Love Thy Mother: Earth Day 2012

It’s no secret that I like environmental-awareness movies (my review of The Lorax shows that), but Earth Day was not a special event in the film world until three years ago. Disneynature, a new movie-making department of Walt Disney Pictures that focuses on creating nature-based documentaries, released Earth on Earth Day (April 22, 2009). The film followed three families — polar bears, elephants and blue whales — offering a variety of visuals and locations. The diverse film did what great nature documentaries do: tell a story with striking images.

Disney followed Earth with showcasing the tales of the deep with Oceans in 2010 and the story of the felines of the savanna with African Cats in 2011. Not only does Disneynature use superstars to narrate the films (James Earl Jones, Pierce Brosnan and Samuel L. Jackson, to name a few), they donate a portion of ticket sales to conservation organizations that are closely related to each film. For example, a portion of ticket sales for Chimpanzee, opening April 20, 2012, will go to the Jane Goodall Institute.

Oscar, the star of the show.

Chimpanzee, narrated by Tim Allen,  will follow Oscar, a young chimp who is separated from his mother. Chimpanzee, however, will have something the other Disneynature films have yet to experience: competition. Warner Brothers’ To The Arctic, a nature doc featuring a family of polar bears, also opens April 20. With Meryl Streep narrating, Warner Bros. is trying its hand at environmentally-aware success.

No matter who comes out on top in the chimps vs. bears brawl at the box office, both films will educate and protect habitats and creatures. As said earlier, Chimpanzee will donate part of its proceeds to the Jane Goodall Institute. To The Arctic, part of the nonprofit One World One Ocean Campaign, is partnering with Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund for the Arctic Home project, which is working to save the polar bears’ habitat.  With nature docs becoming more and more popular, conservation and environmental awareness will continue to improve. Education through entertainment is what separates these works of art from a boring 9th grade biology video.

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He Lives In You: Hamlet and The Lion King

Hipster Simba is unforgiving

Shakespeare has influenced uncountable works of art over the years. One of my favorites is the influence of Shakespeare’s Hamlet on Walt Disney Pictures’ The Lion King. 

Hamlet and Simba, are driven to action through the memory of their father.  Though Hamlet and Simba both act on the advice their ghost fathers give them, the key differences between the two tales are in the advice.  The ghost of Hamlet’s father commands him to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.25), meaning Hamlet must kill his uncle Claudius so his father can exit purgatory to enter heaven.  However, Mufasa’s spirit tells Simba to “remember who you are,” so he can take his place as the true king in the Circle of Life.  Both sons are obedient.  Hamlet eventually kills Claudius, along with most of the play’s cast, and Simba defeats his Uncle Scar to become king of Pride Rock.

Differences arise, however, in how how the princes go about completing their fathers’ wishes.  Hamlet is driven mad with the tragedy of his father and the trickery of his mother and uncle.  This madness causes him to become especially violent in trying to avenge his father’s death.  For example, he stabs Polonius (his girlfriend’s dad, by the way) through a curtain, thinking he is actually Claudius.  This violent mistake leads to the total ruin of Hamlet’s life, basically.  Though he succeeds in murdering his uncle and his mother, Polonius’ son, Laertes, avenges his own father’s death by killing Hamlet, causing the play to end in tragedy. Hamlet’s girlfriend Ophelia also kills herself along the way because Hamlet is supposedly acting like a complete lunatic, but actually becoming a complete lunatic. Simba, however, is not consumed with violence over the death of his father.  While Scar and Simba are fighting, Simba discovers Scar actually murdered his father.  Instead of killing him, Simba tells him to “run away and never return.” It is led to believe that the hyenas kill Scar.  Hamlet’s reactions to his father’s death lead to tragedy, while Simba’s reactions lead to hope.

The female roles align the least in the two works. While Gertrude takes up with her dead husband’s brother (and it’s believed they were having an affair before her husband’s death), Sarabi despises Scar’s malice and evil nature. Both Ophelia and Nala love their respected men, but Ophelia is driven to insanity when Hamlet is too consumed with taking out Claudius to notice her. Plus, he kills her father, which was probably a low point in their relationship. Nala, however, is strong and independent. Though she wants Simba to love her, her duty is to her pride no matter what happens.

Polonius and Zazu both serve as long-winded advisers, unaware/uncaring of their annoying personalities.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

Polonius, Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Other Shakespeare-inspired films: 

  • 10 Things I Hate About You, inspired by The Taming of the Shrew 
  • She’s The Man, inspired by Twelfth Night
  • The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, inspired by Romeo and Juliet
  • West Side Story, inspired by Romeo and Juliet (obviously)