It’s the circle of life: The Lion King returns

King of the jungle: In a famous scene, Mufasa instructs Simba on being a good ruler.

Are there only seven basic stories? After a long wait, Disney’s all-star, live action remake of the classic film is in cinemas. For many, the story’s timeless familiarity is its greatest appeal.

“Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom.”

Disney has released a live-action remake of The Lion King, which was originally released as an animation in 1994. The film has attracted an all-star cast, including Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover.

What fewer people know is that The Lion King is based on the plot of Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, in which an evil uncle plots to kill his brother the king, and keep his nephew from power.

There are some stories that are told again and again. In his book The Seven Basic Plots, English journalist Christopher Booker argues that there are only seven stories that we keep retelling through film, TV, comic books and novels.

He claims that the basic plots are: 1. Overcoming the Monster, 2. Rags to Riches, 3. The Quest, 4. Voyage and Return, 5. Rebirth, 6. Comedy and 7. Tragedy.

Interestingly, Booker singles out Hamlet as one plot that doesn’t fit into his scheme.

But when Disney made The Lion King, they made some fundamental, family-friendly changes to the Hamlet plot. Unlike Shakespeare’s Danish prince, Simba in The Lion King can take revenge to become the king he was destined to be.

I just can’t wait to be king

Are there really only seven plots? Booker admits that Hamlet doesn’t fit any of his plots, and he also criticises complex, great works by Anton Chekhov and James Joyce that do not fall into line. Booker’s theory might help us to understand basic story-telling, but you can’t reduce truly great stories to simple formulas.

But aren’t all stories based on universal themes that recur time and time again? Our hero faces a problem; overcomes challenges, and (usually) emerges triumphant and changed. Just look at the similarities between Harry Potter, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. They all share a classic plot that humanity loves telling itself, over and over, to make ourselves feel better.

You Decide

  1. Should Disney stop remaking classic films?


  1. Which Disney film is the best of all time? Write a persuasive, 30-second speech arguing your case.

Some People Say...

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

Philip Pullman, British novelist of His Dark Materials trilogy

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The new re-make of The Lion King is directed by Jon Favreau, who also directed Disney’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book. The new film is the latest in a series of remakes of the studio’s classic animations.
What do we not know?
How many people will go to see The Lion King in its opening weekend. Some forecasts suggest it could become the highest-grossing July film on record.

Word Watch

Usually this means a film featuring real humans or animals instead of animation. In this case, the film was made using very sophisticated computer-generated technology.
Danish prince
Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark.
Anton Chekhov
A Russian playwright (1860-1904), whose famous works include The Seagull.
James Joyce
An Irish writer (1882-1941) who wrote Ulysses, a famously challenging novel.

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