When my wife and I were new parents, our parents (the generation today in their 60s) didn’t understand: Just because something is animated doesn’t mean I want my children watching it.
Not even if it’s from Disney.
Sometimes, especially if it’s from Disney.
What Grandma and Grandpa failed to understand is that “made for children” sometimes means “targeted at children,” and even though Walt’s company produces moving, funny, musical, quality animated films, there’s good reason to ask: Just what medicine is going down with that spoonful of sugar?
For in any film, subtle messages, key conversations and prevailing themes reflect the worldview – meaning the faith, philosophy, morals and sometimes even definition of what is and isn’t truth – of the film’s makers.
As an adult, I watch a film with a measure of discernment, rejecting the preachings of worldly wisdom and false religions with the hope the movie will allow truth or a reflection of God to shine through.
Children, however, don’t have that level of discernment, which is why I’m all the more cautious about recommending a film targeted at tots.
So what of the classic, box office double smash “The Lion King,” now released in theaters again, this time in 3-D?
The music is still amazing, the story powerful, the voices and acting fantastic. The 3-D effects, alas, are often clumsy, sometimes enhancing the film but other times so disjointed and distracting it looks like watching “The Lion King” through a Viewmaster. The effects also dull the rich colors. It’s not a bad idea to re-release this classic Disney flick, but the studio should have left the 3-D technology in the box.
But what about worldview? Is “The Lion King” a divine classic or a classic example of the demonic?
The plotline, for those who haven’t seen it in theaters or video already, revolves around the son of the king of the beasts, who is tricked by the king’s evil brother into believing he’s responsible for his father’s death. The little cub then runs away into a “carefree” world devoid of duty and worries. But when he’s reminded of his father’s love and that he is made in his father’s image, the prince returns to seek forgiveness, redemption and the righting of wrongs too long left unhealed.
This marvelous tale, alas, also contains a ton of religious and occult themes.
But for just a while, let us leave aside the movie’s pantheistic “circle of life” theme, the witch doctor’s divination, the astrology, the Buddhist meditation, the theme of evil being the king’s “brother” (a common false teaching in several religions) and the humanist notion that we find God by looking within ourselves (the flip opposite of the biblical understanding that we find our true selves by looking to Christ).
Yes, for just a while, let’s leave all that anti-biblical, false religion aside.
What’s left is an incredible story of the son of the King (a biblical parallel if I ever saw one) who was shamed by evil (one of Satan’s most favorite tricks to drive a wedge between us and God) into running away from his responsibility and forgetting his identity as a child of the father (another profoundly biblical analogy).
In the end, the boy remembers his father’s love and the mark of his father on his life (now, that’s sounding biblical again), picks up his responsibility, confesses his sin and finds redemption.
Stripped of all the mumbo-jumbo, “The Lion King” is a magnificent reminder of the story of mankind and the battle we all face each and every day, a battle in which we are attacked by a living evil that would try to strip from us the love of our heavenly Father and bury us in shame.
It’s an inspiring, rousing and almost worshipful celebration of the truths of Scripture.
But now, let’s put that amazing story in the same context the makers of “The Lion King” put it in.
The cub is lost. And how is he found? By a witch doctor’s divination.
How is he guided? By the stars.
What is his father’s key message to him? Look inside yourself.
And what is the primary theme? “We are all connected in the great circle of life.”
All those great themes, all those great parallels, swim in a sea of pantheism, Buddhism, paganism and humanism. Yes, the story preaches Christ, but the preacher uses the language of anything but.
Now, what do you do with that? Using biblical terms, do you sort the chaff out and enjoy the wheat? Or does a little yeast spoil the whole dough?
I guess the answer is closely related to just how discerning you are. How good of a worldview “sorter” are you?
And to that end, then, when you consider “The Lion King” is an animated Disney movie, I’d suggest you ask the same question of your children and grandchildren. Just how discerning, or impressionable, are they?
- “The Lion King” contains no profanity or obscenity.
- The film’s only sexuality is found in a scene in which the betrothed Simba “pins” his future mate, and she gazes up at him with a bit of animated “bedroom eyes.” There’s also some kissing and nuzzling among the lions.
- There are several scenes of violence, including animals fighting and dying, some of which could be frightening for small children.
- Most of the film’s myriad of religious themes are discussed above, though there is also a scene that may be interpreted as insulting Islam. When the evil Scar gathers his minions, he stands atop a sharply pointed peak of rock that resembles a steeple or minaret. At the peak of his “I am evil” song, Scar scales the minaret, which just so happens to be framed with a crescent moon perched at its top. Intentional or not, it could be seen as symbolically depicting Islam as evil.