Wait to buy your popcorn until THAT scene and I will tell you why… here is a parent guide to seeing The Lion King with your kids (and yes there are SPOILERS, because you already know both melody AND harmony to “Just Can’t Wait To Be King”!).
I was invited to attend this screening as media. All opinions are my own.
The moment the sun breaks through, rising over the pride lands and the first note is belted out it wakes the nostalgia in a way that only Disney can. I knew it was coming, but I was not prepared for how moving the opening scene was. It was a shot-by-shot perfect recreation of the introduction of the hero of our story, young Simba- The Lion King.
With this film, like many of the newer live action recreations of our childhood favorites it is easy to get wrapped up in our own memories of these Disney classics and forget that for many of our children, these are not a “…tale as old as time”. For many children these movies have been “in the vault“ or simply out of fashion and are not as well-known to them as they are to us. Also, as adults we forget that the line between pretend and reality is quite blurry for children in general but especially so when it comes to the wonderful world of Disney. It is easy for us to get lost in these movies and not remember until it is too late perhaps not every live-action retelling will be suitable for younger audiences.
With that being said, I wanted to write a post to help us jog our memories and remember what scenes shook us as children and why we should consider a quick trip to the bathroom or perhaps a visit to the concession stand during these key moments as to make sure the experience is an easier one for the youngest audience members. Here are the moments when you should conveniently take your children to get a new snack/use the restroom/get water from the water fountain. Maybe not all of these are moments you consider “exit worthy”, but there are definitely moments I would consider for my younger children. Also, I have included the cues you should be looking for to return to the action.
Exit moment #1-
Cue to leave: When the butterflies appear at the end of Just can’t wait to be King.
Cue to return: Mufasa’s fatherly roar. The chase is over the moment that happens even though the scene returns.
The elephant graveyard. If Mufasa says you don’t go there then we should all listen. Honestly, this was one of the more intense scenes in the film. The hyenas fast-paced chase of Simba and Nala is full of startles as well as quite snarling and visceral.
Exit moment #2-
Cue to leave: The sun going down
Cue to return: The sun coming up
The next exit worthy scene may be one that is upsetting to children that are sensitive to something like fire. “Be prepared” in the animated version is and intense song but in the live action version is not as intense and scary. The element that may present itself is intense and scary is the element of fire. Only you know if that may scare your child or not, but I thought I would include it to make anyone who has a child that would find that too intense aware.
Exit moment #3-
Cue to leave: The moment scar tells young Simba to, “run“ you should consider doing the same.
Cue to return: It is safe to return after Azizi and Kamari agree that the story they will tell Scar “works for me“.
The stampede scene is the next iffy scene that most of us know is difficult emotionally. Personally, I do not think this is a scene that your kids may have difficulty with due to anything more than intense feelings. The scene itself is handled very well. There is no blood, and you do not see Mufasa fall. When Simba finds him he appears to be peacefully sleeping. His death is handled in perfect Disney fashion. The scene that follows directly after Mufasa‘s death though is quite intense and again it involves the hyenas.
Exit moment #4-
Cue to leave: When Simba goes with Rafiki you should maybe go to the bathroom.
The reemergence of Nala in Simba’s life does come with a startle, but it is Rafiki conjuring Mufasa in the storm clouds that could be scary. It is the same as with the element of fire earlier in that the reality could be too intense for younger viewers and those with sensitivities.
Exit moment #5-
Cue to leave: Timon and Pumbaa perform as a distraction, and the distraction fails.
The confrontation between Simba and Scar is the final moment to worry about in terms of realism. The fire does return here, but the level of anger and aggression makes the hero Simba tough to love, but easy to root for.
Should you even bother and is it too much for kids?
As I mentioned above there is no blood in Mufasa’s death or any of the fights. The only moment with blood is on Scar’s chin later in the movie when he is eating another animal. The act is not shown, but the slight hint of blood on his chin tells you what he is doing. I am sure this is deliberate choice by Disney. Along those lines, the jokes are quite PG (though there are a couple of fart jokes sprinkled in here and there). Even the eating of the bugs is not too gross. Along the lines of bugs and farts, there is a montage involving giraffe poop that will probably get a question of “what is that” from your kids. Be prepared!
Is it worth it and should you even bother? YES! This was by far one of my favorite Disney live action remakes and one of my top Disney films so far this year. It is beautiful, moving, nostalgic, and hilarious. Worth every tense moment, covered eyes, and quick exit. Enjoy it!
I realize I have given you some “spoilers” here, but I assume that most of us have seen the original 1 or 100 times, so we are not surprised at the plot. It should be noted that while the majority of this film is directed parallel to its original, there are changes only a true fan would know. It is most notable in the supporting characters like Zazu, Timon, Pumbaa, and the hyenas: Shenzi, Azizi, and Kamari. The changes are welcome and do not take you away from the flow of the film.
Featuring the voices of Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon, Disney’s “The Lion King” opens in U.S. theaters on July 19, 2019.