#NativeNerd Movie Review: Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ is a visually majestic digital masterpiece

Vincent Schilling

The landscape is flawless, the music is fun and nostalgic, and there’s no place for any cynical or speculative adult reasoning, just enjoy it people, Donald Glover and Beyonce’ are in it

I hadn’t planned to see Disney’s The Lion King. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Disney films, or that I am an eye-roller when things are re-done years later by a new director — with a heck of a lot bigger budget — it’s just a movie I really didn’t have on my radar.

So thanks so much to my social media family that asked me to review it. You gave me quite a gift.

I sincerely loved this movie, immediately. Within moments of the beginning of the movie, when the colorful-faced baboon elder holds up the cute sneezing baby lion cub Simba, I was hooked. I might even have (sniff) gotten something in my eye.

That magic Simba moment. Walt Disney Studios

Not five minutes in I was blown away with the detail of digital animation. I literally gasped at how realistic the scurrying of a small African mouse was, or how incredible the detail was when the screen focused closely on the eyes of a character. My amazement continued throughout the movie when seeing the stampede of the wildebeests, rows of zebras running together and nipping at each other’s manes or massive elephants stomping through the lands of Africa.

A scene from The Lion King by Walt Disney Studios.

I was a kid, enjoying something beautiful. The Lion King didn’t hold back.

The movie moved forward, as the voice of James Earl Jones — who played Simba’s Lion father Mufasa — boomed throughout the theater in pure Dolby magic. That alone was worth the price of admission. Jones, by the way, has long asserted his Cherokee heritage. JD McCrary, the young voice of Simba, was a gem. As was the voice of Simba’s playmate Nala, voiced by Shahadi Wright Joseph.

The cast of characters was voiced by such additional greats as Donald Glover as Simba, Beyonce’ as Nala, John Oliver as Zazu the royal consult and hornbill bird, Alfre Woodard as Simba’s mother Sarabi, Seth Rogan as Pumbaa the warthog and Billy Eichner as Timon the meerkat.

Simba, Pumbaa and Timon. Walt Disney Studios

Pumbaa and Timon are of course the duo that sings Hakuna Matata - which means ‘no worries.’

But my admitted four favorite voices outside of the eternally significant James Earl Jones, was Keegan Michael Kay as Kamari and Eric Andre as the hilarious hyena duo that always had something hilarious to say, Florence Kasumba (Michonne of the Walking Dead) as Shenzi the ominous lead hyena and the ever-present Chiwetel Ejiofor as the ominous ill-willed Lion and Simba’s Uncle, Scar.

Scar and his ominous group of Hyenas. Walt Disney Studios

Truth be told, I haven’t read the reviews of The Lion King, though I have heard some reviewers criticized the remake as a movie ‘not needing to be done.’ I disagree. I am never a person that has minded remakes. As a digital editor and videographer as well as a journalist, I understand the desire to change things for the “better” when technology advances itself.

In true Disney fashion, the outcome wasn’t going to be a true mystery. Even if I know what happens because I saw the previous version of The Lion King - for gosh sakes who cares? It would be tantamount to never riding a roller coaster again because you know how the ride is going to end.

Not everything in life is supposed to make the perfect adult sense. Not every animal in this movie would be comfortable going to the same watering hole at the same time. But these same critics also seem to forget something else. Animals don’t speak English or any human language for that matter. Why not just start there?

Walt Disney Studios

Whatever happened to just sitting back and letting yourself be a kid? I really liked this movie. I didn’t care that I knew what was going to happen. I really am proud of myself that I was able to sit back and enjoy an incredibly beautiful movie. And believe me when I say The Lion King was jaw-droppingly beautiful.

It was a fun ride. I enjoyed the people next to me singing the words of the songs. I wish I could remember the words to songs, but it is a skill that has always evaded me. I enjoyed the laughing kids in the other rows who truly seemed to be enjoying it as well.

Thank you, Disney, for letting me be a kid once again.

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Follow the #NativeNerd, Vincent Schilling, associate editor for Indian Country Today on Twitter at @VinceSchilling and on Instagram at @VinceSchilling.

Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com