Disney unveiled brand-new footage from its "live-action" remake of The Lion King at CinemaCon. The Mouse House has enjoyed great box office success with the live-action remakes of its animated features for the past nine years, and hopes to keep that trend going in 2019. So far, however, things haven't gone entirely to plan, what with Tim Burton's Dumbo remake struggling to recoup its budget at the box office. That said, the studio is expected to have better luck with Guy Ritchie's Aladdin at the end of May, and especially Jon Favreau's The Lion King in July.
Favreau, of course, has a strong track record in this department, and is coming off the massive success of Disney's Oscar-winning The Jungle Book three years ago. The Lion King will follow in that movie's footsteps and re-imagine its traditionally animated predecessor as a photorealistic CGI adventure, complete with celebrity actors lending their voices to the film's animals. At the same time, The Lion King appears to be a pretty faithful re-imagining, more so than The Jungle Book was. That's certainly the impression that the film's trailers have left, and the CinemaCon footage did little to dispute the idea.
The Lion King segment of Disney's CinemaCon presentation featured a clip from pretty early in the film, when a young Simba (JD McCrary) badgers a sleeping Mufasa (James Earl Jones, reprising his iconic role), reminding him of his promise to let Simba accompany him on his patrol of the Pride Lands. While there were slight differences in the dialogue between the footage and the same scene from the animated movie, the sequence mostly played out the same, with Mufasa imparting vital life lessons to Simba about how "A king's time rises and falls like the sun". However, he also has some fresh pieces of wisdom to pass onto his young son, like how the Pride Lands "[belong] to no one, but it will be yours to protect".
There were other small, but noteworthy differences between this scene and the version in the animated Lion King. For example, Mufasa doesn't say the shadowy realm of the Pride Lands (e.g. where the hyenas live) is beyond their borders, and indicates that the area is part of their kingdom... but Simba still shouldn't go there. He also touches on a king's responsibility as the pair walk among the fields of the Pride Lands, noting that "While others search for what they can take, a true king searches for what he can give". Finally, the scene ends on a funnier note as the pair cross paths with Mufasa's hornbill advisor Zazu, who proceeds to deliver his morning report... before Simba pounces on him, at Mufasa's behest. Since Zazu is voiced by John Oliver in this movie, the character feels like a bit of a riff on his persona as the host of HBO's Last Week Tonight. He even cracks a joke about the kingdom's birds "tweeting" at 4 in the morning (wink wink, nudge nudge).
All in all, The Lion King continues to sound pretty identical to the animated version, as far as the plot and character dynamics are concerned. At the same time, the film appears to be making some revisions and tweaks to the original movie, in an effort to "update" it for 2019 (similar to what Dumbo and the other Disney live-action remakes have done before it). It'll certainly be interesting to see just how similar the actual movie is to the 1994 iteration, and whether it's more or less able to stand on its own, the way Favreau's The Jungle Book did
- The Lion King (2019) release date: Jul 19, 2019