You know, when Disney does Shakespeare (or anything, for that matter), there’s always a happy ending, regardless of whether it’s based on a comedy or a tragedy. Hamlet is no exception. I watched Be Kind Rewind this week, and they made subtle reference to The Lion King’s roots, calling it, “Shakespearean.” I just smiled because I knew how true the statement was.
Evil, power hungry uncles and fratricide aside, the story even includes a part for Hamlet’s college buddies. Young Hamlet lion cub (Simba) goes off to the school of life and meets Rosencat (Timon the Meerkat) and Guildenboar (Pumbaa the Warthog), who teach him about friendship and survival. It’s beautiful, really.
I went to see The Lion King performed last year, and I was enraptured by the puppetry, all those moving parts coming together to make magic. And when I recognized the story, it just added to the appeal. I don’t ever think of it as stealing when I see a classic Shakespearean story being retold. I think of it as tribute, and the honoring of a tradition of storytelling that goes back way beyond Shakespeare.