The first footage from the live-action The Lion King was unveiled at this year’s D23. When it comes to Disney’s animated output from the 1990s, pretty much the unquestioned champion is 1994’s The Lion King, one of the company’s most iconic animated features in history. A box office and merchandising juggernaut, The Lion King has spawned several sequel movies, video games, more than one TV series, popular stage musicals, and just about every other type of product one could conceivably stick Simba’s furry face on. The film was even added into the U.S. National Film Registry last year, an honor given to only a select few titles.
With that type of popularity – and Disney’s current love for remaking its animated classics in live-action – it was really only a matter of time until The Lion King was selected for the remake treatment. Last fall brought fans the official announcement that such a remake was in the works, set to be directed by live-action Jungle Book helmer Jon Favreau. Illustrating how important Lion King’s success is to Disney, the company opted to put Favreau directing a planned Jungle Book sequel on hold in order to allow him to give his full attention to the remake.
At today’s portion of Disney’s big D23 expo, the first footage from the live-action Lion King was shown, and according to reports, it was quite the moment. The footage shown was a recreation of the animated original’s classic opening sequence, featuring the Elton John song “Circle of Life”. All the major elements were reportedly recreated, including the African sunrise, birds flying overhead, Rafiki proudly holding up the newborn Simba from the top of Pride Rock, and the adoring animal kingdom below bowing their heads to the future king.
The casting news for The Lion King has been flying fast and furious as of late, including the blockbuster announcement earlier today that Hugh Jackman is set to voice Scar, Simba’s villainous uncle. This comes on the heels of a recent announcement that British comedian and late night host John Oliver has signed on to play Zazu, perhaps the most loyal member of Mufasa’s court. It was of course previously confirmed that Donald Glover will portray Simba, with James Earl Jones returning to voice Mufasa.
While some hardcore Lion King fans are still probably a little nervous about the prospect of Disney trying to remake a film that many regard as close to perfect, the fact that Disney chose to make its first footage of the remake an homage to “Circle of Life” makes clear the level of reverence even those within the studio have for one of their most beloved films. One wonders when they’ll see fit to release some live-action “Hakuna Matata” footage, too.
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