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The African Lion (1955)
Topic Started: Aug 6 2017, 08:25 AM (113 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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The African Lion (1955) Dir. James Algar

A Walt Disney True-Life Adventure
75 min. / Color / 1.37:1
Narrated by Winston Hibler
On DVD from Disney

This time, we're on the great African plains, and while the spotlight is on the titular cats, much of the footage is shared with the legendary beasts of the continent, including an awful lot of predators and predatees. The death count (a/k/a "lunch time") is probably higher in this film than all the other True-Life Adventures to date put together.

Amongst the stars of our film: Lions, who use their herd to distract prey; cheetahs, the fastest sumbitches on the continent so they simply outrun anything that looks tasty; leopards, not as fast as cheetahs so they pick on animals that are too stupid to know they have "YUMMY!" written right there on their coats; and jackals and hyenas and vultures, who hang out and wait for whatever presents itself, like transients in a Kroger's parking lot. Speaking of which, the eco-system is quite well demonstrated, with birds, fish, reptiles and mammals all depending on each other - global warming is really gonna mess things up, I kept thinkin'.

Other highlights: Baboons doing baboon-like stuff (by definition, baboons are fascinating); baby elephants chasing birds; locusts turning the earth into some sort of alien planet that's neither night nor day; warthogs, a lot more badass than they're given credit for; and the unforgettable death throes of a rhino caught in the mud.

Million-dollar Narration:
"On this sun-drenched setting there hovers constantly the shadow of death, and the lion is its messenger."

Probably my favorite of the True-Life Adventures so far, The African Lion was heavily promoted on the Disney TV shows of 1955 and was another big hit, although surprisingly for such an esteemed series it wasn't even nominated for an Oscar. Nevertheless, it's colossal entertainment and highly recommended.

Also on the Program

Back in '55, this played with Peter and the Wolf, an extended animated short taken from one of Disney's 1940s musical compilations, but we watched a trio of Disney cartoons instead: The Karnival Kid (1929) gives us Mickey Mouse talking for the very first time, although he doesn't sound like the Mickey we know (Minnie sounds like the Mickey we know, though; I wonder if Walt did her voice). Anyway, it's a wonderful cartoon, the Mickeys are improving with each new entry. Our Silly Symphony was Mother Goose Melodies (1931), and I'm so used to seeing the 3-strip Technicolor SS cartoons that it was disconcerting to see one of the earlier B&W ones, but it was quite wild and good, particularly the no-holds-barred big finale. And Donald met his horrible three relatives in Donald's Nephews (1938). I'm not big fans of theirs - they're simply awful creatures.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Frank Hale
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
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I haven't seen this in eons, so I can't add much, but your review did remind me of our late friend, poor Cecil.

As to the Duck nephews, I feel more charitable, because in the Carl Barks comix they were turned into islands of sanity in a crazy adult-duck universe.
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