The review of The Lion King over at Decent Films Guide is surprisingly scathing. Along with Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King is so beloved of so many that it takes guts to point out a flaw. While I agree with many of the points in that review, I would give The Lion King a higher grade, and encourage my own kids to watch it, for one simple reason: magic.
No, not "Disney magic," though there is that, I mean Rafiki the Baboon Witch Doctor's magic. "Whaaat?" you're probably saying. "How can a Christian possibly support a movie which suggests the validity of such primitive and satanic practices?" Some of you may remember that when The Lion King was originally released, many Evangelical Christians reacted strongly for that very reason. Disney was in the hands of Satan, pushing, at the very least superstition, and at the worst witchcraft on our children. Of course, the problem only got worse with Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
We should remember that The Lion King is a story. Stories live in their own worlds. They must abide by the rules of the world they create in order to remain realistic. It would be kind of a strange thing if the first thing we saw at the beginning of the movie was infant Simba being taken to the local parish church for lions to be baptized. In a way, though, by analogy, that's exactly what happens in the opening scene—within the bounds of the pre-Christian world that The Lion King inhabits. Young Simba is annoited with oil on his forehead, presented to the priest in the form of Rafiki, and "baptized" in the light of the Sun for the whole kingdom to see.
It's magical, and rightly so. It is too easy to forget in our day and age what every other culture throughout history other than ours has known without a doubt, that the world is alive and teeming with supernatural activity we usually cannot see. Religion, in all its forms, paganism and Christianity alike, is merely an attempt to get a handle on that invisible, supernatural reality that shapes our lives without us knowing how or why. Of course, Christianity rises above all other attempts because it alone reveals the truth of God completely in Christ. Nevertheless, I appreciate a movie that illustrates the prevalence of the supernatural influences on the world in which we live. That's a lesson I wouldn't trade for anything.