The Lion King: Release me from these re-releases…

If there is one thing Disney is good at, it’s butchering the re-releases of its movies. And ohh yes, I’m looking at you Star Wars!

Oh that CGI is so in place, and clearly does not come across as an awkward afterthought, or a marketing gimmick to allow the 23rd or whatever it is re-release to offer something new to the consumer at all.

…sarcasm? What is sarcasm? *looks around room innocently*

(I’m kidding of course! Cos as we all know, Star Wars was made totally independently of Disney, and was only retroactively associated with the company after its acquisition many years later.(Noone would ever make that mistake, you say? *cough Pixar cough*) )

In any case, bottom line is that somewhere down the track, Disney started to do this too. I assume because of the Disney vault – an example of artificial scarcity where they sold their most popular movies in short bursts of time then locked them away for many years only to release them again in Platinum versions or Blu-ray versions or Merry Christmas get-a-free-candy-cane-when-you-buy-t… oh I don’t even know. I’d glad that this stupid idea is obsolete now due to torrenting/streaming, but back in the day it had a lot of power.

Oh wait. Actually I lie.

You’ll be pleased to know the latest excuse for a re-release is the new 3D crase which has now claimed the 4 jewels of the Disney Renaissance (incidentally the 4 first excluding The Rescuers Down Under, and also – I believe – the 4 top scorers on Rotten Tomatoes), and has now gone on to sodomise the Pixar canon. *shivers*

And of all these films, one in particular is very different to how I remember it. It has been significantly altered since it was released. Some would say degraded. I would be one of those people.

And so I want to take you back. Wayyy back. To 1994. the year I was born. (man i feel old). It was a great year at the movies. [Insert numerous things that happened in that year]. And right in the middle of it all was pop cultural phenomenon. A cartoon. Called The Lion King. It touched the hearts and minds of all who saw it, and…
…oh good lord this is getting way too cheesy for me.

Anyway the point is that behind the scenes, a constant battle had occured between light fluffy kids fare, and a dark intense adult’s movie. A balance was struck. Some would say perfect, others would say less than, but in any case, it was one that ensured the film’s place within the hall of fame of cinema.

Now over time, bits were added here and there. In particular, one scene was added to the movie. A song sequence in fact. What songs do they have to choose from? Surely everything that needed to be included was, right? The film was perfect in every way, right?

Well did it ever occur to you that the film was song-heavy towards the beginning? In fact, the last song of the film (besides the psuedo-reprise of Circle of Life at the very end) is Hakuna Matata which is performed at the beginning of Act II. But there is actually supposed to be another song which sits between those two number. It sits so perfectly within the narrative that its removal actually leads to song holes in the plot. It is a perfect song that was deleted sue to executive interference no doubt. And I know exactly why.

The reprise to Be Prepared, and the surrounding scene, takes place after Simba has been gone for a while. Scar has assumed control over the Pride Lands, but it is very early days. After having a chat to Zazu (allowed to roam free at this stage) about what to do, he comes to the conclusion that what he needs is a mate – an heir – a dynasty. And so who does he choose? Nala of course. A common thing in the lion world, but to humans? Not so nice. And to kids? Even not-nicer. The lyrics, though incredible, do come across a tad rape-ish, and altogether creepy (penis references re: “my cylinder’s firing with fervor” etc.). After she turns him down, he banishes her from his kingdom, and brings in the hyenas to take over.

Now, after knowing this, doesn’t the latter half of the film just make so much more sense? the more I think about the brilliance of this scene, I also realise its importance and centrality to the film. This is the reason Nala is roaming around when she bumps into Simba. This is how the hyenas take over the Pride Lands. And it also fully reveals Scar for the psychotic, malevolent ruler he is rather than coming across like a bit of a brother-jealous loony.

But alas. It was cut. And in the rereleases it was cut too.

But a song scene was added to the film. Oh yes. I was not lying. Not lying at all. What was it you ask?

Well since you asked so politely, I guess I’ll ahve to tell you. *cries* The scene where Mufasa is teaching Simba how to hunt, using Zazu as bait, is now filled with a pun-heavy ditty about “chimps…going ape” and “giraffes remain[ing] above it all” called The Morning Report. Hardiharhar. Classy…

Granted, it’s lyrically clever. But a step in the wrong direction for me. The Lion King was always a hodgepodge of musical tastes, having to play tug-of-war between the mystical African beats and sounds by Lebo M, both the lyrically-twisted Broadway-style Be Prepared and the Adult Contemporary Can You Feel The Love Tonight penned by Elton John and Tim Rice, and the cheesy de-epicafying little songs known to us mortals as Hakana Matata and I Just Can’t Wait to Be King. (Kind of like The Little Mermaid’s Broadway/reggae blend).

It breaks my heart to see Disney swing for the latter. And it is a very bad sign that they went for the unimportant fluff over the powerful scene.

If it’s any consolation, in the Broadway musical adaption (as I’ve already explained), due to greater creative control, the scene was able to be re-adapted and inserted as The Madness of King Scar, which in my opinion is lesser but still entirely servicable.

So a happy ending, I suppose.

And now I’ll leave you with the biggest wtf moment of 2012 for me:

Way to uphold the legacy of your most prized films. Wow. Just Wow.

It actually reminds me of the Lilo and Stitch commercials. Funny in their own right, and amazing that Disney can take the piss, but even so. Wow…

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