Back in 1994, during a period that became widely known as the Disney Renaissance, Walt Disney Feature Animation and Walt Disney Pictures released one of the most recognized and beloved animated films of all time.
Influenced by the Japanese anime Kimba the White Lion and drawing upon William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Lion King is a beautiful story of a young lion’s tale to maturity and self-redemption and features some of the best musical scores ever heard in an animated production.
So, what better way to honor such a critically acclaimed piece of work than to recreate and release it on the big screen 25 years later?
With several animated Disney films getting the live-action treatment in recent years, it’s no surprise that a Lion King remake appeared on the radar back in 2016 following the success of The Jungle Book live-action adaptation. Featuring a star-studded voice cast consisting of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, as well as James Earl Jones reprising his original role as Mufasa, The Lion King (2019) uses “virtual reality tools” in order to simulate realistic and authentic-looking animals.
Following the original story from the animated film, The Lion King tells the story of young Simba, a lion cub born to King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi. Upon witnessing the death of his father, which was orchestrated by Mufasa’s devious younger brother Scar and his band of wild hyenas, Simba runs away believing himself responsible. As Scar rises to power over the Pride Lands, Simba lives and grows in self-inflicted exile with two friendly outcasts: Timon and Pumbaa. When his childhood friend and bride to be, Nala discovers that he’s still alive, she tries to convince Simba to return to Pride Rock and reclaim his rightful seat at the throne. And, after some consideration, Simba decides to confront Scar once and for all.
What makes this movie so perfectly done, yet also causes a lot of mixed feelings among some viewers, is that it’s basically the same movie from 25 years ago, just with more realism. The shots are almost exactly the same, except for the more cartoony sections such as the animal pyramid that ends the song “Just Can’t-Wait to Be King,” and the focus on more realistic looking characters takes away from the obviousness of certain facial expressions.
However, it is worth noting that, by not changing anything about the story, we are technically receiving the exact same movie we fell in love with all those years ago. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is solely up to the watcher’s preference.
As far as the voice acting goes, most of the characters seem perfectly cast, with a show-stealing performance coming from Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen’s roles as Timon and Pumbaa respectively. Hilariously enough, Beyoncé’s role as Nala comes across more as Beyoncé playing herself.
A near-perfect copy of its predecessor, The Lion King (2019) is more of a realistic remastering rather than an entirely new take on the animated classic. And honestly, that’s completely okay.
Rating: 4/5 Stars