Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hamlet, the Lion King

         In looking for appropriations of Shakespeare, I stumbled across an article claiming that Disney's The Lion King was actually an adaptation of Hamlet. At first, I was disbelieving. Having seen the children's movie many times when I was younger and again quite recently, I had never picked up on any Hamlet references. However, after I read the article, the similarities became apparent. For example, the parallel between Shakespeare's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and the silly, goofy Timon and Pumbaa. As a child, there is no way that I would have picked up on that link, and even having read Hamlet and seen the movie again, I missed it. This is partly because the characters do not function in the same way--Timon and Pumbaa are not employed by Scar to gauge Simba's mental state--but also because I don't look for Shakespeare in everything I read and watch.
         Other similarities, and more obvious ones, include the ousting of Mufasa by Scar, the jealous uncle, and scene in which Mufasa speaks to Simba via a ghostly cloud. In this way, The Lion King is more like Hamlet; however, the ending is obviously "Disney-fied." The movie doesn't end with all the characters lying dead, but rather with a happy ending fit for a children's movie. In this way, Disney has adapted some but not all of Hamlet, using elements that make for a good story, but creating things that make for a good ending.
         Having had The Lion King's secret story pointed out in this way makes me curious to know how many other innocuous Disney movies are hiding deeper stories and meanings.

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