Released in 1994, The Lion King remains a watershed in the so-called Disney renaissance that began with 1989’s The Little Mermaid and ended with 1999’s Tarzan. Telling the tale of a lion cub who learns to embrace his destiny as leader of the pride, the film was a global sensation, becoming the biggest film of the year.
The 2019 remake, under the direction of director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef) seeks to recapture the magic of the 1994 original, with the help of eye-popping visuals, a (mostly) new cast, and, of course, the instantly-hummable music that made “Hakuna Matata” an integral part of many a childhood.
Here are 8 reasons to head out and see The Lion King.
Crafted by animators widely considered to be Disney’s “B” team (the top guns were busy working on 1995’s Pocahontas, which was seen as a prestige project along the lines of Beauty and the Beast), The Lion King is packed with stunning animation and unforgettable imagery in service of a surprisingly adult story. Today, the film is considered a classic, and, with most studios having embraced 3D animation (including Disney), it is most likely that the Lion King will retain its crown as the highest-grossing traditionally animated film of all time.
As far as story goes, The Lion King has a number of influences, from Japanese anime to the Bard himself, with many citing clear parallels with the former’s Hamlet. While this is somewhat justifiable, given the plot’s centering around a doomed king who comes back as a ghost, a reluctant heir who goes into exile, and a murderous uncle, the similarities generally end there. In any case, The Lion King’s story of young Simba’s journey towards claiming his responsibilities is one that has enchanted audiences for the last 25 years.
An Experienced Director
At the helm of the remake is Jon Favreau, whose role in the MCU as Happy Hogan means you can still catch him onscreen in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Starting out as an actor before branching out into directing, Favreau cut his special effects teeth working on Jumanji (1995) spinoff Zathura (2005), which got him the job on 2008’s Iron Man. In 2016, his remake of Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967) drew positive reviews for its blend of story and spectacle, using the latest virtual technology to bring Rudyard Kipling’s immortal story to life in a manner hitherto impossible. In combining elements of the classic Disney animation and Kipling’s original novel, The Jungle Book proved that remakes didn’t need to be mere retreads of their source material.
To create the world of 2019’s Lion King, director Jon Favreau built on the technology he first utilized for 2016’s The Jungle Book remake. Incredible as that film looked at the time, The Lion King blows it out of the water from the get-go, more than delivering on the director’s promise to deliver a visual experience indistinguishable from a nature documentary. Created indoors, using virtual reality headsets for the director and his team to plan out their shots, The Lion King is a massive technical achievement. Despite not one second of live action appearing in the film, the computer-generated characters and landscapes are breathtaking in their realism.
New tech notwithstanding, Favreau wisely brings back some of the 1994 film’s key figures, including James Earl Jones (Star Wars) as Mufasa, as well as musical geniuses Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Dark Knight) and Elton John to breathe new life into their original compositions. Jones is an old pro, his signature tones having lost none of their power, giving the reimagined Mufasa the same gravitas he had back in the day, making it all the more tragic when his brother Scar’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Doctor Strange, Firefly) ambitions rob him of his life.
Forget what you’ve heard – all your favorites are here in one form or another. On the musical front, Zimmer, along with Grammy-winner Pharell Williams on producing duties, has strived to make his original orchestral score all more expansive, in line with what modern audiences expect form a major motion picture. While some of the songs’ lyrics have been altered to suit the new film’s flow, something that remains unchanged is the unmistakable Zulu bellow by Lebo M. that opens “The Circle of Life”. The original recording, with its subsequent tribal choral chants, is reused here, accompanied by new lead vocals from South African singer Brown Lindiwe Mkhize. The overall effect is one that opens the new film in appropriately epic style.
John also contribute an all-new song for the end credits, “Never Too Late”, a jaunty tune which builds on the film’s overall theme in lively fashion.
Speaking of new songs…
The Lion Queen (Bey)
Aside from lending her voice to the new rendition of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, Beyoncé created a brand new single, “Spirit” for the soundtrack. Originally conceived for the end credits, the filmmakers loved the song enough to place it in the actual film. In addition to new song for the Disney’s accompanying soundtrack album, Beyoncé also made a whole new album, “The Lion King: The Gift”, comprised of songs inspired by the remake.
Timon and Pumbaa
Played by Billy Eichner (of TV’s American Horror Story: Cult) and Seth Rogen (Sausage Party, Long Shot), respectively, the dynamic duo of Timon and Pumba steal the show, much as they did in the 1994 original. Rather than rehash what’s come before, though, the screenplay allowed Eichner and Rogen to have fun with their characters, introducing new character beats and punchlines that had the audience in stitches. One gag, in particular, brought the house down with its reference to another Disney classic.
What do you think of this live action remake? Tell us your thoughts below!