#354. Gigantic!

How often do we catch ourselves staring upward at an object, in awe of its immense size? When tourists first experience the towering heights of the skyscrapers of New York, they come to grips with the scale of such structures. Sometimes, even the most mundane things in life can be awe-inspiring (or at least attention-grabbing) when reimagined as larger versions of their smaller counterparts. While some of this fascination with gigantic items stems from the art world, there have been many films that have delved into the idea that size matters. In the past, this required building sets to make the actors on the screen seem much larger than they were. Today, CGI can accomplish this task. Even so, some amount of visual trickery is needed to make the actors appear larger than life. This week’s two films examine what it means to be gigantic!

The Iron GiantThe Iron Giant
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Length: 86 minutes / 1.43 hours

Giant robots are usually a sub-genre of science fiction often promulgated through Japanese manga and anime. While they cornered the market on giant monsters and the giant robots built to fight them (a la Godzilla (1954) and Power Rangers (2017), respectively) America is finally starting to catch up with such films as Pacific Rim (2013) and its sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018). Granted, most of the American giant monsters and robots before this point were in the form of enormous apes or alien invaders, like the eponymous King Kong (1933) or Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). All these giant robots and monsters were created in a variety of methods to make the audience think they are enormous, but there’s been at least one true giant to grace the big screen. In his best-known film role, Andre the Giant played the part of Fezzik in The Princess Bride (1987).

Upon the cusp of the start of the cold war, tensions are high between the United States and the Soviet Union. When a giant alien robot falls out of the sky and lands near a small town in Maine, the United States government is obviously suspicious of Communist involvement. However, what young Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) learns upon finding this Iron Giant (Vin Diesel) is that the robot is a calm and docile being with no understanding of the world he now inhabits. The robot does not want to be seen as an enemy, but his automatic defense mechanisms are activated to protect him from the assault of the United States military. Despite Hogarth showing everyone the robot is harmless, a trigger-happy government agent launches a nuclear missile against the robot that would likely wipe out the small town. It’s up to the Iron Giant to save the day and show he’s a hero, not a villain.

Honey, I Shrunk the KidsHoney, I Shrunk the Kids
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

Size is all about perspective. While humans think anything larger than they are is gigantic, an ant would find humans to be tremendously enormous. Plenty of films explore this shift in perspective. From the superhero comedy of Ant-Man (2015) to the social commentary of Downsizing (2017), being shrunk down makes the entire world seem bigger in comparison. Some family-friendly films explore this idea as well, including Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Epic (2013). Despite knowing how to interact with our human-sized world, like The Borrowers (1997) or The Secret World of Arrietty (2010), sometimes the humans shrunk down to these sizes have difficulty adapting. When toy cars are large enough to be real ones, and building blocks can be used as a shelter, it takes some problem solving to fashion the tools needed to survive.

Eccentric inventor Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) is having trouble with his shrink ray. Every time he tries to shrink something, it explodes, thus making the ray gun too dangerous to use on humans. His children, Amy (Amy O’Neill) and Nick (Robert Oliveri) are tasked with cleaning up the house before their mother comes home. Meanwhile, the Szalinski’s neighbors, the Thompsons, are preparing for a fishing trip. Ron Thompson (Jared Rushton) accidentally hits a baseball through the Szalinski’s attic window and is caught by his brother, Russ (Thomas Wilson Brown), and forced to apologize to the Szalinskis. However, when the kids go up to find the baseball, the laser shrinks them down. After Wayne accidentally takes the kids out with the trash, they have to find their way back home in the wilderness that is their backyard. If they can gain Wayne’s attention, they just might be returned to normal size.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 enormously entertaining movies

#353. Iron Men

Any metallurgist will tell you that steel is stronger than iron. And yet, the concept of iron being a sturdy material still remains in our popular culture. Perhaps it’s the weight of iron, and its use for strength training. Maybe it’s due to the “purity” of iron, itself being one of the elements on the periodic table. In any case, it seems many movies use iron as an advantage. From the campy Ironmaster (1983) to the martial-arts mashup of The Man with the Iron Fists (2012), the characters who can manipulate iron are usually shown as having an advantage. Not only can the benefit be through defense, with iron armors and shields, but through offense as well, with swords and spears. Either way, iron is often associated with war, which itself has intrinsically been a man’s game. This week’s two films highlight men who use iron to their advantage.

Iron ManIron Man
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes / 2.10 hours

While not technically made of iron, but instead of a gold-titanium alloy, the suit worn by the eponymous Iron Man certainly gives Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) an advantage. From the obvious defensive capabilities of the suit to the advanced weaponry installed and integrated with it, whenever Stark dons this armor, he can take on super-powered individuals of many varieties. Ironically enough, even though iron is considered “heavy,” the Iron Man suit allows its wearer to fly, mainly due to the immense power contained within the suit. Of course, the very first version of the Iron Man suit was likely made of iron (or steel, if it was available), but that was due to the limitations of the materials Tony Stark had at the time. A fusion of medieval armor and modern technology, the Iron Man suit is what makes Tony Stark Iron Man.

After being captured by terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan, Tony Stark is forced to build weapons for them as their hostage. Not wanting his company’s technology to get into the hands of terrorists, Stark instead creates a suit of armor that he can use to escape. Unfortunately, his mobility is limited due to a piece of shrapnel trapped in his chest. The only thing keeping him alive is a magnet in his chest, holding the metal in place. After escaping the terrorists, Stark arrives back in the United States and starts improving on his design. Rumors of an “Iron Man” start circulating in the press as Tony tests out his equipment in public. Once a working design is finished, he sets out to punish the arms traffickers who have misused his company’s weapons. In doing so, he gains the attention of the Air Force, as well as his mentor, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who has built an “Iron Man” suit of his own to stop Tony.

The Iron GiantThe Iron Giant
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Length: 86 minutes / 1.43 hours

Not only is iron the main ingredient of the molten core of Earth but its crust as well, which makes it the most abundant metal found on this planet. Of course, Earth is not necessarily unique in this attribute, as iron is plentiful on many other planets and stars. What do you think gives Mars its red hue? Oxidized iron, of course. It is then no wonder that an alien robot from outer space would also be made of iron. Much like Iron Man, this Iron Giant has the defensive capabilities provided it by this heavy metal, but also the offensive weaponry provided by alien technology. Of course, even iron has its limits. Given a situation with forces stressing enough, the metal will bend, melt, or break. Iron is certainly a strong element, but it is not indestructible.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite: Sputnik. Shortly afterward, a mysterious object falls from the sky and lands near Rockwell, Maine. Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) observes this re-entry and heads into the woods to investigate. When he finds a giant, metal robot (Vin Diesel), he learns it is not there to hurt anyone. In fact, the robot has no knowledge of Earth or its customs, so the 9-year-old boy takes it upon himself to teach the enormous automaton. Unfortunately, the U.S. military also knows something landed in Maine and sets out to find it. While the military assumes the robot is dangerous, Hogarth shows them that, if they do not threaten him, he will not attack them. With cold war tensions high, fear causes one of the leaders to launch a nuclear strike against the robot, potentially killing everyone who would be nearby.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 metallic men

#327. Russian Revolution

Sometimes, the status quo doesn’t work for everyone. When an enormous divide between people groups appears, it’s usually only a matter of time before their differences spiral into conflict. Whether these divisions are due to race or wealth, if a peaceful compromise cannot be achieved through words, a revolution is bound to arise. Often, these revolutions are instigated by the people group who feels oppressed by the current state of affairs. If this group is big enough, they can enact a change to their benefit through sheer force alone. The 1917 Russian Revolution was just such a revolt. It’s a little odd to think it’s now been just over 100 years since this country changed from a monarchy to the communist state we see today. This week’s two films highlight the effects the Russian Revolution had on different people groups within the former empire of Tsar Nicholas II.

Year: 1997
Rating: G
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

On one side of the Russian Revolution, we have the aristocracy. I’m sure monarchs like Tsar Nicholas II would like to have peace within their countries. Even if the people don’t get to choose the leader, the whole system works better if the king and his subjects are on agreeable terms. That being said, people will often look out for their best interests before thinking about others. Consequently, wealth and comfort tend to flow up to the rulers in these political systems, leaving the working man destitute and angry. Despite the Russian Revolution balancing this inadequacy, the royal family was still just that: a family. It is easy to villainize your opponents to justify harsh actions, but sometimes we forget the opposing side is comprised of people not too different from ourselves. No family should have to endure losing a daughter, even if they are wealthier than the common man.

While not historically accurate, Anastasia (1997) follows the titular Russian Grand Duchess as the events of the Russian Revolution cause her to be separated from her family. Angry about being exiled for treason, Grigori Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd) curses the royal family with a magical device he obtained by selling his soul. As the revolt ramped up, Anastasia (Meg Ryan) became separated from her family, receiving an amnesia-inducing bump on the head in the process. A decade later, former servant boy, Dimitri (John Cusack), is aiming to collect the reward for the safe return of the missing Anastasia. Even though he identifies the real Anastasia as a dead ringer, he soon realizes she’s the real thing. Unfortunately, Rasputin has also recognized the last heir of the royal family is still alive and sets out to capture and kill her. Upon meeting her grandmother in Paris, Anastasia regains her memories and defeats Rasputin.

Doctor ZhivagoDoctor Zhivago
Year: 1965
Rating: Approved
Length: 197 minutes / 3.28 hours

Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “History is written by the victors.” If films made after the Russian Revolution about the revolt are any indication, this is a true statement. Even a single decade after the change in politics, Sergei Eisenstein made October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1927), which has been hailed as one of the best works of cinema. Similarly, Reds (1981) received a nomination for Best Picture, as did Doctor Zhivago (1965). The one film that carries a caveat is Animal Farm (1954) since it is used as propaganda to highlight the dangers of the Russians’ new way of thinking. At any rate, many of these films show the Russian Revolution from the perspective of the common man. It becomes clear that change was inevitable, especially from those who just want to live their lives, Doctor Zhivago being the best example of this.

During a peaceful demonstration in 1913, Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) uses his medical skills to treat one of the dissenters, meeting Lara (Julie Christie) in the process. When World War I starts, Yuri is drafted as a battlefield doctor while Lara enlists to be a nurse as she searches for her friend Pasha (Tom Courtenay). Upon their return home, the February Revolution of 1917 causes Zhivago to ask Lara to help him take care of the wounded. It’s at this time when the two fall in love, despite Yuri already being married. His poet’s heart continues to beat for Lara as he remains faithful to his wife. Unfortunately, his poems are seen to be anti-Communist which forces him to escape to the countryside. Of course, this is after he is accidentally conscripted to be part of the revolutionary army against his will. When he finally arrives, his family is gone, and he is finally able to live his life with Lara.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 repercussions from the Russian Revolution

#314. Stockholm Syndrome

Hollywood has often been accused of glamorizing characters and plots that are downright unrealistic. Often, these characters will act in a way that is seen as entirely illogical, often just to get the plot to the climax it needs. Women in romantic comedies can be found in relationships with jerks to highlight the “good guy” difference in the male protagonist. Similarly, some dramas show women in abusive relationships, unable to leave due to their illogical love for the guy. While this latter example is more realistic, it highlights something usually seen in hostage situations: Stockholm syndrome. These survival instincts may be illogical in any normal situation, but in the high-stress and dangerous hostage situation, this coping mechanism helps hostages to survive, even if the effects last long after the incident is over. This week’s two films examine some examples of Stockholm syndrome.

Year: 2010
Rating: PG
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

“There’s no place like holm . . . Stockholm.” One of the negative aspects of many Disney films is that they are largely based on stories from a much different time. While the stories themselves are usually harmless, there are often boundaries and more adult concepts that need to be discussed with small children. Snow White couldn’t give her consent to being kissed, even if it would break her curse. Ariel’s relationship with Prince Philip couldn’t work because she wasn’t able to communicate, and communication is the key to a good relationship. Aladdin’s relationship with Princess Jasmine was founded on lies, which isn’t a good way to start a relationship. The only reason Rapunzel didn’t escape her captor earlier is that she grew to love her “adopted mother,” even after the verbal abuse Mother Gothel used to keep her trapped in the tower.

For 18 years, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) has lived in a tower with her “mother” Gothel (Donna Murphy). While Rapunzel understands the fundamental reason for her solitary confinement is to protect her from the dangerous world outside, she still longs to see the world beyond her window. What she doesn’t know is that Gothel stole her from her birth parents because she possesses a magical power in her hair to heal; a power Gothel has used for hundreds of years to remain young. When a thief by the name of Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) accidentally finds his way into her tower, Rapunzel sees an opportunity to escape. Unfortunately, now she is torn about going to see the annual lantern lift-off, as it could damage her relationship with Gothel. It’s not until she realizes she’s the missing princess that she breaks the “spell” Gothel had over her and truly tries to escape in earnest.

Dog Day AfternoonDog Day Afternoon
Year: 1975
Rating: R
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

If Hollywood movies are any indicator, one of the most frequent locations for a hostage situation to take place is in a bank. Bank robberies seem to be common, and it’s difficult to do during daylight hours without involving a few innocent civilians. Consequently, if these hostage situations take too long, then Stockholm syndrome has more time to take hold. There are a few thought patterns that can manifest into Stockholm syndrome, including the development of positive feelings toward their captor, believing in the humanity of their captor, no previous connection or relationship to their captor, and lack of cooperation with the authorities sent to help them. Any of these ways of thinking can lead to a false sense of safety in the hands of someone who, by all logical indicators, is a dangerous individual.

During the dog days of summer, Sonny (Al Pacino), Sal (John Cazale), and Stevie (Gary Springer) head into the First Brooklyn Savings Bank in an attempt to rob the place. Unfortunately, their timing couldn’t have been worse. Not only is there a measly $1,100 left in the vault, but soon the police are alerted of the situation after Stevie runs away. Now Sonny and Sal decide to sit it out in the bank, along with everyone else who happened to be in there when they started their two-bit scheme. Sonny tries to keep the hostages comfortable, allowing one of them to go when they have an asthma attack. He even goes so far as to request that the police bring in pizzas for the hostages. As the hours tick on by, everyone learns why Sonny needed the money, which helps to humanize his plight. Eventually, both robbers get their demands met and are driven to the airport, where they find one final surprise waiting.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 helpful hostages

#313. Grimm Fairy Tales

With the resurgent popularity of fairy tales having reached its apex a few years ago, it was interesting to note that many of these children’s stories were collected together by only a handful of people. Initially, these stories were meant to scare children into obeying their parents, but over time they evolved into less-violent plotlines. While we might consider Hans Christian Andersen to have penned many of these classic fairy tales, like The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Snow Queen, and The Ugly Duckling, Andersen actually came after the Grimm brothers. Despite not necessarily being the original authors of their collected fairy tales, these brothers were the first to bring these stories together in a single, cohesive format. This week’s two films highlight a few adaptations of these Grimm fairy tales.

The Brothers GrimmThe Brothers Grimm
Year: 2005
Rating: PG-13
Length: 118 minutes / 1.97 hours

Most people will know the fairy tales we are told when we are children aren’t real. The characters and scenarios that once taught a lesson were manufactured for education on how to behave. Once they were collected together and written down for commercial purposes, these fairy tales became quite a bit more entertaining and much less terrifying. But what if these stories were based on something that actually happened? It has been said, “write what you know,” so if these Grimm brothers had actually experienced some of these fairy tales, it would then stand to reason that they would know about them and know how to transcribe them into a written form. This is the interpretation taken by the Terry Gilliam-directed film The Brothers Grimm (2005), combining together several known themes and motifs from the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales.

Both the Grimm brothers, Wilhelm (Matt Damon) and Jakob (Heath Ledger) don’t believe in supernatural forces. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from tricking villages out of their savings to rid the area of curses and witches. It comes to their surprise that a town where young girls are vanishing is actually due to a real paranormal entity. The evil Queen (Monica Bellucci) holed up in her tower has been absorbing the youth and beauty of many girls over her 500-year lifespan by drinking their blood. Each time the ceremony is performed, 12 girls are needed. With 10 girls missing already, the Grimm brothers find that one of the girls of the village is the daughter to the werewolf woodsman (Tomáš Hanák) who has been placed under the Queen’s curse. In breaking his curse, Will manages to fall into an enchanted sleep that only Jake can reverse.

Year: 2010
Rating: PG
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

In 1937, Disney began its long history of adapting fairy tales into feature-length animated movies. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) was pulled from the Grimm fairy tale about Snow White. Even though they used fairy tales from other sources (like Hans Christian Anderson), they would return to these classic stories for many years to come. Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and The Princess and the Frog (2009) were all influenced at least in part by the fairy tales the Grimm brothers collected centuries ago. Up until 2010, these movies had maintained similar titles to their Grimm counterparts. What would have normally been titled Rapunzel ended up being renamed Tangled (2010). They took a similar naming convention three years later with Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen being titled Frozen (2013).

Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) has lived for more than 500 years due to a plant she found that was grown from a single drop of sunlight. Since this plant has restorative powers, the nearby kingdom searched for it to save the Queen, who was ill during childbirth. Consequently, the flower’s powers were transferred into the hair of their daughter, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), whom Gothel kidnaps and hides in a solitary tower. Years later, Rapunzel wants to see the world, unaware that her uncut hair is the only thing keeping her “mother” alive. As fate would have it, rogue thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) finds this hidden tower and uses it to escape some palace guards. Rapunzel uses the opportunity of her first and only visitor to escape the tower to see the lanterns being released on her birthday in memory of her kidnapping. Will she find out who she truly is before Gothel captures her again?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Grimm fairy tales

#293. Lions

Often described as “the King of the Jungle,” lions have consistently been used as symbols of bravery, strength, and power. While they have been abused in many venues, from gladiatorial coliseums to circus tents, they still remain one of the most dangerous forces of nature (along with tigers and bears . . . oh my). In part due to their danger to humans, they are often hunted to maintain safety as much as they are for the notoriety of big game hunters; sometimes to great, public outrage, as was the case with Cecil the Lion. And while the lion is used in heraldry, as a constellation, and as a rank for Cub Scouts, very few films use lions as primary, or even secondary, characters. It would almost seem they’re as rare in the realm of cinema as they are in the real world. This week’s two films highlight some movies that feature lions.

The Lion KingThe Lion King
Year: 1994
Rating: G
Length: 89 minutes / 1.48 hours

Part of the reason why lions aren’t more prominently featured in movies, aside from the opening credits logo for MGM, is because animals can’t talk. It’s difficult to have a main character who can’t emote through dialogue carry a story. Therefore, one of the options to give lions dialogue is through animation. One of the earliest animated lions was Kimba the White Lion, a Japanese anime that ran from 1965 to 1967. Recently, the series of CGI-animated Madagascar films have featured Ben Stiller as Alex the Lion, an animal kept in captivity in the Central Park Zoo. The most famous animated film featuring lions was none other than The Lion King (1994). Even though there was some controversy around its similarity to Kimba the White Lion, The Lion King has remained popular despite this.

Mufasa (James Earl Jones) leads a pride of lions in the Pride Lands of Africa. His brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons), has been plotting to usurp the throne from him, but once Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) is born, he is now one step lower on the hierarchical ladder to become king. By using a stampede of wildebeest, Scar manages to kill Mufasa and convince Simba it was the young cub’s fault. Running away to exile himself in the jungle, Simba grows up amongst his newfound friends, Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella). Years later, with the Pride Lands in ruin, Simba (Matthew Broderick) returns to confront his uncle. Learning the truth of his father’s demise and accepting his rightful place as king, Simba defeats Scar and starts the “circle of life” over again with a child of his own.

Secondhand LionsSecondhand Lions
Year: 2003
Rating: PG
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours

An interesting way to play off of stereotypes is to create characters who exhibit the opposite traits. Sure, there are plenty of lions who represent strong ideals, like Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia series. Still, a cowardly lion, like the one found in The Wizard of Oz (1940), is much more entertaining because he doesn’t behave like one would expect a lion to act. Similarly, Alex the Lion from Madagascar (2005) was given his meat to him by zoo caretakers, thus depriving him of any hunting skills. Even the rehabilitated lion from Secondhand Lions (2003) became more like a house cat than a dangerous predator. However, just because a lion doesn’t act the way we think it should, we are often initially cautious because of the warnings about lions we have heard time and again over the years.

Brothers Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine) McCann were content living out the rest of their remaining days shooting at traveling salesmen and performing risky stunts. Unfortunately, their niece dropped her son, Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment), off at their country home. As the teenage boy and his great uncles get to know each other, they eventually grow close. After Hub orders a retired lion from a circus, he’s disappointed to learn the lioness is tame since he wanted to hunt the beast and mount its head on his wall. Escaping from her cage, the lioness adapts to the cornfield and makes it her territory. While Walter learns the rumors of his great uncles’ wealth and adventures are true, his mother arrives to try and claim the fortune. It’s at this point when the old lioness steps in to protect Walter, giving him the ability to separate himself from his lyin’ mother for good.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 likable lions

#292. Animated Classic Literature

Anyone who grew up during the late 1990s is probably familiar with the PBS show, Wishbone. As a child soon to be headed into junior high, I enjoyed the show at face value, but deep down in my subconscious, I was learning about classic literature. For years, these episodes were my only exposure to famous pieces of writing, and thus my only knowledge of their plots until I read some of them decades later. Disney has also done a pretty good job of adapting many classic tales to the big screen. Through their animation studio, many fairy tales were memorably created and still remain almost as the de-facto versions of their source material. That being said, some of the adaptations weren’t as obvious as others. This week’s two films look at some classic literature in an animated format.

Treasure PlanetTreasure Planet
Year: 2002
Rating: PG
Length: 95 minutes / 1.58 hours

Up until the 21st Century, Disney had animated many well-known stories from various sources. From fairy tales to short stories to novels, much of their source material was in the public domain. Once the new millennium came around, they started to create some original stories like The Emperor’s New Groove (2000), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) and Lilo & Stitch (2002). While this trend has mostly continued, there were a few films animated during this timeframe that held to the formula of adapting classic literature. While being thinly veiled as something different, Treasure Planet (2002) was an almost-direct adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, Treasure Island, merely with sci-fi trappings available via new, 3-D animation techniques (with traditional, 2-D animation being interposed on top of it).

Just like any other teenager, Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a longing for adventure. While Alponian solar cruising works for the time being, when he is given a map by the pilot of a crashed spaceship, he sets out to find where it leads. Despite the final words of the pilot warning Jim to “beware the cyborg,” one of the friends he makes while aboard the RLS Legacy is none other than half-robot cook, John Silver (Brian Murray). After taking control of the ship during a mutiny he planned, Silver lets Jim and some ousted leaders of the ship escape to Treasure Planet. Once on the planet, the original crew finds a robot by the name of B.E.N. (Martin Short) who has literally lost his memory. In searching for the robot’s missing piece, Jim discovers that the map is also able to open portals, including to the center of the planet where the treasure is stored. Unfortunately, this triggers the planet to explode, forcing them to abandon the wealth.

The Lion KingThe Lion King
Year: 1994
Rating: G
Length: 89 minutes / 1.48 hours

Most kids who go to see an animated film won’t necessarily pick up on the source material like their parents will. Even famous films like The Great Escape (1963) and Seven Samurai (1954) have received the animated treatment in Chicken Run (2000) and A Bug’s Life (1998), respectively. While I enjoyed these animated films as a child, it wasn’t until I was older that I realized I’d seen these plots somewhere else before. Unlike Treasure Planet (2002), it took me some time to realize The Lion King (1994) was William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in disguise. Even though it’s not a direct adaptation, many of the main characters are there. Simba is Hamlet, Scar is Claudius, and even Timon and Pumbaa are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Obviously, some of the more violent and dramatic moments from the play were toned down in the animation, but the main thrust of Hamlet still lies there in the African plains.

Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) is the male cub born to Mufasa (James Earl Jones), the leader of a pride of African lions. Because Simba is now next in line to the throne, Scar (Jeremy Irons) sets about trying to kill both Mufasa and Simba so he can become king. While his plan to use a wildebeest stampede to kill them both only kills Mufasa, Scar convinces Simba it’s the cub’s fault and forces him into exile. Simba (Matthew Broderick), having now grown up in the jungle with his friends Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), returns to the Pride Lands to confront his uncle Scar. Along the way, he is visited by the ghost of Mufasa, who tells him he is the rightful king of the land. Once back home, with the help of the lionesses, Simba fights Scar and eventually wins, sending him into exile. Unfortunately, Scar’s hyena henchmen have different plans, as they overheard him betray them to everyone.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 different Disney adaptations