The magic Disney formula, as in “The Lion King,” seems to be: singing, dancing, true love, cute animal sidekicks and dead parents.

The magic Disney formula, as in “The Lion King,” seems to be: singing, dancing, true love, cute animal sidekicks and dead parents.

by Mike Todd

I was just minding my own business, unaware that I was about to get pounced upon, becoming a part of the great circle of life.

“’Lion King! Lion King!’ Can we get it?” my son Evan screeched, pointing at the shelf of movies.

“Shhhhh, library voice,” I replied. We’d just started visiting the library again because our house can’t hold anything else. Every corner is crammed with mismatched wooden puzzle pieces and Happy Meal toys based on cartoon characters that our kids have never heard of. The library allows us to wrench cherished possessions out of our kids’ hands and drop them into the Return Slot of No Return, never to clutter our house again. It’s perfect.

“Can we get it? Pleeeeese?” Evan whispered.

“How did you even recognize that movie?” I asked. He’s a very smart kid, but he’s also, at the moment, rather illiterate.

“I just recognize it,” he said.

“How do you know about ‘Lion King,’ though? We’ve never talked about it,” I said.

“I don’t know, but I really need to see it,” he replied.

He had no idea how he knew about “Lion King” or why he needed to see it so badly, but both fibers of his four-year-old being told him that it was extremely important. Disney has somehow genetically modified children so that they’re born craving Disney entertainment.

I hesitated. If you don’t remember “The Lion King,” its plot revolves in large part around — spoiler alert! — the daddy lion getting killed. Just kidding. That’s not really a spoiler. The main job of Disney parents is to die expeditious deaths. The last Disney movie we watched was “Frozen,” which — spoiler alert! — also had dead parents. Before that, Cinderella, in which — spoiler alert! – the mom is dead before the story starts, and the dad barely outlives the opening credits. The magic Disney formula seems to be: singing, dancing, true love, cute animal sidekicks and dead parents.

Incidentally, when Cinderella rushes out of the ball at midnight, and her gown turns back into rags and the horses turn back into mice, why don’t her glass slippers change back, too? I’m a little ashamed it took me 36 years to recognize a plot hole so big you could drive a giant pumpkin through it.

“Lion King?” my wife Kara asked, looking at me as if I’d brought home “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Evan held the DVD case with both hands over his head, presenting it to the world.

“I warned him. He still wanted to see it,” I replied.

“There are scary hyenas in that movie. And other bad things happen, too,” she said.

“What bad things?” Evan asked.

Kara and I looked at each other, deciding how much we wanted to tell him. I was 16 years old when that movie came out in 1994, and I’m still a little scarred from it, mostly because it’s not socially acceptable for 16-year-old boys to cry in public about things that happen to cartoon lions, no matter how horrible.

We needn’t have worried about Evan, though. Upon the third viewing, he recognized Mufasa’s death scene as the prelude to cute animal sidekicks Pumbaa and Timon coming out to sing “Hakuna Matata.”

“Pumbaa’s coming up soon!” Evan yelled as a young Simba nudged Mufasa’s lifeless body.

“Dude, this part’s really sad,” I said, reminding Evan to be traumatized. He seemed to be taking the death of the father figure a little too well.

“Evan, your father just got trampled by a herd of wildebeests,” someone would tell him, in my imagination.

“Hakuna Matata!” Evan would reply.

The real trauma is likely to set in next week, when he has to drop the DVD into the Return Slot of No Return.