When you’re a kid, you love Disney movies differently than you will as an adult. Truth be told, you’ll love a lot of things differently, from your family to your hobbies and everything in between.
The Little Mermaid was the last fully child-like love I had for a Disney movie, it was all about sleeping bags printed with the movie cover and wanting to be Ariel. Even then there was an awkward moment where I was given Little Mermaid bow-biters for my shoes and somehow they hit an off-note with me, they were a little too childish for where I was headed. It was an omen of the end.
In the middle of this transition came Beauty and the Beast, where as a bookworm awkward child I could identify with Belle’s love of the library, but I still appreciated the movie for the characters, not as a movie yet. Looking back I think this one got the short end of my attention, it didn’t get the amount of attention it would deserve as the first really smart Disney heroine, all because it was in the mid-point of this paradigm shift. Hindsight is 20/20, and these days I really care about Stockholm Syndrome The Movie.
Then came The Lion King. Articles about it in the little Disney magazine I used to receive got me excited, but somehow it felt different. The ground had changed, I was reading about the voice actors, the animation special effects team, Elton John, I was seeking out more information about the movie as a movie! The story, sure, Scar was a fantastic villain who you could sympathize with in some ways – but did you know he was voiced by Jeremy Irons? I didn’t even know who Jeremy Irons really was, but somehow that was exciting.
It came out right after my birthday, and in 1994 I decided that my big birthday present was a CD player. So my parents built a shelf above the head of my bed for the giant black box that was my sound system – these things didn’t come small back in those days. And of course, I needed a couple of CDs to go with it, so the first one I pulled off the shelf, with my eyes gleaming, was The Lion King soundtrack. I think the other was a used Garth Brooks CD, but my prize was indeed the soundtrack that would get listened to again and again. Even as my CD collection built, this one always lived at the top of the case for easy access. Sure, I sang along with Disney movies, but this was the first time I selected a particular movie that I owned the soundtrack for, the first time I knew who was singing in a real world sense, the first time it mattered to me.
The movie coming out didn’t do anything to tame the fire, I was still reading everything I could get about Lion King. So time ticked on and eventually the Disney Store at the mall erupted in banners for the VHS release! So using my own closely horded money I stood in an impressive line, made the difficult choice between a watch or a Disney Store gift certificate (I chose the latter, and then never spent it because it looked so cool), and placed my pre-order for the movie. My family was not generally the pre-order type, so this was a big deal for me to commit to something that wouldn’t be in my hands right away.
To this day I look back and realize that Lion King was my first “adult” appreciation of a movie, appreciation of a movie as an event and not just story-time for a child.