Some critics suggested that The Lion King had racist under-tones. It did not go unnoticed that the hyenas all speak in African American or Latino accents (and are played by African American and Latino actors), whereas the noble lions all have British or American voices. In an article published in the film journal Jump Cut entitled ‘A Short History of Disney-fascism’ (1996), cultural analyst Matt Roth describes the hyenas as ‘a teeming brood of half-starved scavengers ghettoized in a “dark region”’. Of their neighbourhood, he writes:

The huge elephant skeletons resemble the burnt-out shells of tall buildings, or perhaps the postindustrial remains of hulking machinery. Simba, on a dare, starts to enter a huge skull, only to be frozen in his tracks by eerie laughter. In classic hooligan fashion, three hyenas emerge and start circling Simba, taunting and threatening him. It’s clear that Simba is on the wrong side of the tracks, in a bad neighborhood, surrounded by ‘the projects’ – he’s caught in the inner city.

– Mikita Brottman, Hyena (2012)


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