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Western Animation / Lambert the Sheepish Lion

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Long before there was The Lion King...

Lambert the Sheepish Lion is a Disney animated short released in 1952. It was conceived by Bill Peet and is narrated by Sterling Holloway.

Lambert, a lion cub, is mistakenly delivered in a flock of sheep by a stork (the same stork that was seen in Dumbo). He is taken in by a ewe after none of the delivered lambs chose her to be their mother, and the ewe refuses to let the stork take him away. Lambert grows into a big gentle lion, living his life thinking he is a sheep... until he is forced to unlock his true nature to defend the flock from an attack by a hungry wolf.

This short provides examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: The other sheep are not at all kind to Lambert once they find out he cannot baa, until his size and leonine aggression save the day. Imitating the Trope Namer was a common theme in writer Bill Peet's work.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Due to the lack of any humans (although Lambert‘s mother is seen wearing a man-made bell) it’s hard to establish a time period, it could be taking place anytime from thousands of years ago to the modern day.
  • Badass Unintentional: Lambert is unaware that he's a lion until the wolf forces him to unleash his inner lion.
  • Berserk Button: Lambert works up the nerve to scare off the wolf when it threatens his mother.
    Narrator: But when he saw the wolf approach
    And heard his mother cryin'
    Something snapped inside of him...
    He was a raging lion!
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Lambert is very gentle and "sheep"-like, but when he needs to defend his flock, he unleashes his inner lion.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The sheep repeatedly mock Lambert, who is much bigger and stronger than them. Even if they don't know he's a lion, it still would be foolish to pick on someone so much bigger than them.
  • Butt-Monkey: Lambert, initially. He is repeatedly mocked and humiliated by the sheep of the flock, even as an adult.
  • Conditioned to Be Weak: An accidental case, Lambert is a lion who is adopted into a sheep family and acts like a sheep because he doesn't know any different. In the end, a wolf is about to eat his mother, who cries out for help, so Lambert finds it in himself to roar and scare the wolf away.
  • Cowardly Lion: Literally. Lambert is a scaredy cat and runs away at the first sign of danger. Until he realizes that he's a lion, that is.
  • Delivery Stork: A delivery mistake sent Lambert the Lion to a sheep farm alongside other baby lambs. It doubles as a cameo — this is the same stork that delivered Dumbo. This came in handy when Dumbo was rerun on NBC in the 1980s with Lambert as a "lead-in" feature.
  • Dirty Coward: The other young rams, when Lambert turns to them for help: they all (literally) run and hide. Granted, this is a wolf, which is a very dangerous predator, but there were about six rams, all in their prime. They could have swarmed the wolf and butted him from all directions, until the wolf ran away.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted, surprisingly enough. Lambert apparently headbutts the wolf off a cliff and to his doom. The narrator reveals at the end that the Wolf's alive, stuck on a branch with berries for food.
  • Extremely Protective Child: Lambert, being a Momma's Boy, doesn't take kindly to a wolf menacing his adoptive mother.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Wolf is a vicious predator now trapped with a tiny bit of fruit unable to move lest he die. The narrator also notes that the berries only grow there every spring.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The first-person perspective shots of the wolf coming to attack the sheep, which is Recycled Animation from Disney's version of Peter and the Wolf.
  • Gentle Giant: Despite being a gigantic lion, Lambert is one of the sweetest creatures around.
    Narrator: "Isn't he HUGE?!"
  • Interspecies Adoption: One of the ewes is not chosen by any of the lambs to be their mother, which makes her very sad. But when Lambert the little lion cub chooses her, she decides to keep him, and even attacks the stork when he tries to take Lambert back.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Lambert is cowardly and sheepish, but once his mother is in danger, he realizes what it means to be a lion and fights the wolf.
  • Mighty Roar: Lambert lets one out once he realizes he's a lion.
  • Mama Bear: When The Stork tries to take Lambert back, his mother attacks the stork, causing him to back down and allow her to raise the lion as her own.
  • Momma's Boy: Lambert is very protective of his mother, and becomes the King of Beasts he is when he realizes that his mother is in danger.
  • Nurture over Nature: Zig-zagged. At first, there is absolutely nothing predatory about Lambert, because he was raised as a sheep. However, when roused by a call for help from his mother, the only one who ever treated him kindly, he becomes a rampaging predator. But even in the midst of his roaring charge, with fangs bared and claws unsheathed, he still ends up attacking sheep-style - by headbutting the wolf.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Lambert doesn't realize that he's not a sheep. Everyone else, however, does.
  • Offscreen Inertia: The Wolf is stuck on a branch on the cliff at the end. Lampshaded by the narrator.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Wolf has one once he realizes he's just ticked off a very angry Momma's Boy.
    • Bonus points when you consider the wolf didn't see him before: and now an enraged adult lion (who shouldn't be here) is closing in to tear the wolf to shreds.
  • Once Upon a Time: A springtime. As a matter of fact, a nighttime, a flock of sheep got a visit from old Mr. Stork.
  • Parents in Distress: It's his adoptive mother being in danger that unlocks Lambert's true nature.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The narration and dialogue rhyme most of the time.
  • Sweet Sheep: Subverted with the lambs who pick on Lambert. They not only enjoy picking on him, but they even sing a song about not accepting him. Even as Lambert is now a grown lion, the sheep still don't accept him. Once Lambert saves the flock (especially his mother) from a wolf, they finally accept him. The ewe that adopted Lambert plays this trope straight.
  • Savage Wolves: The villain is a wolf trying to eat all the sheep.
  • Shout-Out: The story is obviously inspired by an oft-paraphrased line from Isaiah 11:6note , which is often quoted as "the lion and the lamb shall lay down together…"
  • Stock Scream: The wolf bellows the Goofy Holler when Lambert headbutts him off the cliff.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: At one point, the narrator interrupts his own rhyming dialogue.
    "Time changes everything.
    The spring lambs were sheep by fall.
    And Lambert's mother, oh, she was so proud
    Because she had the biggest sheep...
    Er, ewe? Lamb? Mutton? Uh... Isn't he huge?"
  • Suddenly Speaking: Most of the dialogue is given to the narrator and Mr. Stork. It's not until the climax when we hear Mrs. Lamb speak ("Laaaaaaaaaaambert!") as well as Lambert himself ("Mama!").
  • Took a Level in Badass: Lambert spends most of his time as a meek and harmless lion. During the climax, he unleashes his inner beast and fights off the Wolf.
  • Triumphant Reprise: At the end of the film, the song "Lambert" which the sheep sung while insulting Lambert is changed to recognize him as a hero.
  • Use Your Head: Lambert headbutts the wolf off a cliff in the film's climax.