dangerous for the young people who grow up watching it. Once again, I have no intention of upsetting anyone’s childhood memories of this film or telling anyone not to watch it. I merely wish to illustrate the potentially disturbing or dangerous elements in this film. Thank you for joining me in this breening journey! I’ll see you next time!
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