[Review] The Lion King: How Simba Changed the Fate of Disney’s Live-Action Remakes 

In case you live in a cave and did not notice—Disney is on a roll with the live-action remakes of our favorite stories. It all started with Alice in Wonderland (2010) which had its strong cast bring over a billion to Disney’s thick wallet, entered a decline phase with The Jungle Book (2016) due to its odd tone and mixed reviews, and in my personal opinion, Disney hit rock bottom with poor casting and several other issues by releasing Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Aladdin (2019)The Lion King (2019) directed and produced by Jon Favreau, however, helped Disney’s magic to reach our hearts, again, just like the 90s. Here, I will explain how Disney finally stopped failing the audiences.

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Realism. Once I wiped off my tears coming out of the theatre, I decided to pay my respects to The Lion King (1994) at home and figure out why this animated documentary-like feature film worked so well. The first thing I noticed was Favreau’s attention to detail, and I assure you, he made sure we, as the audience knew about this. Favreau spent valuable effort to walk us through our surroundings, identify the appearance of species of all kinds, and appreciate one of the best (and likely leading) Virtual Reality production techniques within the film industry. Compared to the 1994 version, I could easily appreciate the 2019 feature for its identical yet heightened visuals. As Favreau explains, realism is what makes the film so unique. Ironically, it also produces the magic the previous films missed.

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Music. Better yet, the voice actors have done exceptional work: Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino) gave us the hurt and careless Simba at the same time. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s vocals (as Scar) were the closest thing to a brilliant Broadway performance. But, the real star in the voice work was Seth Rogen who made us all adore a warthog. Despite the never-ending coverage about Beyoncé’s casting on top of her new album inspired by The Lion King, her voice did not shine in the production. I think we are so used to hearing Beyoncé’s strong vocals that Disney music seemed a bit toned down for her vocals. Nonetheless, Favreau managed to awkwardly insert a short section of Beyoncé’s new original, “Spirit” in the film. If you catch the scene, I am sure you will agree that it just seems like a poor editing job rather than an integral part of the movie.

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Comedy. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Zazu occupied a bigger part in this movie compared to the wise (and cuckoo) baboon Rafiki. Zazu did not reprise his comedic role but kept initiating awkward conversations as a method to stay out of trouble. While we assume Rafiki would be the one to advise the King, we saw a new scene in the 2019 film where Zazu’s few words saved Simba from Mufasa’s punishment (see, Simba and Mufasa after the visit to the Elephant Graveyard). Like Zazu, the evil hyenas did not make us laugh as they did in the 1994 film. As highlighted, they were blood-thirsty animals for dramatic effect; Favreau confirmed that the film needed the alteration for realism. While Scar did not scare us as much visually, he left the opportunity to the hyenas.

 

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Early sketches of the famous elephant-graveyard scene in The Lion King (1994). Photo: Andy Gaskill Source: Vulture.com

 

Plot Points. The 2019 film made sure us viewers recognized important plot points and left new marks in our memories next the old ones from The Lion King (1994): The Wildebeests running like a million trains with no conductors and inciting a stampede that results in Mufasa’s death, Simba making new friends and putting our hearts to rest for a few minutes during Hakuna Matata, Simba following Rafiki to hear his father’s words “Remember who you are”, and the action-packed final battle of Simba and Scar. What all of the plot points had in common was, in fact, the action, the fast pace, and racing visuals. Unlike the documentary vision rest of the movie presented, the plot points stood out due to their contrast to the rest of the film.

 

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Early sketches of the famous elephant-graveyard scene in The Lion King (1994). Photo: Andy Gaskill Source: Vulture.com

 

As I discussed a few above, there are various teaching moments for the upcoming productions in The Lion King (2019). Operating similarly to Favreau’s directing can change Disney’s bad luck that has been following its unpopular remakes. As the internet people are already talking– We can trust Favreau with another legendary remake like Bambi, too. I’d be interested to hear what you think, feel free to leave a comment down below. As always, see you next time.

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