How does Disney's live-action The Lion King remake compare to the original animation? Find out in our trailer breakdown!
The first trailer for The Lion King has finally released. This is one of the most-anticipated Disney films of 2019, due to release in July next year, and fans have been eager to get a glimpse of director Jon Favreau's handiwork ever since footage screened at D23. Now it's here, above all, this new Lion King trailer stresses a remarkable sense of continuity between the animated classic and the upcoming live-action adaptation, with Favreau reproducing some of the most beloved scenes in Disney history.
The Lion King is entirely CGI-created, with Donald Glover in the starring role of Simba, and Beyoncé as Nala. The award-winning singer is even collaborating with Elton John on a brand new song for the remake, although new elements really aren't the focus at this point. Indeed, one of the biggest announcements for the live-action remake of The Lion King was the return of James Earl Jones as Mufasa, and the trailer uses this to its full advantage through a powerful voice-over. But there's a lot more than just Mufasa's voice; here's how the live-action remake looks side-by-side against the 1994 classic.
Sunrise Over The Savannaland
This opening shot - of sunrise over the Savannaland - sets the scene in every way. Firstly, it tells viewers that Jon Favreau's The Lion King will be a very faithful remake; this image is a direct recreation of the original's opening scene. It also serves as an excellent point of contrast, showing the difference between making a stylized animation and a live-action CGI film.
In the animated movie, there's a vast grassland with only one of the iconic African Baobab trees. In The Lion King remake, the landscape is far more complex. In a smart move, the passage of the sun through the sky becomes the central theme of the trailer. First Mufasa's voice tells Simba that "everything the light touches is our kingdom." Then he moves on, reflecting on the fact that one day the sun will set upon his reign, and rise upon Simba's. That, of course, is essentially the entire story of The Lion King summed up in one simple voice-over.
Most of the opening scenes in the trailer are lifted straight from "The Circle of Life," including this one. All the animals of Africa are presented as instinctively knowing that their future king has been born. It's fascinating to contrast the CGI approach being used in the remake with the animated Lion King; there's exactly the same sense of beauty and anticipation, even if the live-action version is naturally far more detailed. It's no coincidence Disney has chosen to show the antelopes; they played a major part in "The Circle of Life," where they were shown leaping through the Savannas and then bowing in Simba's presence.
This is Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa that looms over the Savanna. Traditional African religions have always considered Kilimanjaro to be a holy place, and The Lion King incorporated it loosely into its mythology by featuring it in "The Circle of Life." In the animation, Kilimanjaro was presented as a simple, tabular mountain; the live-action remake is far more true to life; the shrinking glaciers on the peak are particularly visible. Additionally, while the original attempted to give a sense of Kilimanjaro's height by showing clouds below the summit, they weren't quite so prominent as in the remake.
Kilimanjaro aside, the shot from The Lion King 2019 has an immense attention to detail; even the elephants and birds in the foreground are carefully remade.
The Birds Fly
Here's one point in The Lion King trailer where the live-action movie deviates somewhat. Although this shot is pulled straight out of the animated Disney film, the perspective has been changed to make it more dramatic; the camera initially focuses tightly upon a few of the birds, then pans up to reveal the size of the flock, and to show more of the beautiful environment they're flying over. The Lion King trailer places this image very cleverly indeed, taking full advantage of the sun's visibility in the shot and reinforcing its central themes.
Mufasa's Speech & James Earl Jones' Voice
By now, it will be absolutely clear that Disney intends The Lion King 2019 to feel like a love letter to their animated classic. That becomes all the more notable with the trailer's emphasis on James Earl Jones, who played Mufasa in the original and is reprising his role in this film. His stentorian tones stress that sense of continuity, with literally everything revolving around the voice-over. Jones is still every bit the king he was in 1994, and if anything the slightly more graveled tone only makes him feel greater. His speech is that to Simba about him becoming king, the literal explanation of the circle of life.
The Animals Celebrate
Next up, the animals gather at the foot of the mountain, celebrating their new king. The trailer actually jumps out of sequence a little here; in The Lion King, this shot is from towards the end of "The Circle of Life," when the young Simba has been presented to his celebrating people. Additionally, it highlights a change. In the animated film, the animals tended to stick together in groups, so you had shots with just the zebras, the giraffes, or the elephants; the remake attempts to give a real sense that all the creatures of Africa are celebrating together, side-by-side.
Also notice that this live-action remake remembers the low position of the sun; it's still early in the morning after all, and the sun's height is a symbol of the new dawn. That's an interesting touch that wasn't stressed in the 1994 Lion King until the moment Simba was held aloft into a sunbeam.
Simba In Mufasa' Paw Print
The Lion King trailer finally moves away from "The Circle of Life," showing one of the most powerful and symbolic moments from The Lion King - the young Simba places his paw within the print of his father's. This scene is invested with so much meaning, symbolizing how far Simba has to go before he can truly live up to Mufasa's legacy. It's interesting to note that the camera angles have been switched up, possibly so as to make the scene work naturally in live-action. The first poster for The Lion King has used the same image quite effectively.
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- The Lion King (2019) release date: Jul 19, 2019