Rooster Revue #12 • The Lion Sings Tonight
The Department of Cinemusicalization continues their Disney musical breakdown with "The Lion King."
We took last week off but we’re back on track, popping open the Kanopy can of musical goodness—one of the best streaming services that you probably already have access to—and The Department of Cinemusicalization continues their Disney musical breakdown with The Lion King.
• After 32 seasons, we’re finally getting a Simpson’s all-musical episode—and Kristen Bell will sing for Marge. [Vulture]
• A filmed version Come From Away (not a movie adaptation) is coming to AppleTV+ on the eve of 9/11 [Deadline]
• New full trailer for the Camila Cabello musical, Cinderella. It looks perfectly charming. [YouTube]
• Everyone’s Talking About Jamie will open Outfest on August 13 [Hollywood Reporter]
• Are you watching Schmigadoon on AppleTV+? Kristin Chenoweth & Ariana Debose talk inspiration of their musical characters [Broadway Direct]
We’ve got 2 movie musicals coming out this week: Lin Manuela’s Vivo on Netflix and Sparks’ Annette in theaters (moving to Prime Video 8/20). Here are some early reviews:
• Lin-Manuel Miranda Voices a Rapping Kinkajou in Netflix’s Flat Animated Musical [IndieWire]
• Good Luck Getting the Tunes in This Peppy Lin-Manuel Miranda Toon out of Your Head [Variety]
• Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard belt their way through Annette, the weirdest Star Is Born riff ever. [AV Club]
"Dream sequences. Police investigations. A six-part #MeToo harmony. Annette is so bold, creative, and fearless in its particulars that its broader shape is a little disappointing."
• Adam Driver shines in a bizarre rock opera [BBC]
"It's a wonderfully strange conceit, although anyone hoping for a toe-tapping musical might be disappointed that the Maels' favor repeated chants over witty rhymes and complete songs."
Kanopy is a free service for anyone with a library card. Yes, that’s right. Regardless of what US city you’re in, find the kanopy portal at your library’s website and put in your card number.
Flower Drum Song (1961)
Movie adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Flower Drum Song," and is significant for being the first major Hollywood feature film to have a majority Asian-American cast in a contemporary Asian-American story. Wouldn’t happen again until Joy Luck Club (1993).
The Hole (1998)
This Taiwanese drama-musical film directed by Tsai Ming-liang and nominated for the Palme d'Or is about quarantine after a strange disease hits Taiwan. Hmm sounds eerily familiar. This movie will be the focus of the next issue of Rooster Revue.
Lost In The Stars (1974)
Lost in the Stars transforms Alan Paton's world famous novel of racial oppression, Cry the Beloved Country, into a tragic and beautiful film musical unlike any you've ever seen.
Funny Face (1957)
Paris, the City of Light, shines even brighter when Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire team up, bringing their luminous starpower to this exquisite Oscar-nominated musical featuring songs by George and Ira Gershwin. Featuring iconic performances from two legends of the silver screen, this joyous, stylish film is sure to leave you singing and dancing.
La Habanera (1937)
Legendary director Douglas Sirk's (Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life) La Habanera is a lushly poetic and boldly modern musical drama decades ahead of its time. Working at Germany's famed UFA Studios (Metropolis), under the very noses of the Nazi authorities that would later force him into Hollywood exile and eminence, Sirk transformed a glossy musical vehicle for UFA's "new Garbo" Zarah Leander into a dark and intimate anti-colonial melodrama.
Royal Wedding (1951)
Fred Astaire and Jane Powell star as a brother and sister dance team that is invited to England to perform at the same time as the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth. Watch it just for the ceiling dance, it's remarkable.
Hot Summer (1968)
Oft referred to as Germany’s Grease. For summer vacation, two groups of high school students hitchhike to the Baltic Sea, where fun and trouble mix to create ties of friendship and love
Hard Way (2017) - Short
Minus a hip-hop misfire, this self aware action musical has surprising high production value and hilarious well integrated tunes.
The Burden (2017) - Short
A short stop motion animated film with apocalyptic undertones features an all animal cast and finds absurdity in the mundane.
Also streaming some previously featured favorites, Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and Guys and Dolls (1950).
They also have a bunch of Danny Kaye musicals including Hans Christian Andersen (1952), The Kid From Brooklyn (1946), Up In Arms (1944), A Song Is Born (1948), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947).
Not to mention the Elvis musicals Blue Hawaii (1961) and Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962).
The Lion King is a strangely constructed film, with a bloated first act and a very short second act. Lengthening the first act gives us time to fall in love with Mufasa so that we experience his loss more deeply when it happens. An argument could be made that this is really a two act show, and Scar is the protagonist of the first act, and Simba the protagonist of the second. But let’s not dwell on story mechanics.
One thing that occurred to us is that there is no way this movie would have worked if it was not a musical. Particularly "Hakuna Matata," which is doing a ton of heavy lifting condensing what should have been a quarter of the movie into 4 minutes.
For a movie musical, it’s very light in the song department, especially considering one song isn’t even sung by a character, and another is mostly sung internally. Still, every song is impeccably written and necessary to the story.
Circle of Life
Sung by an unknown voice we will refer to as God, this sets up the world in the grandest way possible. Looking at life at the most macro level and how we are all connected and all have a place in this world, before we zoom in on a micro level to tell a tiny story of one little cub finding his place within the circle of life.
Lyrically the song is vague, offering the animators almost complete freedom in their imagery. It’s a beautiful sequence made even more powerful when image and music coincide with a key change right when the sunray hits the new baby lion king.
And that cut on the drum to the title... Iconic.
Ever wonder what the translation of Zulu lyrics are?
Here comes a lion, father,
Oh yes it’s a lion.
Here comes a lion, father,
Oh yes it’s a lion.
We’re going to conquer,
A lion and a leopard come to this open place.’
Yeah, not the best lyrics in the movie. But damn do they sound beautiful in Zulu.
I Just Can’t Wait To Be King
An “I Want” song that simultaneously serves a story purpose of creating a situation whereby the young cubs can escape. This isn’t your typical “I Want” number where the protagonist sings alone to themself. But Simba is afterall, a child, and probably doesn’t have any deep wants beyond his birthright.
Ultimately this is not a song about wanting to be a benevolent king like Mufasa, this is a song about disliking authority. He wants to live in a world where he can do whatever he wants, and no one can tell him otherwise, a childish view of being a king.
In some ways he gets this wish during his time with Timon and Pumbaa, a life where no one tells him what to do. Ironically, Scar becomes the King that this song is about. A King that puts his own wants in front of the people he serves.
One of our favorite villain songs of all time. The lyrics in this song are delectable, full of clever double entendres.
It’s a verse/chorus song that is perfectly weighted on each side of a short scene. In that scene Scar reveals his great plan to kill Mufasa and Simba, which in turn mobilizes the Hyenas to militarize before our very eyes in what can only be described as a Leni Riefenstahl-esque piece of cinema. Of course, they are all being manipulated and lied to, but they’ll figure that out later.
A strangely constructed tune that is also one of most famous philosophy numbers of all time. It starts with a chorus, then a verse, then a vamp on the refrain "Hakuna Matata" to pass a bunch of time, to one final chorus.
The one verse details the backstory of Pumbaa, but I’m more inclined to call it a bridge. It’s very unstructured and meandering, and I say that in the best way possible. It’s very operetta.
Can you Feel The Love Tonight
In our interview with Don Hahn, he mentioned how much trouble they had getting this song to work.
“It's this love anthem in the middle of the movie that's not about romance. It just seemed so sappy and such a cash grab to say, ‘hey, let's put a big FM radio ballad in the middle of the movie.’”
Then they added Timon and Pumbaa to the beginning and end of it and the comedy helped to make it work. We would say they are the best part of the song. It’s a unique song the way the characters tag team sections. It’s unclear who is singing the chorus, so I’m saying it’s the same God from “Circle of Life,” even though it’s a different singer.
It’s reminiscent of “Something There” from Beauty and the Beast in more ways than one. The lovers are playing around with each other, while singing internally about their conflicted feelings, and ends with the outside perspective of an observer confirming what the lovers themselves cannot admit.
The song is verse/chorus song, sans a bridge, but ends with three variations of the chorus which is unique, but successful in establishing their love, wrapping it up with a bow with Timon’s final line, “in short, our pal is doomed.”
Circle of Life (Reprise)
And that brings us back to where we started. The circle of life has been restored and Simba has rightfully taken his place within it.
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"Rooster Revue" is edited by Matt Andrews and Jeffrey Simon with contributions from the entire team at The Barn. Read past issues in the archive.