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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Lion King is considered one of Disney's greatest animated musicals, but it does have some scary moments. The most disturbing violence is the death of Simba's father, Mufasa, by a stampede of wildebeests. The bloodthirsty hyenas, who scavenge for food and threaten Simba and his friends, are also frightening. But despite a few sad sequences and a few evil characters, the overall message is one of hope, love, and family responsibility. Note: The movie's 2011 theatrical rerelease is in 3D, which adds to the intensity of the more frightening scenes.
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What's the story?
THE LION KING is the story of Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a child and Matthew Broderick as an adult), the cub of Mufasa (James Earl Jones), the king of the jungle. Simba "just can't wait to be king." But his evil Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons), bitterly jealous of Mufasa, wants to be king, so he arranges for Mufasa to be killed in a stampede and makes Simba think he's responsible. Simba runs away and finds friends in Pumbaa the warthog (Ernie Sabella) and Timon the meerkat (Nathan Lane), who advise him that the best philosophy is "hakuna matata" (no worries). Simba grows up thinking that he has escaped his past, but his childhood friend Nala finds him and tells him that, under Scar's leadership, the tribe has suffered badly.
Is it any good?
One of Disney's biggest hits, this excellent film has echoes of Shakespeare, bringing to mind the plots of both Richard III and Hamlet. The Lion King was not just a movie but a marketing phenomenon: This blockbuster was the highest grossing film of 1994. Of course kids won't know -- or care -- about that; they'll just be enthralled by the memorable songs and great characters.
The scene in which cub Simba's father, Mufasa, is trampled to death, is both sad and genuinely scary. And some of the fights between animals later in the movie can be frightening as well. But the lesson Simba learns -- that you have to stand up to your problems instead of running away from them -- is a solid one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about facing your problems instead of running from them as Simba does in The Lion King. Why doesn't the idea of "hakuna matata" or "no worries" always work? Can anyone get through life without a little worry and conflict?
Talk about the violence and scariness in this movie. What was the most disturbing part? How would the movie be different without the intense moments? How did music and other factors contribute to the intense scenes?
- In theaters: June 15, 1994
- On DVD or streaming: October 4, 2011
- Cast: Ernie Sabella, Jeremy Irons, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane
- Directors: Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, Music and Sing-Along, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Courage, Humility, Perseverance
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award, Golden Globe
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.