The Lion King was a major part of my childhood. I subjected my parents to hours of “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” until the tape broke — and they had to replace it each time.
So, my standards were already set as high as Pride Rock when word came out that the photo-realistic reboot was on the way. Luckily for The Lion King fans like me, Disney didn’t take any major risks with this live-action remake. The movie, which premiered this past weekend, is shot-for-shot like the original animated feature film, except the animals look real.
It has its minor changes, such as new names for two of the hyenas, a few additional lines that make the story about Simba (JD McCrary and Donald Glover) more current and relatable to new audiences, and slight variations to the original musical score. However, the overall, classic plot fans know and love remains the same. It’s the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” situation. Even the new voice cast sounds similar to the original one, with the exception of Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
The updated animation and realistic graphics make viewers feel as if they are watching real animals holding Hamlet-inspired conversations and singing about having no worries. From the beginning, you feel like you’re watching a musical rendition of the addictive miniseries Planet Earth, so you’re already locked into the story. Then, Scar kills Mufasa (James Earl Jones), and you start bawling worse than you did during the original movie because you think the lions are real. Surprisingly, you may even feel just as horrible when Scar falls to his fiery death because you can’t deal with seeing animals die, especially in such a dark way. I admit that I still cried, and I heard other people crying, too, so don’t judge me!
The modern animation can create a major setback for some viewers, who are accustomed to the human-like facial expressions of the characters — Disney‘s bread and butter. With this photo-realism, the animals can come off as dull because they lack facial expressions as they interact. However, the entire star-studded voice cast stays true to the original characters during their performances, bringing each character’s personality to life. They also effortlessly bring OG fans back to their childhoods, while creating a memorable story for new ones.
Die-hard fans of the movie can expect slightly updated versions to all of the music — with the new cast singing as their characters — and variations to memorable scenes, such as the gazelle stampede, which they’ll enjoy all the same. Although I was slightly disappointed that Scar’s “Be Prepared” was shortened and no cackling hyenas joined in, the song still set the same mood as the original and drove the plot forward. Meanwhile, the two new songs, “Spirit” by Beyonce Knowles-Carter and “Never Too Late” by Sir Elton John, along with the musical adaptation’s “He Lives in You,” seamlessly tied together all versions of The Lion King.
Disney fans can rest assured that The Lion King reboot doesn’t ruin the story or their memories of the original. It’s not *really* necessary to catch the movie in theaters unless you’re introducing the story to a kid who has never seen the first one, but fans will enjoy it even if they do.