There have been many thousands of stories and myths told since the beginning of the human race. Yet the essential elements and structure of these stories have many common methods of dealing with plot and character which have been examined and theorised by many writers, such as Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Christopher Vogler, and each of these will be briefly examined. This essay will examine and analyse these elements, and reference these to Walt Disney's 'The Lion King', a popular and well-known film, and which uses these familiar plot and character devices.
In 'The Writer's Journey', Christopher Vogler examines plot and character archetypes. Based on Campbell's 'The Hero With a Thousand Faces', Vogler identifies twelve stages of the Hero's Journey.
It should be noted that the stages of the Hero's journey don't necessarily have to happen in order, nor do all twelve stages have to occur, but is a useful template for structuring interesting stories (Vogler, 2007, p7). This is especially true in the case of 'The Lion King', where the stages are mixed up from the standard order.
'The Lion King' starts, as most films start, showing us the main characters in their ordinary world. The images, beats and scenes shown during the first few minutes are vital to inserting the audience into the story world (Vogler, 2007, p85). In the case of 'The Lion King', the story world is the vast plains of Africa, a place that few of us have visited. Being an animated film as opposed to live action, the makers of the film took the opportunity to open the film with stark, breathtaking shots, which fit in with how we imagine mid-Africa looks and feels. The purpose of this, as detailed above, is to 'insert' us into a familiar setting in the story world. We're introduced briefly to the principal characters, and their roles are hinted at. The 'Circle of Life' song complements the ritual that we see, which appears to be a baptism of Simba, the protagonist in the film.
Despite not being next in Vogler's list, the next plot stage that occurs is the meeting of the mentor. The mentor in 'The Lion King' could be one of a few characters - Mufassa, Zazu and Rafiki. In fact, all three characters act as Simba's mentor at different points in the film, however they each coach Simba on different issues. Just a few scenes into the film, Mufassa introduces Simba to the Pridelands, that he is to be King, but warns him to respect all creatures regardless of where they are in the food chain. In a nutshell, the role of these mentors is to keep the hero (Simba) on the right track, to guide him back on the right path when he strays (as Rafiki does later in the film when he persuades Simba to return to the Pridelands). In the beginning of the film, Simba regards Scar as his mentor, not realising that Scar's motives are not good, as can be seen when Scar 'accidentally' tells Simba about the elephant graveyard.
The call to adventure is not clear-cut in 'The Lion King'. It could be argued that the call to adventure is Mufassa telling Simba that he is to be future King. If Simba wasn't future King of the Pridelands, then all we'd be left with is a cheeky and rebellious lion cub - an interesting character but hardly 'Hero' material. Yet this revelation in the story alone does not immediately force Simba to embark on any type of journey, internal or external. The call to adventure could also be argued to be Scar tempting Simba to visit the Elephant graveyard. Vogler validates temptation as a legitimate form of the call to adventure (Vogler, 2007, pp100-101), as again, without this, the story could not continue as it does. In reality, it could be argued that these scenes combine to create a powerful call to adventure for Simba - He knows he's future King, and his Dad is current King, and so he feels a sense of immortality when tempted by Scar to visit the Elephant graveyard.