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Thursday Treasures

September 22, 2011

Remembrance of a Great Circle of Life: Looking back at the film's history in my life
By: Pedro Hernandez

As we are celebrating the re-release of The Lion King in Digital 3D, I can't help but think about the film's legacy in my life. It all started in 1994. I was with my friends at camp, and it was certainly a summer to remember. This was the summer that The Lion King was released to theaters. While I was familiar with the Disney Animated Classics, I had never seen any of them in theaters. I had seen the trailers for The Lion King on Disney videos, and always said to myself, 'A movie about lions? How BORING!'

Upon the film's release in theaters, all I could hear at summer camp was how great it was. The Lion King was the hot topic of the playground. After hearing so much about it, I begged my parents to take me to see it in theaters too, especially after I had heard that my sister and her husband already did. And so, on one hot day in July, we went to the movie theater. I still remember the screening room quite clearly: packed with many kids and adults, an old-time feel to the room, and me - jumping up and down in my seat in excitement.

The theater then got dark, and the Walt Disney Pictures logo appeared on screen. As soon as the iconic sunset appeared on-screen, I was hooked. In record time I had fallen in love with a movie. I laughed, I nearly cried, I even cheered when it ended. Everyone who left the theater was happy. Adults were lavishing the film with endless praise, and the kids were talking about the characters and the music.

Weeks after I had seen the movie, I couldn't stop thinking about it. For my birthday, I received several The Lion King presents, including a coloring book. Back at summer camp I kept talking to my friends about the story and characters. I even did an arts and craft project with Simba as the main subject! When it came time to go back to school, my mother bought me everything related to The Lion King: notebooks, pencils and stickers. I played the Super NES The Lion King game (recently covered in my 'Gamer Tuesday' column) all the time. I collected nearly all of the Burger King toys and cups. It was the first movie I had become obsessed with, and it didn't end there.

In 1995, the film's VHS release was quickly approaching. I was excited, because for the first time, I wanted to OWN a movie on VHS. While I was initially settled with renting it, it was the Christmas present I most desired. I would watch the Sing-Along Songs video of The Lion King endlessly, just to hear the music until I could officially own the film. On Christmas, my wish was finally made a reality. I finally had my own copy of The Lion King. I played that tape all the time, often listening to my favorite song and reliving my favorite scenes. It was a movie me and my cousins would watch whenever they came to visit. It also became my nephew and niece's favorite tape growing up!

For years, The Lion King would be my all-time favorite Disney Animated Classic until 2003, when the film was released on Platinum DVD. I rented the movie (I had since lost my VHS tape), and something odd happened. I was apathetic towards the whole movie. All the emotion I normally felt whenever I loaded the tape was gone. It didn't move me, it didn't make me laugh, it did nothing. This was weird, as other Disney films usually won me over in their respective DVD releases. The Lion King was no longer my all-time favorite Disney Animated Classic. I was devastated by this sudden realization. It was like my childhood was now over. I had changed, but the movie certainly didn't.

Years later, a discussion about the film in an online Disney forum inspired me to go back to the movie and give it a second chance. I watched more closely this time, paying attention to every line said and every detail revealed. When it was over, I was head over heels in love with it once again, but now for different reasons.

As a kid, I was infatuated not just with the movie but the experience as a whole. It created so many wonderful memories that I wasn't really paying attention to the movie, but rather the events that occurred around it. When I revisited the film in 2003, I saw it without any emotions clouding my judgment, and thus the film didn't live up to my expectations. After seeing it as an adult with a better sense of film analysis, I realize that the movie is more than just a childhood treasure. It is one I can easily identify with. A friend of mine once said that I remind her of The Lion King. My life's journey was filled with many obstacles, but I overcame them all with the love and support of crazy-but-loyal friends. I went through many of the phases Simba did on his journey. I started as a kid enthusiastic about the possibilities of the future, then an apathetic teenager who couldn't care less, and finally became an adult that understands life's many challenges can be overcome if you open your heart to others.

The Lion King may no longer be my all-time favorite Disney Animated Classic, but it is still in my top five. It has become an amazing reminder of my childhood as well as a film that touches upon my own views on life. I want to thank all the creative talent involved in this picture for giving me and many children and adults a film we can all love and identify with. I look forward to experiencing the magic once more when The Lion King is re-released on Disney Blu-Ray and DVD.

 

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