The ‘Favorite Disney Movie’ conversation seems to occur semi-regularly, at least in my life. If you’re not so fortunate, maybe you need new friends, or at least more opportunities to revel in Disney magic. Seriously. You can even make it a contest to remember all the naughtier moments in your favorite childhood movies (there’s roughly a million in ‘Aladdin’). I was lucky enough to have two of these conversations this past Saturday, one while picking through themed decks of playing cards at the most miscellany-filled store in Coolidge Corner, the other later that evening at a Rosh Hashanah dinner (Happy new year, everybody!).
Typically, the aforementioned conversation evolves (or devolves, depending on your opinions pertaining to human reasoning) into a friendly argument and/or yelling match. It is usually at this point where I start to refuse to entertain any notion that ‘The Lion King’ is not the best movie ever. And yes, I meant to say ‘best movie’ and not ‘best Disney movie.’
There’s very little I can ask for beyond what Mufasa, Simba, Timon, Pumbaa and the rest of the Animal Kingdom give me. You laugh, cry, sing along, and should, by the end of the movie, want to pack up and move to Pride Rock.
When I was younger, I would, upon occasion, feel a little more like Simba than is either normal or healthy. At these moments, I would get on my hands and knees in my living room, start jumping around with my best lion-like agility (still on all fours) and sing, ‘I just can’t wait to be king.’ Not the entire song, just those words. I never took the time to learn the rest. (Sidenote: Although I was five when ‘The Lion King’ came out, I probably acted out my Simba fantasies until I was eight or nine. And in a fourth grade modern dance production, I played Rafiki. Whoops!)
Now allow me to digress, briefly. Take a second to remember the coolest kid in your first grade class. The kid that was smart, but not a teacher’s pet. The kid for whom you thought the cooties were invented. The kid that dressed well, sat at the popular end of the lunch table, and when he/she needed to, spoke up (i.e. put someone down) to maintain the social status quo.
That kid was my little sister. Now in my experience, the coolest children either have older siblings who were cool, established a family reputation and showed them the ropes, or have an older sibling who is essentially a black sheep in social settings and shows them exactly what not to do. My little sister’s case was the latter.
While elementary school was fun for most people, somewhat of a blur of recess and Lunchables? ‘- which if you never got, you would have killed for ‘- I hated it. I had essentially no friends, which could be blamed on a number of factors, among them being the whitest kid in my school, being forced to wear the uniform when no one else did, teachers loving me, being fat, etc. We’re talking about a kid so lame that in lieu of running around with friends, he raced the sound of the toilet flushing. No joke. After going to the bathroom at home, I would try to sprint down the stairs to the dining room before the toilet finished flushing. I dropped this habit when I tripped and may have gotten a concussion from rolling down the stairs. Welcome to my childhood.
Armed with these juicy details, you should be slightly more understanding of my one man, so-far-off-Broadway-it’s-almost-not-funny interpretation of ‘The Lion King.’ (However, if you haven’t seen ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway, feel free to think of my performance as a proper substitute.)’ Anyway, here you see a child that would have been a prime candidate for a bully confrontation episode of Ricki Lake or Jenny Jones. I deserve a little slack for seeing myself as an oppressed cub. At least that’s what I tell myself.
Know who else was a total loser in his younger years? Theodore Roosevelt. That’s right, grand ol’ Teddy. You might remember him better as the leader of the Rough Riders, the winner of the Battle of San Juan Hill, trustbuster extraordinaire, and not to mention, the youngest (and my favorite) president in history. Kind of a big shot. What you might not know is that he was a sickly, sickly child. You might even consider him lamer than me, considering that he couldn’t even make it to school some days due to his asthma and general weakness.
Now I’m not saying that I’m Teddy Roosevelt. Far from it. I’m just a guy that likes to think he’s a little more suave than he used to be. Maybe even marginally cool. But that’s not worth noting. What is worth picking up on is the vast ability of human maturation, one that encompasses the physical, the mental and, unlike other animals, the emotional. And if we don’t take advantage of it, than we’re nothing better than a bunch of five year olds with snotty noses and a penchant for eating glue.