Money. That’s why. They knew moviegoers would go and see this film just on the strength of the name alone. It carries on the recent Disney trend of remaking their classic animated films live-action or this case photo-realistic animation. After Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, Dumbo, Pete’s Dragon and Aladdin, The Lion King was the next logical step surely.
But for so many people who were brought up on Disney films, especially in the 90s, The Lion King holds a special place. The lines are ingrained in their memories, the songs can stay in your head for the rest of your life, the animation is beautiful, the voice acting is iconic. Every frame of that movie is so famous that a remake could be incredibly risky. If too many changes were made, people would lambast it for daring to tinker and tamper with a beloved film of their childhood. If it was a shot for shot remake, it would be criticised for not allowing the director to put his own spin on the story and characters and for being a shameless cash grab. I haven’t seen the new version yet, so I can’t give my personal thoughts on it as a movie.
From the trailers and clips I’ve seen, the animation is absolutely flawless. It really looks like live animals are interacting and speaking. As with The Jungle Book, Disney has raised the bar in terms of its animation techniques and ability to render realistic animals on screen. However there was a human protagonist in The Jungle Book, someone for the audience to connect with and follow through the story. The Lion King doesn’t have such a protagonist and so looking at photo-realistic lions that cannot pull off the same range of facial expressions as a person may be slightly jarring. The voice cast is strong and I have no concerns there. For a role that demands both normal voice acting and singing, Beyonce is perfect, Donald Glover is also strong and the rest of the musical numbers have apparently been shortened for the theatrical release so the rest of the voice cast can kind of get away with it. I do kind of regret that they didn’t ask Jeremy Irons back to voice Scar again but with James Earl Jones returning to the role of Mufasa, maybe they felt to bring anyone else back would undermine the film as being its own separate entity. My worry is that, as I said earlier, they will have changed so little out of fear of audiences’ reactions that it will be nothing more than a facsimile of the original with updated and admittedly very impressive visuals.
In the end, I can see where Disney is coming from with this whole enterprise. It has a number of its classics still to go, with Mulan slated for release in 2020 and cast announcements recently made for The Little Mermaid. And I have no doubt a great many people will go to see this movie and really enjoy it. I probably will as well, when I get around to seeing it. And remaking these films means you can make sequels for them in live action as well which means even more money going back into the Mouse’s wallet. I just feel that their time might be better spent creating new stories and characters. I mean, look how successful Frozen was when it came out. It was so successful that they’re releasing a sequel to that as well. I just want to see some original stuff, and for it to be the big release in their schedule, from Disney rather than be overwhelmed by a live action remake of every film they’ve ever made, because let’s face it, there’s rather a lot of them.