“It’s dark in here,” Simba whimpered vulnerably. “Reminds me of the elephant graveyard, where dad never let me go.” Although Simba was a leader and traveled to many places, this space felt as hopeless and void as any he’d ever seen. He’d heard about other lions who were captured by despicable poachers, put into boxes, and shipped off to zoos across the world, but this didn’t feel like those.
“Pipe down, you’ll get used to it,” responded a familiar but mysterious voice from nearby. Simba was sure he’d heard it before, some years ago. “I was once locked in a damn oil lamp, buried deep beneath the sands of Agrabah. This may not be your savannah, but at least you can stretch your legs. Plus you know they’ll come for us eventually.”
“Easy for you to say. You’ve only been here a few years. I’ve been here decades,” said the sweet but perturbed voice of Cinderella. “And they just threw all those damn dalmations in after me, without ever checking whether I was okay with it. And I’m allergic to dogs!”
The Genie snapped back, “Maybe I’ve only been in here for a few, but don’t forget I was enslaved in that lamp for 10,000 years! My story ends with my freedom, but look at me now.”
“RAAAARRRRRRR!!!!” raaarrrrrrred The Beast. “I too, was taken out of the darkness and yet here I sit enveloped in it.”
“ENOUGH!” boomed a different female voice. “Except for Simba, who is new here, you all know how it goes. You signed the contracts! This is part of the deal.” This voice conveyed both anger and acceptance. An understanding that comes from time. Snow White, the most senior inmate, continued, “They’ll let us out eventually, when things aren’t going so well… but don’t get comfy out there and start making long term plans, because they’ll eventually throw you back in for more time.”
“But it doesn’t make sense,” Simba whined. “I know we weren’t doing the numbers we had been accustomed to, but what kind of business does it make to just stop selling our stories?”
“Simba, I read every book I could get my hands on, but I never went to business school so I’m still learning on the fly. As I understand it, someone at Disney thinks threatening to discontinue us will create a renewed passion for our tales as old as time,” Belle explained.
“It’s just so cruel. I ruled everything the light touches and now am trapped in this gloomy jail.”
“They have shareholder responsibilities!” interrupted Baloo, clearly jaded and corporatized from his years in captivity.
“They have responsibilities to kids! This isn’t in the spirit of Walt Disney! Are you telling me that kids just aren’t going to be able watch Lion King or The Jungle Book anymore? You are okay with that?”
“Dude, you need another one of those Hakuna Matata personal growth montages with Timon and Pumba. How are you not getting this?
In a few years they’ll take us out again, and a whole new generation of kids will love you. Then they’ll put us back away and then, at some point, bring us back out. I know it’s harsh, but it’s the way. This is the real world. You can’t just wish upon a star in here.” Baloo had lost his patience for Simba’s charming innocence.
But Simba hadn’t risen through the ranks at Pride Rock by standing by and just letting things happen. Well, as a bloodline successor in a monarchy, maybe he did. But he eventually learned how to fight back when things didn’t seem right.
“So if I have this right, then we have the largest collection of Disney animation superstars in one place. With all of us, we must be able to come together and break out of the Disney Vault and get back out into the world, where we are needed.”
Simba continued, hoping others might get as excited as he was about his continuously improvised plan. “Let’s divide into groups. Between Aladdin, Dumbo, Peter Pan, and Tinker Bell, we have enough characters who can fly. We have strength from Beast, Genie, and Nala. We have great minds to draw up the plan in Belle, Sebastian, and whichever one of you dalmations was the leader.”
“And I can trade my voice for legs,” Ariel offered.
“Umm, sure. That could work,” Simba said, dismissively. “And what about the Alice in Wonderland crew? Honestly, you guys kinda always creeped me out, but you’re a wily bunch. You must have something to contribute—drugs maybe?”
“Well, some go this way, and some go that way. But as for me, myself, personally, I prefer the short-cut,” sing-songed the Cheshire Cat.
“Yeah I absolutely do not follow. How are we both cats?” Simba ambled away from the other cat, and even though he couldn’t see the work taking place inside the vault, he could hear a new, frenetic energy all around him. They were going to take down the Disney Vault from the inside.