The Lion King…and seeing myself in Simba

I remember seeing The Great Mouse Detective as a kid. Whether accurate or not, the memory I have of it is seeing it in the theater, with Mom and Dad.

Then there’s The Land Before Time…the first movie I remember knowing about in advance and looking forward TO. While I associate that with Mom taking me and such…I do recall it was Dad who bought that first VHS (which I still have around here somewhere!) and thus wound up getting a VHS machine to play it so I could actually watch the thing (he’d been a Betamax person).

1989 gave us The Little Mermaid which I don’t really associate with either parent…I remember seeing something on tv as a kid about it and behind the scenes stuff with the animation and how many drawings it took to animate a single second, though.

I remember being taken to the original TMNT film; while I think both parents were there, it’s Dad I most remember and associate with that one…particularly an entertaining-to-me story he told of quoting the movie at work afterward. I also associate him with TMNT II; with being excited that day at school to go see it.

Then there’s 1992’s Aladdin. While I remember both parents present for that first time in the theater, there’s something to it that I now–as I type/think/remember–associate with Dad. I think it may have been a “double header” movie night; one of those “see THIS film, then catch the premiere of Aladdin” deals or some such. (Could have been some other films, but hey…) And maybe it’s the work of years-later memories and stuff mashing up in my mind…especially Robin Williams’ bit about the creation of Golf…that gives me another association with Dad and the film. While he definitely had a sense of humor, it was never the almost manic energy of Williams or the Genie.

But The Lion King…1994. That one was another big one for me; maybe the biggest of my Disney-Four. Seeing the film itself. Seeing stuff on tv about it. Reading stuff in the newspaper about it. Hearing the Elton John versions of a couple of the main songs on the radio regularly.

And whether it was immediate, or came about more gradually over repeat viewings, memories, etc…I’m pretty sure The Lion King was the first time I may have ever contemplated actually losing Dad. While it may have been more during college that stuff particularly sank in on it for me, even that was half a lifetime ago or more, so I can only really–and only really CARE TO now–speak on it as it hits me right now in 2022.

There are scenes from that film burned into my mind, and memories of being moved to tears, or almost to tears, at different times. The early scenes between Mufasa and Simba; the way Simba looked up to Mufasa, was excited to learn from him, eager to be like him. That scene where Simba steps into a paw print from Mufasa. Saying he wanted to be like Mufasa. Their bonding even after Mufasa gives Simba the extremely stern talking-to. That idea of hearing one’s father say they were disappointed…learning from it, not wanting to disappoint, etc.

I remember seeing a live production of the show in Toronto in 2001. Getting a copy of that version of the soundtrack. Some of the extra songs and such on that that were not part of the animated soundtrack or film. One of the tracks’ titles that as I’m typing now I can’t remember for sure–maybe “Remember Who You Are” or such; and more of the Simba/Mufasa thing. I also remember being impacted by the show itself, one of the Mufasa/Simba scenes where the actors actually take off the masks and you just see them…father and son. Powerful.

And even now as I’m typing, I’m tearing up as I gather my thoughts and try to find the words I want.

“He Lives in You” is probably that track, not “Remember Who You Are.”

Rafiki and Simba. Simba asking “You knew my father?” And Rafiki ‘correcting’ him. “I KNOW your father. You see…he lives in you!” And Simba seeing his reflection and how very much he looked like Mufasa. (forget the fact that to humans, lions probably mostly look the same and stuff like that).

“The clouds.” Simba “seeing” Mufasa. That voice, telling him to “Remember…who you are…” That such a huge part of Simba IS Mufasa, and their relationship. Mufasa’s example. Simba striving to match his father, follow in his footsteps, that his father is….was…his hero, someone to be looked up to.

And the part the echoes all too authentically, that became all too real, that has “broken” me a number of times in the last 7 1/2 weeks, that even now leaves me having to collect myself to even type about it.

Founded or not, Simba’s guilt…hurt…anger…disappointment…loss.

“You said you’d always BE there for me!”

“But you’re not. And it’s because of me.”

And my mind wants to leap to splicing a bit from an old Batman audiocomic. “…so many ghosts. So many memories…”

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