LAMBERT THE SHEEPISH LIONOriginal medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Disney
First Appeared: 1952
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Lambert was one of those kids growing up as misfits, who found acceptance in adulthood by embracing his differences rather than letting them overwhelm him, a theme Disney explored as early as the Silly Symphony The Ugly Duckling (1931), then revisited when that cartoon was remade in color in 1939. That theme was prominent in Dumbo (1941), which also contained the element of starting with the misfit baby being brought into the world by Mr. Stork, voiced by Sterling Holloway (Amos Mouse, Kaa in The Jungle Book). In
Lambert the Sheepish Lion he mistakenly gave a lion cub to a mama lamb, but Mom was so eager to embark on child raising, she made him leave the kid anyway. Lambert was released February 8, 1952.
As a result, Lambert became the butt of all the other young lambs' jokes. Not being built for head-butting, he was unable to learn how a lamb usually takes care of himself in battle with other lambs, which made him defenseless when the others picked on him. This helplessness against lamb bullies followed him into adulthood. Then a wolf attacked the flock.
This wasn't a cartoon menace like The Big Bad Wolf, of the sort one might expect from the producer of Mickey Mouse. This was done by the Disney of Stromboli and Tchernobog, a snarling, slavering monster every bit as scary as the one in Peter & the Wolf. And the lamb it chose as its prey was Lambert's mother!
That's when Lambert found his inner ferociousness. Moments later, the wolf was fleeing in terror, and Lambert was suddenly the object of stunned admiration from the other members of the flock. Nobody picked on him after that. In fact, from then on he was widely acknowledged as the flock's hero and protector.
Lambert's screenplay was written by Bill Peet (Song of the South, The Truth about Mother Goose), Ralph Wright (Winnie the Pooh, The AristoCats) and Milt Banta (Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty). It was directed by Bill Hannah (Donald Duck, Humphrey Bear).
In 1954, the studio produced another non-series cartoon titled Social Lion, whose protagonist strongly resembled Lambert, and is said by some observers to actually be Lambert. But since this lion lived among other lions and was more likely to eat a flock of lambs than protect it, such claims must be relegated to the category of the supposed appearance of José Carioca in Alice in Wonderland. But he was still a ringer in looks.
By the way, this film was a favorite of Japan's Emperor Hirohito, the guy who had been caricatured very unflatteringly in so many World War II comic books. Years later, Roy Disney, Walt's brother, personally presented him with an actual print.