Hamlet and the Lion King
One of my all-time favorite Disney movie is The Lion King—I use to watch it non-stop as a child. When I learned about the connection between The Lion King and Hamlet, I was amazed. There is some ambiguity about the degree to which Disney’s The Lion King and Shakespeare’s Hamlet are related. But although notably different, The Lion King and Hamlet has some undeniable parallels, and The Lion King is popularly thought to be loosely based on Hamlet. They both feature a prince with an uncle who kills his father to take over the throne. Simba and Hamlet both wait to take their revenge upon their uncles, albeit for different reasons. And finally each of their respective uncle tries to kill them, Claudius indirectly, and Scar directly. Fortunately for all the children watching, The Lion King has a much happier ending, with Scar’s demise and Simba’s ascension to the throne. The Lion King even includes a version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; Simba’s two nosy friends, Pumbaa and Timon, and Simba’s father even appears to him as a ghost (in the sky).
What I found so striking about this connection was the fact that Disney modified the story of Hamlet enough to appeal to small children. When commonly thinking of Shakespeare adaptations, one normally thinks of adaptations where the audience is aware, for the most part, that the original premise was one of Shakespeare’s works. Some of the appeal of these adaptations is the fact that they were Shakespeare adaptations. But the Lion King was targeted towards children, who have little to no understanding of who Shakespeare even is, much less the tragic story of Hamlet. Even so, The Lion King is (in my opinion) one of Disney’s best films, which says much about the universal appeal of Shakespeare. Additionally, with Disney’s rampant success among children’s films, the fact that they thought to use the premise of Hamlet to create a children’s film says even more.
For more information and a more in depth analysis, visit http://www.lionking.org/text/Hamlet-TM.html