Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 15, 2011

Simba and Jesus: Will the Real Savior Please Stand Up?

My friend Mike showed his kids The Lion King for the first time ever this week, and wondered online why it had taken him so long to get it done. Meanwhile his report on their reaction reminded me of a goofy incident involving various adults, not long after the film appeared in theaters.

Years ago, at a small dinner party attended by some of my wife’s high school teaching colleagues (mostly non Christians, a couple Jews… all of which you will see the relevance of in a moment), I enthusiastically became an equal opportunity offender by pointing out the obvious parallels between The Lion King‘s Simba and the biblical accounts of Jesus of Nazareth.

Here are some of the points I remember trying to make… not as a bullheaded evangelist, mind you, just as an amateur film critic and textual analyst of the Bible.

Here’s Simba:

1) Reluctant son of a “king”,

2) Goes off into the wilderness awhile, is tempted to blow off “his people”, but then returns with a sense of purpose

3) Assisted by crazy John (the Baboon) Baptist, (aka Rafiki… a classic shaman)

4) Dead father appears IN THE SKY at a certain key point to help him out, (let us recall Jesus’ baptism, with God on heaven’s bullhorn saying “This is my son, in whom I am well-pleased…” )

5) Lovable but stupid friends/disciples (Timon=Peter, Pumba=John the Beloved. . . so the hyenas must be the Pharisees?)

Sound like Jesus at all? I think so. I could go on with other even closer comparisons, but you get the picture.

My “friends” at the aforementioned party were keen on shooting down my Simba as Jesus theory, of course. But I still think they were in denial. Because the bottom line is this: whatever part of Jesus’ actual life story is myth, and/or reality, it is simply a GREAT story. Greatest story ever told, or so one of those old Bible movies called it.

And while I know that a common stereotype is that Hollywood is “run by the Jews” (Get thee behind me, Mel Gibson!), I also have it on good authority through working in the media industry that Disney as a company –as well as ABC -TV, which Disney quietly owns, along with ESPN and several other media juggernauts — has been heavily staffed and influenced by politically and religiously conservative Christians over the years (at least compared to many other movie studios and media congolomerates) .

I’m not saying this association is a good thing, or a bad one. Just observing and reporting.

For another example that I can personally attest to, let’s take a look at the career of well-known Christian animator Glen Keane. He’s the son of Bill Keane, creator of the “Family Circus” single panel cartoon that ran in newspapers for years, probably since your mother was a kid. (Yeah, newspapers… remember those?) Glen has worked very high up at Disney throughout his career, most notably on Aladdin, Pocahontas and Beauty and the Beast (and most recently on Tangled).

For me, Glen is also a friend of a friend, and reportedly very supportive of Christians looking to break into his highly competitive field. Also, early in his career, he worked on Star Trek: The Original Series in the art department — so he’s got to be a stand-up guy, right?!

So, whadya think?


  1. Not being a very literary sort I guess I’m on a bit of a different wavelength.

    I can see a loose parallel in the overall story but the similarities to Jesus seem a stretch, especially the “reluctant son”. This might apply to someone like Moses or Jonah but I don’t see any hint that Jesus, though fully man, had the sort of ambivalence that we son’s of Adam might have. 2) Uuuuhh, well, OK. Sound’s like a similar story but “Sound like Jesus at all?”, not that much.

    It’s been years but the impression that I recall was the reincarnation / circle of life thing. But I don’t go nuts with it. If I had young kids, I wouldn’t hesitate to take them. Nor do I go nuts over, say, the witchcraft in Harry Potter. But I do feel I see the hand of the enemy coxing cultures along little by little (including the softening toward witchcraft in Harry Potter). Where I really see religious themes are in Star Trek, particularly in the movies, like man becomes God creating the life on a planet, or machine (Viger) evolves to consciousness and merges with it’s maker (god) man. I don’t think these thoughts are cynical like what a well-known Christian author once wrote about Superman flying up in the air with his fist up being symbolic of him having his fist in God’s face. Or did he say it? I can’t think of this guys name but he wrote brilliant books and was/is a very funny speaker.

    Meanwhile back at the blog: “…whatever part of Jesus’ actual life story is myth…” Myth? Sounds like words from someone who does not believe the Gospel’s are entriely factual accouts.

    Stay tuned for MY blog: “How to hone your nit-picking skills.”

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