Did Shadowland Have a Secret Meaning?

If you’ve seen Broadway’s take on The Lion King (or you clicked on the video above), you might be familiar with a song called “Shadowland.” It appears in the second act, when the Pride Lands have turned into a desolate wasteland and Nala leaves home to look for anything that can help her pride survive.

But while this moment doesn’t appear in the animated movie, have you ever noticed that it’s played in the background? Like, almost a dozen times? I’ve heard the chorus line played a few times before, but it wasn’t until I bought the full movie soundtrack that I noticed just how often we hear the verse and chorus lines laced into the background music.

Granted, this isn’t the first time Disney has done this in their movies. You’ll hear the title song played off and on in Beauty and the Beast, moments of “A Whole New World” played throughout the third act in Aladdin, and the “Hellfire” theme played over and over in Hunchback of Notre Dame. But no one ever sings “Shadowland” in The Lion King. So why include it in the background music at all?

Well, to answer this question, let’s look at the moments where we hear it. It first comes up when Mufasa is showing Simba the Pride Lands. For three seconds, we hear part of the verse when Mufasa runs into the elephant graveyard to defend Simba and Nala. Then the verse and chorus are played twice afterwards, once when Mufasa scolds Simba for his carelessness and again when they’re stargazing. Then we hear the chorus line after the stampede, when Simba realizes that his father didn’t survive the ordeal. Then we hear it when Timon, Pumbaa, and an adult Simba talk about what stars are. We get another glimpse or two when Simba and Nala reunite after years of her thinking she was dead. You hear it again when Mufasa’s ghost appears and says “Remember who you are.” And we hear it again as Simba and his three friends stand on a cliff, preparing to take on Scar. It’s played off and on during the confrontation. And then we hear it one last time after Scar dies, right before Simba takes his place as king of the Pride Lands.

What do all these moments have in common? They all deal with the weight of leadership.

Think about it. We hear it when Mufasa is teaching Simba the responsibilities of being king. We hear it again when the hyenas are cornered, and they realize Mufasa can tear them limb from limb. We hear it again when Mufasa scolds Simba. We hear it again right afterwards, when we get a hint that the king might not live to see the happily ever after. We hear it again when the king is dead. We hear it again, years later, when Simba is briefly confronted with the memory of his father’s death. We hear it again when Nala realizes that Simba could take on Scar and become king. We hear it again when Mufasa tells Simba that it’s time for him to accept the role he was born to play in the circle of life. We hear it again as Simba steels himself for the upcoming battle. We hear it off and on during the confrontation between hero and villain. And we hear it one last time before Simba is named king.

This seems a little odd—especially considering the lyrics of the song. The song by itself has less to do with leadership and more to do with saying farewell. Then again, Nala is the one who sings it, and in both version of the story she becomes queen. And what is a queen except the female equivalent of a king? Maybe the writers intended to expand her story to show how she took up the mantle of leadership when Scar turned everything upside down. Or maybe the composer had some other intent altogether.

Admittedly, this theory still has a few holes in it that are worth debating. And the people at Disney might’ve had completely different reasons for including the melody as a background tune, but not as a musical number. But this is what Disney is best known for—little Easter eggs and conspiracy theories that add importance to the story. Would we enjoy Lilo and Stitch as much if they explained outright that the title meant “lost and pulled together”? Would we love Beauty and the Beast as much if the characters pointed out the significance of Belle wearing blue? So as far as the song “Shadowland” is concerned, what do you think?

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Big Hero 6: Not Perfect, But Worth It

Disney is well known for recreating fairy tales in animated cinema. While it has a fair share of films that are either from scratch or based on other stories, Disney grew its roots in fairy tales since its first movie Snow White. So when they started releasing trailers of its new animated movie Big Hero 6, I met them with cautious optimism. On one hand, it’s coming from Disney & Pixar, which is also the creator of the Toy Story movies and Wreck-it Ralph. But on the other hand, the trailers didn’t say a lot about what kind of story Big Hero 6 would tell. They showed some clips of a kid who [secretly] has a cute robot and others of a group of kids dressed like superheroes flying around the city. And since we’ve seen a ton of stories involving superheroes and kids keeping secrets from their parents, I didn’t think this movie would be new or unique, or even have a lot that could be remembered at Oscar time.

But then I went to see it, and it proved me wrong. I’m back from the theater writing about the movie, and I still feel shocked by how good it was.

So here’s the story: Our main character is a teenage protégé named Hiro, who loves inventing and engineering. When he visits the science lab of a college that his older brother Tadashi attends, Hiro decides to apply. So he makes an invention that earns him an acceptance letter into the school. But on the night he makes it in, the building sets on fire and Tadashi dies while trying to save a professor. Through a few complicated—but well thought out—developments following Tadashi’s death, Hiro discovers that someone had stolen his invention and used the fire as a cover-up. Hoping to avenge his brother, Hiro decides to steal back his invention and bring the thief to justice. But he can’t do it on his own, so he enlists the help of Tadashi’s college friends (also engineering majors) and reprograms Tadashi’s robotic invention (called Baymax) to help save the city.

The best part of Big Hero 6 was, surprisingly, its psychological brilliance. The heart of the story isn’t a quirky robot or college kids going out to save the world. The heart of the story is dealing with the loss of a loved one. We’ve seen Disney touch on such an issue before in Lilo and Stitch and its adaptation of Bridge to Terabithia, but this is the first time we’ve seen them use an entire movie to talk about it. It could’ve easily been one of Disney’s cheesiest movies—and to an extent, it kind of is—but for the most part, they chose a very clever and very mature way of talking about it.

Sadly, no work of art is perfect, and Big Hero 6 was no exception to this. For one, there’s a flying sequence with Hiro and an updated Baymax that almost directly rips off of Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon. And though the story is well paced and well developed, it isn’t quite airtight. It has a few twists in the second act, one that works in favor of the movie, and another that works against it. And then there’s the setting, which is supposed to be a futuristic mix of San Francisco and Tokyo. Why? What’s the purpose?

Thankfully, Big Hero 6 has other likeable features that make up for the film’s flaws. The animation of the characters and the city is gorgeous, worthy of a Pixar film. The characters are memorable and hilarious in their own rights. And the movie’s sense of humor is not only good, but it also brings a perfect balance between happy and sad that the whole family can enjoy.

Overall, I’d say go watch it while it’s still in theaters. And then root for it at Oscar time. And then keep an eye out for the DVD release. As the title of this review indicates, it’s not perfect, but it’s worth it.

Final rating: 8/10

Photo source: http://screenrant.com/big-hero-6-trailer-disney-marvel/