In 1994, The Lion King was released as the thirty-second Disney animated film, and it was followed by an immediate positive reaction and praise from critics. It set records as the highest grossing film of the year and the second highest of all time. Since its release, the film has received two Academy Awards in addition to the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture. In The Lion King, directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff use setting, character archetypes, and color archetypes to create a story about a young lion striving to regain control of his fathers kingdom from his evil uncle.
The setting in the story utilizes changes from day to night to create a shift in the atmospheric mood of the animals in the Pride Lands of Africa. The daylight brings fortune and happiness, and the lions are joyful without worry. For example, the beginning of the movie shows Mufasa, the original king, during the daylight, and he is ruling a jubilant nation. The end of the movie is set during a sunny day when the animals return to happiness because Simba, Mufasas son, is finally the ruler. In contrast, during the night, the lions are faced with evil and despair. It is always during the darkness that Scar, Simbas evil uncle, comes out of hiding from the dark elephant graveyard and tries to destroy everything in an attempt to take over. Consequently, the animals suffer from hunger and fear in the night when Scar plots an attempt to starve them to death. The changes in setting from day to night help the directors establish a change between the good and evil scenes of the movie.
In addition to the setting, Allers and Minkoff use the archetypes of two major characters to develop the protagonist and antagonist. Simba, the protagonist, represents the hero and the good in the story. He takes on the role of the hero when he accepts his responsibility to regain rule over the Pride Lands and realizes that he must make attempts to complete this heroic task. At the end of the movie, he is again heroic in the eyes of every animal when he saves them from death and starvation by defeating Scar and preventing them from experiencing his evil rule. Conversely, the evil villain in The Lion King is portrayed by Scar, the antagonist. During the scene that Scar appears in the story, he immediately causes trouble by lying to Simba about his fathers death, making Simba believe that Mufasas death is his fault. Scar also shows his wicked behavior when he attempts to kill everyone around him, including his own nephew, to make himself stronger by starving most of the animals and using the hyenas to attack Simba. The characters of Simba and Scar serve as key factors in developing the plot by representing the hero and the villain.
Finally, three color archetypes used by the directors represent a deeper meaning of good and evil. The color of the animals fur portrays whether their personality is compassionate or malevolent. Simba and Mufasa have golden fur to show their power, courage, and good intentions. Scar, on the other hand, has black fur like the evil hyenas, to show how dangerous and wicked he is. In addition to the color of the lions fur, the Pride Lands, where most of the story takes place, change from dull to bright along with the mood of the story. When Scar has claimed rule over the animals, the Pride Lands turn gray or black to portray starvation and sin. However, when the lands return to normality under Simbas rule, the grass turns green again, and everything begins to grow. The light, dark, and green color archetypes provide useful tools as a way for the directors to contrast the personality of the lions and to display the changing atmosphere of the Pride Lands.
Through the use of setting, character archetypes, and color archetypes, directors Allers and Minkoff develop an intriguing story about a young cub and his heroic task in their movie The Lion King. While it became a record setting film and garnered multiple great awards, it is important to also realize the literary techniques it contains. It is popular for its fantastic childrens story line and for its lasting entertainment, but it is also a sophisticated fable that contrasts good and evil.