There Will Be No Lion King Review

This week marks the global opening of Jon Favreau’s much-publicised reimagining of a much-loved animated feature: Disney’s The Lion King. Despite being only a quarter of century old, Lion King is considered by many to be a classic, thanks to its story, music, voice-cast, and hand-drawn animation. So immense is the film’s cultural impact that one would be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t have a copy of it on home-video, let alone memory of seeing it.

The public’s fondness for this feature is not lost upon Disney, which has endlessly cashed-in on the Lion King brand via merchandising, spin-offs, and direct-to-video sequels. Now the company is hoping to capitalise on that appreciation even further with Favreau’s version, a move that can best be described as questionable, seeing as there’s no justification for an update – if it can even be called that.

One reason given for the new Lion King‘s existence is age, with the producers believing that enough time has passed since the previous film’s release to warrant a remake. This author begs to differ. Despite what many, Disney included, insist on advocating, 25 years is not a lengthy period of time – there are far older animated features that have been recreated in the live-action format, such as 2015’s Cinderella and this year’s Dumbo.

At this point a counterargument could be made that Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin was released just a couple of months ago, which is based on a film only a couple of years older than the original Lion King. This is true, but Ritchie’s film did serve an alternate purpose: to rectify the cultural insensitivities present in the animated version. No such issues plague 1994’s Lion King, which has no dated material or tasteless humour – aside from the Freudian connotations that surround an “SFX” easter-egg.

Advocates for 2019’s Lion King have also suggested that the movie needs to exist because the material no longer resonates with people. Such was the case with 2016’s The Jungle Book, which took inspiration from the Disney animation of the same name, but with less musical interludes and a rewritten script to suit modern tastes. But, as has already been established, sentiment for the original Lion King remains strong, and there isn’t the desire to see the material updated or changed.

It’s for this very reason that Favreau – who also directed Jungle Book – has opted not to alter the script for his live-action interpretation; nor has he altered the music, continuing to utilise the orchestral score of Hans Zimmer and the songs of Elton John and Tim Rice. Intriguingly, Favreau has also opted to cast James Earl Jones as the voice of Mufasa, despite the other characters having been given new actors to play their respective roles.

According to early reviews of the new Lion King, this reluctance deviate from the original movie has been a sore point for critics, who have expressed their desire for more fresh material, much like that found in other Disney remakes. Such a move demonstrates very little faith in the producers, screenwriters, or Favreau’s abilities as a director, and only further highlights how unnecessary it was to update the story for contemporary audiences.

Of course, there is a major point of difference between Favreau’s picture and the Lion King of old, that being the computer-generated, photo-realistic animals that inhabit live-action settings. Utilising this technology and applying it to, essentially, the same screenplay and soundtrack as the original film is denigrating to viewers, insinuating they are incapable of appreciating traditional, 2D animation now that it has been “superseded”.

Moreover, this modern form of animation is an enormous insult to the artists and illustrators who worked on 1994’s Lion King, many of whom are still alive and working in the industry. Through releasing this film a mere quarter-century after its forebear, Disney is devaluing their craft, suggesting it and them to be void and outdated, which clearly isn’t true – witness how many television shows utilise the older medium.

Like many of his generation, this author has a great affection for 1994’s Lion King, and continues to admire it as an adult – it’s certainly one of the studio’s stronger offerings, having aged impeccably. To him, the release of Jon Favreau’s version serves only as a reminder of how brilliant the original film was, pointlessly retelling its story in a format that is visually impressive, but lacking in colour and charm; hence, it will forever live in the footprint of its forefather.

In short, One Large Popcorn, Please! will not be publishing a review of Jon Favreau’s Lion King, ever.


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