Not only a large portion of moviegoers familiar with the story of THE LION KING (from not only the original animated feature but from the hit musical) but the songs as well. Disney needs something fresh. So with the new live-action animated version, new songs have also been added, written by Sir Elton John and sung by Beyonce.
As in the original animated feature, THE LION KING 2019 is set in Africa where a pride of lions rule over the animal kingdom of Pride Rock. When the film opens, King Mufasa’s (James Earl Jones) and Queen Sarabi’s (Alfre Woodard) newborn son, Simba (Danny Glover), is presented to the gathering animals by Rafiki (John Kani) the mandrill, the kingdom’s shaman and advisor. Mufasa shows Simba the Pride Lands and explains to him the responsibilities of kingship and the “circle of life”, which connects all living things. This is, of course, the cue for the “Circle of life” song reminding audiences that they are watching Disney.
As far as animal eats animal in the wild, the violence of the jungle is toned down several notches. The only animals that get eaten on screen are the disgusting maggots and worms, being at the bottom of the food chain. Plants are victims too.
THE LION KING is a magnificent looking CGI feature with all the animals and background looking so real that one can hardly tell that it is special effects. Simba can be made cute as a cub and fierce like a lion king with all the details like face frowns, fur movements and tail wags. But its is almost a compete copy from the hit animated feature of the same title. It is fortunate that quite a few years have lapsed since, so that audiences can only vaguely remember all the scenes from the original. Still, entertaining and stunning that the CGI LION KING is and looks, originality is clearly absent. Racism is present in the form of hyenas who are looked down by the lions and seen with no redeeming qualities. All this is hidden by Disney’s seemingly innocent portrayal of nature as evident in the film’s initial scenes – a morning sunrise in the African continent; a flight of birds rising from the trees and a horde of elephants making their path through the plains.
Regarding voice characterizations, James Earl Jones with his signature deep voice is the obvious choice for King Mufasa while Chiwetel Ejiofor does a menacing villain, Scar. Comic relief is provided by Seth Rogen who steals the show as the common slow-witted warthog. Yes, and there are fart jokes from him. Pop star Beyonce provides the voice of Nala, Simba’s love interest.
Despite the familiarity of the material, Disney’s hard work shows and proves that old material can still be entertaining given a a few fresh twists. And this is the strength of Disney. Disney always uses tested formula in their film projects. Expect record box-office takings in the opening weekend.