I watched THE LION KING with the kids. The heart trembled

Impressions from the inaugural and extremely touching screening with children.

Jakub Piwoński

3 July 2023

I knew this day would come someday. The day I let the kids into my world. I will acquaint you with all the majesty of the movies. It is true that my children (5 and 2 with halves) have known what an animated picture is for some time, because they regularly, every evening, sit down to the screenings of animated series. However, these are jumping sessions, from episode to episode and relatively short. The full-length experience, however, is something else.

I have imagined this moment for years. I was wondering what film to choose so that the children of the moviegoer could adequately enter the world of storytelling with the use of moving images. It seemed to me that there could be no place for chance here. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to sit down with my son and daughter to watch something I know very well, trying to instill a fascination with what’s happening on the screen while feeling nostalgic at the same time. The situation, contrary to my plans, developed very spontaneously.

My son has recently been fascinated by animals. We read a lot and review information in this area. He’d also come across an old preview of The Lion King while flipping through episodes of some cartoon on DVD. I then explained to him that the ad was actually part of something bigger. Fortunately, this year Disney+ entered the Polish market with a hit, to which I bought access. Easily connecting the facts together, I already knew what movie should be the first one that I would watch with my children at a specially dedicated home screening.

Of course, it fell on the aforementioned Disney production from 1994. In my opinion, an immortal production, bordering on perfection, and in addition being an undying sign of the golden era of cartoon animations of the famous studio. I was growing up at the time, and Disney had a hand in that. This time was a period of cinematic initiation for me, and it was the screenings of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, or just The Lion King that I will remember for the rest of my life as those that opened the gate with the inscription “cinema magic” in front of me. After going through it, I found myself on a path that I follow with interest to this day.

Watching Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig casually does not translate into what it is to experience what has been dedicated to a dark cinema hall. The fundamental difference is based on the narration, which, passing through the various stages, draws the viewer into the nuances of the story, like a carpenter screwing a screw into a board. And this can be clearly seen in the reactions of children who, after experiencing infantile, short cartoons, at some point receive a product built, seemingly, on the same principles, but having a much greater impact. When I settled my daughter and son comfortably on the couch and pressed the PLAY button, the screen first showed a characteristic header with a castle in the main role, which is still a symbol of the upcoming emotions. The best, however, was yet to begin.

In the first scene, just after sunrise, we circle the animals, moving to the African savannah. In the background we hear the bars of the famous Elton John song. This is an extremely solemn moment and, in my opinion, symptomatic of the entire production. The circle of life goes on, there is a generational change, the king receives a successor, and the subordinate animals of the lion rejoice at this news. I am an old sheep without a flock, but apparently with a fragile heart, because the moment I hear this music and see these images, tears come to my eyes.

And the context of the whole situation is touching a hundred times more. Because here the circle of life is moving, but also in my little world. One of the works that helped me to become fascinated by the film was also presented to my children for inaugural purposes. The reason for this is not only an aesthetic trip, but also the fact that film, as the most popular of the arts, tells stories built on universal myths. And these myths, symbols, social roles, ethical dilemmas, ideological paths of thought are food for screenwriters. So movies make us look at life a little more closely, try to understand it a little more carefully.

It is said, by convention, of course, that if the woman’s task is to bring the child into this world, then the father’s task is to show this world to the child, preferably in its full glory. Showing its nuances, colors, complexity, including the dark side (I’m talking to you, Scar). And maybe I’m sentimental at this point, maybe I attach too much importance to a situation that is prosaic for many, but for me watching their first film with my children, which also delighted me a long time ago, is a symbolic moment for me.

I have many more adventures with children ahead of me, I know. But I will remember the first one forever. I hope they are too.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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