The Jungle Book director Jon Favreau is revealing his plans for making The Lion King, his next live-action adaptation of a Disney animated classic. Favreau, of course, floored audiences and made Disney $966.5 million at the worldwide box office last year when he breathed life into the film’s computer-generated jungle animals; a feat that earned the film a Best Visual Effects Oscar in February.
And while The Jungle Book was adapted from a Disney animated classic, Favreau knows that the stakes are much higher with his remake of one of the Mouse House’s most coveted properties with The Lion King.
EW says Favreau explained his approach to making The Lion King with frequent collaborator Scarlett Johansson at the Tribeca Film Festival’s Tribeca Talks’ Directors Series Friday night in New York.
Favreau talked about the expectations of being a director, which are much higher in the Disney realm because of the material’s immense popularity. The key with The Jungle Book, he says, was to make sure to pay homage to the film’s most memorable images, and he intends on doing the same with The Lion King. He says:
“With the Disney stuff, people know even more … With Lion King, people really know [the original], and they grew up with it and it has emotional impact. I think about what I remember about The Lion King? I did it with Jungle Book. ‘What do I remember about The Jungle Book? I remember Mowgli and the snake. I remember the snake’s eyes. I remember Baloo going down the river and Mowgli riding on him like a raft. I made a big list, and those are the images we definitely needed… and you have more latitude to shift and change those things.”
Favreau noted, however, that there’s a big difference between what fans remember from The Jungle Book opposed to their memories of The Lion King. Favreau says:
“The Jungle Book was 50 years ago, Lion King was 20, and people grew up with it in an age of video where they watched it over and over again. So, I have to really examine all of those plot points. Also, the myths are very strong in it, so you’re hitting something even deeper than the movie sometimes. What I’m trying to do is honor what was there … There are certain expectations people have.”
Thankfully for Favreau, he has the talent to meet those expectations. Movie icon James Earl Jones is reprising his voice role of Mufasa from the original Lion King, while rising star Donald Glover is voicing the pivotal role of Simba. And, if Favreau gets his wish, he’ll get an international superstar in Beyonce to voice Nala.
No matter how talented of a cast he assembled, the bottom line is there’s a reason Favreau became Disney’s go-to guy for directing live-action updates with computer-generated animals. With The Jungle Book, he brought a unique spectrum of emotions to the film – including moments of poignancy, comedy, intensity and even some scares (how could you forget Christopher Walken’s menacing King Louie?) – and there’s no reason to doubt that he’ll do the same with The Lion King.