I don’t celebrate March Break, or Spring Break or whatever it’s called nowadays. No, for me, it’s more the March Work-More. I’m a martial arts instructor, and my dojo holds karate-themed camps the entire week. These run from 8:30am until 4:30pm. We still, of course, have our regular classes in the afternoon, so a day can easily span 12 hours.
In general, something amusing happens during every camp. Last time, for example, I had to pretend to read Mandarin. Why? I had no choice, honestly. It was the logic of camp. You don’t fight it, you accept it. Now, you might be wondering, what does any of this have to do with The Lion King? Believe it or not, everything. It’s all connected, like the Circle of Life.
Part of every camp is some downtime. No one can go from fast-paced activity to fast-paced activity all day. You get tired, you get hungry, you get cranky. You need time to recharge, and that’s what we do. Even just 15min of silent reading is enough to boost energy levels to finish the day off. As an instructor, it’s also 15min I don’t need to be the centre of attention, which is vital for my own sanity, but that’s another story.
Anyway, kids start reading, and one of them asked if I could read a book to him. Sure, no problem. He rummages around the book bin and comes out with a little picture book loosely based on The Lion King. Simba’s Adventure. If you have young kids, you know what to expect. It’s about 20pages, mostly pictures, short sentences and the smallest words possible. For a kid just learning to read, there books are great. The child who grabbed this book, though, was already a good reader. He was well beyond this; he just liked The Lion King.
I read the first two pages and I sighed. “You know,” I said, almost in passing, “this is skipping a lot.” Is it, he asked? Honestly, he probably didn’t care. He just wanted to look at some pretty pictures. “Yeah,” I replied, “it left out the whole scene where Mufasa confronts Scar. You know, where Scar catches the mouse and is about to eat it?” Oh yeah, the kid said, slightly perking up. “And then Zazu comes and tells him, ‘Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to play with your food?’”
The child is now very interested. “How do you know this?” he asked?
“Oh,” I said casually, “I have the movie memorized.”
“No way,” he says. “You do not.”
I smiled. “Want me to show you?” He wasn’t sure. I’m a bit of a joker, especially with kids, and they can’t tell when I’m being serious serious or serious kidding. Well, I soon removed all doubt.
Yes, let me say it now, I do have the movie memorized, or 95% memorized. I can recite it on cue. I used to know everything about it: every line, every song, every intonation, every actor, everything. That has faded over time. Indeed, as I began my performance to my kid spectator, I realized a) I haven’t watched the movie in years, and b) some scenes were a struggle to remember.
Anyway, I should back up. Why did I memorize this movie? Well, that naturally happens when you watch a movie several hundred times. The Lion King came out when I was in Grade 3, which put me exactly in its prime demographic. I knew I would love it just seeing the advertisements on TV. I wanted to see it … no, I had to see it. I had never shown much interest in going to the theatre before that, but this was an exception.
Why? It’s hard to explain. Well, it was a cartoon, and I loved cartoons, so there’s that. It’s also about lions. I love cats, especially big cats, so there’s that. It’s also made by Disney, which in the early-90s meant pure gold. Maybe it just had excellent advertising. Whatever the reason, I needed to see it, and I saw it and I loved it.
For my birthday I got the VHS version, and I loved it even more. Maybe too much. I watched it just about everyday after school. Like, everyday, as in, everyday. I couldn’t stop watching it. When it started to wear out, we got a new one, and I watched that. Seriously, I couldn’t stop, and within a few weeks I had watched it so many times I knew it by heart.
Regarding the movie itself, I don’t know what attracted young me. I know many kids liked Timon and Pumbaa and the fart jokes, but that wasn’t it for me. It had great music, but I didn’t go out of my way as a youngster to listen to music. That was nice but not the main draw. No, if I had to guess, I’d say what attracted young me was the same thing that attracted older me, the Mufasa’s Ghost scene.
You know the scene already. Earlier in the film, Mufasa dies (um, spoiler?). Simba runs away from his responsibilities, and he needs a push in the right direction to go back. Rafiki, the baboon shaman, gives him that push, leading him to an open field and a small pond … and then the emotional climax of the film.
The wind begins to blow, clouds form, the music crescendos and a voice echoes like thunder across the field. “Remember Who You Are.” And as the music builds and the colours blend and tears fall from the audience, Simba is left with but one choice: to go back and take his place in the circle of life. Wow.
I will not lie, this scene has drastically affected my life. Mufasa has a line, “Look inside yourself; you are more than what you have become.” These words helped jump me out of a depression years ago. I was in a pretty dark place, and when I watched this scene for the umpteenth time, I felt it speaking right to me. There was a light inside me, something great, that I was not allowing to shine. I was more than what I was, but I had to prove it. This scene filled me with so much hope, with positive energy, that I surged out of my depression. It was the exact right words at the exact right time.
Indeed, if you look through my school notes, my last year of highschool and most of university, you will find lots of notes, a mix between neat and messy handwriting, copious detail … and the odd scribble around the margins. “Remember Who You Are.” That was my catchphrase, what I said to myself to stay on track, to keep going, to find light where I only saw darkness.
The Lion King, then, is more or less my movie. I identify with it. I see it as a metaphor, as inspiration. At one point, even just a few years ago, I watched it every other month or so. I didn’t need to, as I had it memorized, but I did it anyway. It renewed me, if that makes sense. It made me happy and it inspired me, and you can’t ask much more from a piece of media.
I realized this week that I haven’t watched the movie in ages, and my memory has suffered. I mean, I still have every scene in the right order, including the vast majority of the dialogue, but little things escaped me. Whereas before I could recite it eyes closed, backwards, in perfect pace with the actual spoken lines, now I really struggled at parts. I found that interesting.
The Remember scene, though? I nailed that, word for word. And after that, I knew exactly what I would do this weekend. Pull up some popcorn, put my feet up and get reacquainted with the Pride Lands.