Everybody’s out and about raving about the upcoming live-action remake of Disney’s classic (and by far, in my opinion, the best) animated film, The Lion King (1994) – one of the newest ‘live-action’ remakes to come out of the Mouse House this year. And it’s one in a handful too; the third 2019 release, in fact, after Aladdin (May 24) and Dumbo (March 29).
The trailers are still raking in views, entertainment websites continue to release info snippets each month and die-hard fans are ready to secure tickets for their local cinema’s premiere – and I’m about to piss some people off with this upcoming rant on why I already dislike the idea of remaking The Lion King, and the full thing hasn’t even come out yet.
Hear me out, before you start flaming me in the comments. I get the grasp for nostalgia, the desire to see a part of your childhood back on the big screen; and I actually quite enjoyed 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, which was a live-action Disney remake of an animated classic, too. But The Lion King I consider a different case, and I’ll lay down my main reasons why.
All characters are walking, talking animals…
…Which is exactly why an animated movie worked so well with the concept. The 1994 original used Disney’s signature animation style to personify these characters – giving them that touch of human-like expressiveness that breathed life into the film.
The decision to create a more ‘photorealistic’ remake means that we’ll be dealing with real, ‘live-action’ animals this time around; effectively stripping this new take of the emotion and cartoonish whimsy that made the original so great to begin with.
Watching a side-by-side comparison of the trailers demonstrates this well – as much of a keen fan as you may be, don’t you miss the emotive look in each of the characters’ eyes? The classic 90’s middle parting in Mufasa’s mane? The vivid colour schemes that gave each animal a touch more ‘oomph’?
Looking at Favreau’s modern twist on things, it’s understandable to be blown away by the grand CGI, but at the end of the day, it seems that’s all it brings to the table. Sure, we see a ‘realistic’ replica of Pride Rock; but what it gains in realism, it loses in playful imagination. And having a side-by-side comparison sure brings on the nostalgia, but it devolves into a depressing duplicate of a beloved classic real quick.
Additionally, having that iconic Disney animation gave the original opportunity to incorporate more surreal scenes; a few that come to mind include the dreamlike spectacle in “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” (where the African animals literally had their own choreography) and of course, Timon and Pumbaa’s colourful “Hakuna Matata”.
Whether the creators for 2019’s take are planning to use their CGI skills to recreate these flashy sequences, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Side note: Going back to my previous mention of 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, a live-action take worked fine (in my opinion, at least), since the story still involved people, doing, you know, people things. I do still stand by my criticism of ‘photorealistic’ anthropomorphic creatures, as the walking, talking objects of the castle did lose the charm of their original 1998 counterparts, for the very same reasons I’ve stated.
We may be headed down a scene-for-scene path here.
The trailers also flaunted the remake’s ability to reproduce some of the original film’s most iconic moments: Simba’s birth, the stampede, that final roar over Pride Rock, and these pay delightful homage to old childhood times – but doing so for most of the film can completely cripple the need for its existence in the first place.
Why have a total replica of a classic movie, that was already perfectly done in its own right, when you’re going to rid it of the (previously mentioned) prime ingredients that made the original such a success to begin with? Unless Favreau adds a new sort of plot twist, or builds on the character development and lore, I fail to see the point in this remake.
Beauty and the Beast nearly veered into this sheer ‘duplicate’ territory, though pleasantly added a few new elements in; including a Belle and her father’s ‘white rose’ tradition in the original fairytale, additional backstories to the characters, the added subplot of Belle’s mother (and a pretty cool teleportation scene) – and of course, the Beast’s hearfelt ballad, ‘Evermore’. Favreau’s 2016 hit remake of The Jungle Book proved a critical success due to its use of untouched ideas and a new, more developed story. At the same time, it still maintains the fantasy and musicality of the 1967 animation.
That’s not to say that 2019’s The Lion King may not come out with original touches of its own, though much of the hubbub coming out on all sides of the internet zeroes in on just how faithfully accurate the remake is to its 1994 predecessor – at least from what can be gathered from the trailers. And again, sure, that’s impressive; but until this version can wow us with something new and unexpected, I again fail to see the need for it.
I’m either going to be hated or agreed with by a lot of readers. (Also, hi, thanks for reading up until the end of this opinionated rant.) I know I might be coming off a bit a harsh, considering that the full-length feature hasn’t even been released in cinemas yet. And, who knows, I may look back on this piece with the shameful embarrassment of being proved wrong by a potentially spectacular remake.
And I want to be proved wrong! Despite these major gripes, there are a handful of elements advertised in the 2019 release that I’m looking forward to see on the big screen: the completely A-lister cast, for example – namely Beyonce as Nala, Childish Gambino as Simba (are we going to hear a rap twist on this cub’s solo?!), and Eric Andre as Azizi. As sceptical as I am towards the uncanny-valley CGI aesthetics, I’m also curious to see just how grand the scenes can get with the era’s technology at hand. And of course, I wouldn’t mind hearing those classic songs on the big-screen, once again.
While I may be complaining about the idea now, I will by no means pass on a ticket to see this film. I want to enjoy it; to be proved that it’s not just another nostalgia-exploiting cash-grab.
But until I am – that’s unfortunately all I can see it as.
(All photos courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.)