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Similarities Of The Lion King And Hamlet

2683 words - 11 pages

Similarities of The Lion King and Hamlet

In 1994, the critics hail an animated masterpiece, not only for its artwork and music, but also for the plotline: an evil uncle displaces the heir to the throne and sends him into exile. Years later, following both a prophecy and an encounter with the ghost of the old king, the heir is persuaded to return to his home, avenge his father's death, and take his proper place as the ruler of the kingdom. At first glance, Disney's The Lion King has all the classic motifs of the revenge plot. These archetypal patterns occur in many stories, and Disney writers Jim Capoblanco and Irene Mecchi may well have built the plot's structure from the ground up. However, if we disregard the Serengeti setting, the cheerful animal companions, and the happy ending, we are left with a storyline that appears to be none other than a thinly-veiled adaptation of Hamlet. There is almost a one-to-one correspondance between the film characters and the play's dramatis personae. The plot itself re-shuffles some scenes and eliminates the sex and most of the violence, but remains very similar to the essential structure of Hamlet. Furthermore, even though one story is set in Denmark and the other in Africa, there are critical characteristics in the setting that are common to both stories. The following examines the appropriation of the Hamlet story and attempts to account for the differences while highlighting the similarities.
The basic setting of the film, the Serengeti, was chosen for its popularity with children and for the possibilities with regards to animation itself. The opening sequence of The Lion King introduces us to this beautiful lush landscape and to all of its glorious animals, who have gathered to witness the birth of Simba. The land is fertile, the animals well-fed, and all signs indicate health and prosperity. We are never shown this in Hamlet; instead we discover that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (1.5 90). We are left to assume that things have deteriorated since Claudius took the throne. Since we cannot see the geographical setting that lies beyond the stage in Hamlet, we are constantly reminded of the sick state by characters and events: the undertones of incest, the drunken revelries of the marriage feast, and the impending threat of invasion from Norway. The Lion King does not have the restrictions of the stage, and therefore we can actually see the physical landscape turn from paradise into a wasteland under Scar's rule. At the beginning of the movie, we are shown the elephant graveyard where the hyenas live. Once Scar allows the hyenas to venture beyond the borders and into his kingdom, the entire land looks like this graveyard - gray, barren, and parched, with niether food nor water. Suddenly there is a striking resemblance to Denmark in Hamlet's opening scene. There is no need to explore the political unrest or poisoned gene pool; Disney has converted all psychological and emotional...

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