Narrative Structure & Hollywood Formula - The Lion King

The Walt Disney film The Lion King follows a three act structure, the divisions all have their own climax, the first two most often end with minor plot points or minor climaxes leading to the third and final that ends with the ultimate climax, in which a resolution is shown.

Act 1: Exposition 

The first act of the film introduces the protagonist 'Simba', the environment / world and the opposed forces (Scar). From the audiences point of view this is necessary because not everyone would be familiar with the world within the film. More importantly we get to know the protagonist and his circumstances, allowing you to get emotionally invested in the up coming events. Towards the end of this act you come to the first turning point, the event that changes the protagonists path and foreseeing a dramatic conflict that can't be fully resolved until the next turning point.

There is a certain point within The Lion King that can be classed as the first turning point, Within the film, Simba sings about wanting to be king, but when Mufasa (His father) dies after saving his son (Simba) from being trampled by a stampeding herd of wildebeests, the reality and weight of his new responsibilities become all too real, after this point Simba is convinced he is the cause of his fathers death, this is the scene that sets up the conflict within Simba that only he can resolve to become a fully developed character, eventually he has to return home and take his place as king, but doing this he must recognise his strength and let go of the guilt.

Act 2: Rising Action

The second act of the film, where the protagonist (Simba) attempts to resolve the conflict, but instead gets setback and discouraged, the time in this part of the film is spent growing the protagonist as a character and gaining the necessary skills to overcome the new problems. this is the first time the character will grow as a protagonist. Towards the end the character will have gained enough skills to confront the problems and this leads us into the third act.

During this the audience is given something to get behind, a new mentally, Simba decides to favour, Hakuna Matata "No Worries", this happens in a musical number with Timone and Pumba. But everything is quickly brought back to reality when Nala arrives to tell them their home has fallen under Scar's ruling. Although we have seen the protagonist develop physically it is clear he hasn't fully developed as a character to handle himself just yet, he doesn't fully develop until he later returns home and runs into Rafiki (a mandrill who is a supporting character). During so the audience is lead to see that the "No Worries" way of thinking was a setback and as he returns home he is open to change.

Simba growing during musical act "No Worries"

Act 3: Climax // Resolution 

The final act of the film, our protagonist finally confronts the opposed forces and resolves the conflict for his home and inside himself, this is the final climax of the film and the second turning point. The character shows signs that they will always overcome their internal issues and learn something that will change them for the future to benefit themselves and others.

Again this applies in the film when Simba confronts Scar and he confesses to killing Mufasa, this allows Simba to let go of his guilt and suddenly gets a clear sense of who he really is and then fights for his rightful place as king. The fight against scar is his finally test, completing his character. When Simba wins he is proving he is ready to handle the responsibilities of being king.

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