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Katherine Mijal

ETT 531: Learning Activity 10 Motion Visual Analysis Paper

Analyzing Film Effects in The Lion King

Although I spend most of my day guiding my students toward analyzing literature, I
rarely translate that to my movie viewing. Doing so opens a wealth of possibilities and for that, I
appreciate this opportunity. Martin Scorseses interview on teaching visual literacy discussed his
challenge with expressing violence in a picture, and he made the decision to avoid creating films
for children. I struggled with what film to choose for this assignment, and I decided on The Lion
King, the animated Disney movie. This film is intended for children, but producers also knew
that many parents would be accompanying their children to the movie theater. My experiences
with The Lion King as a child and an adult are vastly different. As a child, I enjoyed the animals
and the mantra of hakuna matata. Watching this movie as an adult moved me almost to tears as
Simba wrongfully believed he was responsible for his fathers death. Both of the clips I chose
focus on violent aspects of the film. The link to my first clip from the Disney film, Lion King is
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwvKN3ZTYGg, and the second clip can be found at
http://youtu.be/3w_dxRh32fQ?t=1m50s. Elements including lighting, extreme close up, music
to set mood, and high and low angle are utilized in my chosen clips.
The Lion King is a 1994 movie, and it bears resemblance to Shakespeares Hamlet. The
story is set in an animal kingdom in Africa; Scar murders his brother, Mufasa, and he then
convinces Mufasas young son, Simba that he is responsible for the death. Simba, ashamed, runs
away for many years while Scar takes over the throne. Eventually, Nala finds him and with
guidance from his new and old friends, he returns to the kingdom, overthrows Scar, and retains
his rightful heir as king. This then continues the circle of life.

To begin, the initial clip reveals Scars murder of Mufasa. The producers added the
smoke from the stampede; not only is this realistic, but it also blurs the image for the viewer. To
me, it softens the shot and is reminiscent that this is a brother relationship that has escalated into
intense envy. Mufasa screams when Scar grabs his paws, but then there is a beat of silence; this
provides foreshadowing for the viewer of the upcoming poignant moment. As Scar sneers,
Long live the King, there is an extreme close up of Mufasas eyes as they shift into
understanding that his life is about to end. According to the video included with our reading
materials, the extreme close up narrows the view and is used to magnify an event. A contrast is
also apparent between Scars dark, beady eyes and Mufasas kind, terrified eyes. As Mufasas
body is flung onto the stampede, there is first a low angle of what the animals would see as his
body is crashing down and then a high angle as the viewers watch Scars perspective of his
brothers death. The shot ends with a close up of Simbas terror.
Furthermore, the second clip allows for the viewers to see Simba assert himself over
Scar. The scene eerily mirrors the first one I chose, but Simba is able to beat Scar whereas
Mufasa could not. As the second scene begins, Scar circles Simba as the sky darkens, lightning
strikes, and the music supplies the dark tone to the scene; it sets up suspense as the viewer
wonders who the victor will be. The rule of thirds applies to the shot as Simba finds himself
backing up along the cliff. He is also the only brightness in the shot and is surrounded by the
dark sky and cliff, Scar, and his pack of hyenas. Like Mufasas death, this also illustrates a
smoky haze; however, instead of smoke from the stampede, there is fire underneath Simbas
cliff. It adds a stronger element of danger and shows the progression of peril from father to son.
When Scar confesses to Simba that he killed Mufasa, Simbas eyes open in horrified terror.
They take on the same look as Mufasas which transitions into a flashback of Simba witnessing

Mufasas death. This dissolve blends the two scenes and reminds the viewer of what Simba has
dealt with in his life. His anger gives him the adrenaline rush he needs to pounce on Scar. As
the scene is ending, the camera alternates between extreme close ups of Simba and Scar; it then
pans out to show that the female lions and hyenas are all carefully watching this exchange as
they decide where their loyalty lies. The spatial relationship shows a distance between them and
the fight. The viewer is left knowing that either Scar or Simba must defeat the other; both cannot
co-exist in this kingdom.
Bringing visual literacy into my classroom through the use of images has been new to me
and something I have embraced this year. Bringing film in adds a whole new component. Im
glad I chose The Lion King because I could apply these clips to any text my students read about
the battle of good vs. evil. Weve been working with theme a lot this year, and analyzing the
theme of a Disney movie would be a great way to scaffold the skill. One of the goals I have for
my students is to build their critical thinking skills by synthesizing multiple pieces as well as
forming their own evidence based claims. Implementing a short film clip into a unit with
literature and nonfiction pieces would certainly achieve that goal. I look forward to adding more
film and the analysis of it to my teaching.