The Lion King

In 1994 I was a newly married, young stepmother when The Lion King animated feature premiered.  I wanted to have the kind of family where the kids got to see the cool Disney movies in the theater, as that was not the experience I had growing up.  I remember piling into the seats, excited that the kids were looking forward to seeing the movie, passing a giant popcorn bucket between us. As the first notes of “The Circle of Life” began and the sun spilled across the savanna in a sequence that almost made me forget that this was an animated movie, I became teary with emotion.  When newborn Simba, cuddled close to his mother, gave the most adorable little sneeze I have ever seen, I knew this was going to be a favorite, not just for the kids, but for me too.  

The movie became an instant classic.  It was, up until that time and perhaps since, the only children’s movie to inspire such deep emotions in me.  I cried (a lot), I laughed, and I cheered with the kids when the lions reclaimed the Pridelands at the end of the film.  

I’m sure we purchased some of the merchandise (a Disney movie always has lots and lots of merchandise, right?) and I know we had a copy on VHS tape.  It was a movie I shared with my own son when he was old enough, though he was a much bigger fan of the Disney version of Tarzan.  I still hear Phil Collins singing “You’ll Be In My Heart” in my sleep sometimes- a result of the hundreds of times I listened to that Tarzan song back then.  But The Lion King remained a special favorite and when we adopted our first set of cats in the early 2000s, we named them Simba and Nala.

Our Nala and Simba

Though I once was a pretty avid movie viewer, in recent years, I just don’t care for the experience anymore.  Tickets are expensive and so are the concessions. I like the option of being able to put the movie on pause when I have to go to the ladies’ room (which I always do) and the type of films being released today just don’t excite me, the way they once did.

One of my biggest complaints is that so many movies are just remakes, prequels, and sequels.  I don’t see many of them, so maybe they are amazing pieces of cinema that I am just missing out on, but I’m OK with that.  However, in spite of my normally negative view of Hollywood retreads, when I heard that a live action type, CGI version of The Lion King was coming out, I knew this was going to be a movie I wanted to see.

Even though I knew the elements of the story as all the major plot points are the same, I loved the new version.  The special effects were incredible. The animals looked very realistic in both their appearance and the way they moved and interacted with one another and the details in the scenery were just as meticulous.  The oasis where Pumbaa and Timon live was especially breathtaking. And since it was a more realistic depiction, some of the more fantastical scenes from the cartoon version were left out, which I thought went well with the overall tone of the movie.  I still laughed and cried and many times found myself playing the same scenes in my mind from the animated version as I watched the action on the screen. I truly enjoyed it.

We went to a 9:55 pm showing to accommodate my son’s work schedule and I was surprised as I watched the other customers leave the theater (which was full) that there were no young children.  It was interesting that most of the other moviegoers were at an age where they probably saw the original in theaters 25 years ago as kids. I found that very fitting for a movie whose theme is the circle of life.  


National Sibling Day

Today I am celebrating National Sibling Day by indulging in a little nostalgia.  My brother and I are only two and a half years apart so we had many shared experiences to look back on.  He’s not my only sibling, but the age difference between my sister and I is so great that we really didn’t share many “childhood” memories.

My brother and I with my grandmother in the early 1970s

My brother and I were latchkey kids so we spent almost everyday after school watching TV.  I think there was a time when I could recite each line of dialogue from every episode of The Brady Bunch.  It was the same thing on Saturday mornings, a time when cartoons ruled on regular network TV. We rode our big wheels and then our bikes totally untethered and somehow managed to make it home unscathed.  We walked to school together in some pretty frigid temperatures (we lived in a Chicago suburb at that time) and he was such a good sport about going back home to retrieve our often forgotten lunch money (thanks Joe!!).

Photo by john paul tyrone fernandez on

On July 4, 1976, we told our mom we were going to watch the bicentennial parade from the end of the street.  Yeah, that didn’t last long as we were lured several more blocks, wanting to catch a better look. We watched Star Wars and later The Breakfast Club in theaters as that was really the only option if we wanted to see a movie.  We also have the same memories of growing up in a house (several of them, actually) before there was a microwave or color TV.

Me? I was promising I would never trick him into eating soap…

My brother was particularly easygoing which was not always a trait that worked in his favor (see above- who always went back for the lunch money?).  Once, we were being watched by a neighborhood babysitter along with a couple of friends. She had some candy and my friend (another oldest sister) and I convinced her to let us have it, even though there wasn’t enough for everyone.  Of course, our brothers showed up in the room before we could finish it. My brother asked us what we were eating and I answered the first thing I thought of- soap. He was game, so much so that he actually put some soap in his mouth before I confessed that I was actually eating the last of a giant sweet tart.  Hmmm, I wonder if that’s why he pulled the head off my favorite Barbie doll and lost it?

Happy Sibling Day to all- especially to my siblings who had to deal a bossy older sister who wasn’t always nice about being the built in babysitter.  You guys are great!!