Disney has been cited as one of the world’s greatest entertainment companies in America (Fortune 500 2009: Top 1000 American Companies. 4 May, 2009). With their ever flowing variety of movies, films, merchandise, television, and music, Disney has been on the forefront of American entertainment. Because Disney is so universal, there have been many debates on their racial, gender portrayals and diversity within the children’s movies that they have released. Less thought, however, has gone into the religious messages some of the films portray. In this analysis, then, I will considerer how Christian myths are portrayed in The Lion King.
The Lion King (The Lion King (1994)-IMDb), with a domestic total gross of $312,855,561(The Lion King (1994)-Box Office Mojo. 12 Dec. 2010), is one of Disney’s top selling children’s movies. The Lion King is about a young cub, Simba, who sees his father, Mufasa, dying. He runs away because he believes that it is his fault that his father is no longer living, and grows into a full lion with two friends, Timon and Pumbaa, that found him in the desert and took him in. Nala, his childhood friend, finds him and tells him all about how their lands are wasteful now and that he needs to return as the rightful king. He does return, only to come back and find out that his uncle, Scar, has been ravaging the lands and that he also was the one guilty of the murder of his father.
The crime that is committed in this movie, the murder of Mufasa, is remindful of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. In the Bible Cain and Abel were brothers, much like Scar and Mufasa. And just as Scar kills Mufasa, Cain does so to Abel, “8Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” (The New International Version, Genesis 4:8) Cain was jealous of the favor that Abel had received. Scar is jealous in this way of Mufasa and even of young Simba because he feels that he should be king and should be next in line to the throne, as he was before Simba was born. There is no way he will ever get to be king unless he does something drastic and that is when the murder takes place. Scar wants power like that which Mufasa has and wants the respect and glory of everyone around him. Cain wanted similar things, he wanted the approval of God and to be shown favor and to be first to gain approval, but when he did not get that approval and instead his brother, Abel, gained the approval the envy and jealousy that ravaged him was uncontrollable.
The clip above demonstrates how Mufasa is willing to do anything for his son. When Mufasa learns that Simba is in danger he immediately runs to the rescue. He sees the danger and even though he knows that his return may not happen he still dives into the herd to save the son. Mufasa could have left his son to figure this all out by himself, but he loved Simba so much that he did not; he instead decided to step in and save a life, his life. This is what Jesus Christ did for mankind, 16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”(New International Version, John 3:16). Mufasa loved his child so much that he was willing to risk everything for him, and Jesus Christ, the man form of God, loved mankind so much that he gave his life up to save humanity. So Mufasa represents that God-like image and Simba represents mankind and sin in this scene and in this sense.
Mufasa is an allegory of God; he is, a God-like figure represented throughout the movie. Mufasa is always present in Simba’s life even though Simba has drifted like a lost sheep, and ‘forgotten’ who he is. Before Simba can go back to Pride Rock, which is similar to the Promise Land, he needs to remember who he is and who he was born to be, but he also needs to ask for redemption and forgive himself. In a Christian life this would be a turning point from a life filled with sin to a life lived out for the Lord. Not only is it very clear that there are many religious aspects in this movie, but it sends a powerful message about the love of God.
Disney’s reputation precedes it throughout American culture. The messages in the children’s movies may not have been put there on purpose, but are still topics that people seem to want to understand and know. From the gender stereotypes to the religious ambiguities in their films, there are many topics that can be discussed from watching a Disney movie. The movie certainly only takes some aspects of Christianity throughout, but the Christian myths portrayed in The Lion King are very prominent when analyzing.
Flesher, Paul V.M. “Religion Today.” Disney’s Depictions of Religion. University of Wyoming. 18 July 2004. Web. 5 Oct. 2010
Hengeveld, Nick. Bible Gateway. The Zondervan Corporation L.L.C. 1993. Web. 5 Oct 2010
“Fortune 500: Disney.” Fortune 500 2009: Top 1000 American Companies.
The Lion King. Dir. Rob Minkoff, Buena Vista, 1994. DVD
The Lion King (1994). Box Office Mojo. 2010. Web. 10 October 2010
The Lion King (1994). IMDb. 10 October 2010 <>