Characters like Timon, Pumbaa, and Rafiki get the spotlight in the new images from Disney and director Jon Favreau's The Lion King remake. The Mouse House's live-action reimaginings of its animated films have grossed more than $5 billion at the worldwide box office to date, beginning with 2010's Alice in Wonderland. As such, it's little wonder that Disney has even more planned for the next few years, including live-action retellings of Aladdin and The Lion King this year, followed by Mulan in 2020. And that's not to mention Lady and the Tramp, which is debuting on Disney+ when the streaming service launches in November.
The Lion King marks the second such remake for Favreau, who previously called the shots on Disney's Oscar-winning The Jungle Book in 2016. And much like he did on that film, Favreau is using photorealistic CGI to retell lion cub crown prince Simba's coming of age story on the big screen, complete with all the majestic settings and colorful animals of the original 1994 animated movie. Of course, characters like Simba, Mufasa, and Scar look a little different this time around, in keeping with the remake's "live-action" aesthetic.
Speaking of which: since The Lion King remake is entirely CGI (unlike The Jungle Book), many have fairly argued that it shouldn't be referred to as "live-action". Others, however, have reasonably pointed out that Favreau shot the movie in the same way that he would've done on a traditional live-action film. The director made a similar argument during his interview with EW, which also included several brand-new photos from The Lion King retelling. You can read his quote below, followed by the images.
“The whole reason for all of this is to make an animated film feel live-action - to have a real crew come in, interface with an animated film, and make all the camera decisions that you would on set, instead of somebody sitting at a keyboard programming in the camera moves. If you look at the way we’re covering and cutting [the animated performances], all of that is related to traditional cinema.”
Part of Favreau's approach to modernizing The Lion King also involved casting actors who reflect the current pop cultural zeitgeist, as he explained to EW. Among the film's cast members are Childish Gambino himself, Donald Glover, as the voice of adult Simba. The latter is shown loafing around here with his buddies Timon and Pumbaa, who are voiced by Billy Eichner (American Horror Story) and prolific writer-director-actor Seth Rogen, respectively. Also pictured here are the wise mandrill Rafiki (Black Panther's John Kani), prim and proper red-billed hornbill Zazu (Late Week Tonight's host John Oliver), and Oscar-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor as Simba's scheming uncle Scar (who, yes, will get to perform the classic musical number "Be Prepared" in the remake, according to EW).
All in all, the "live-action" versions of these Lion King characters are pretty visually striking and convincing, yet remain faithful to the designs and appearances of their 2D animated predecessors... which is also the problem, for a lot of people. Basically, The Lion King remake isn't really promising anything new so much as it's aiming to deliver a more realistic-looking version of the same movie that so many have already watched (and, in some cases, never really had a desire to see in "live-action"). On the other hand, Favreau has promised the film isn't a shot for shot retelling and will both "deliver on people’s expectations while surprising them somehow". Time will tell on that one.
- The Lion King (2019) release date: Jul 19, 2019