The Lion King (2019): ‘Disney’s Beloved Redone’ – A Film Review




We’re very much in the age of remakes. If it were not true of other genres and franchises, Disney are insisting upon it with their live action remakes. In 2019 alone the three remakes to come out this year have further been extended to include Lady and the Tramp and the sequel to Maleficent – Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Whether people are asking for them or not, they just keep on coming. They all have varying degrees of quality. Some look to recreate the original, whilst some add their changes on in thick chunks. Dumbo looked to add Tim Burton‘s style of circus to it in a sort of super victorian feel. Whilst Aladdin made an awkward attempt on the scene for scene of Aladdin (1992), but with underwhelming characters and a little more agency to the narrative. The changes made the story more awkward, whilst the recreations couldn’t hold up to the original. Yet… people keep seeing them. So, one of the most beloved Disney animated films of the 90’s, The Lion King, is getting its own update in live action. This is difficult ground to tread. Audiences, though intrigued, are faced with having their beloved film reinterpreted.



The Same Lion King?

Disney were perhaps quite aware of this difficulty. This version looks to be almost scene for scene as the changes are a lot more subtle. Some scenes have further clarifying dialogue and it feels out of place and patronising. This also came at a strange cost, many scenes are left cut down. Musical numbers are stopped short and key moments left out making these scenes much quicker. This also bleeds into the majesty of many of the songs. Creatively vibrant and extravagant in the original, here, there is none of it. One key change appears to be the briefly referred to back-stories for Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the Hyenas. It makes Scar a weaker villain and prevents there from being much dramatic tension further on. Only other mention goes to the reframing of the theme of the past. It is far more on the nose. It also makes characters far too different, which would complicate their get along later. Thus these changes force the thematic point of the film into something more awkward, and far from the heart-warming message of its predecessor.



Performing Another Take

But, in looking at the similarities, the shot for shot moments and the scenes retrodden, there is a different set of problems. Live action remakes boast the benefit of CGI as a way of representing more realistic animals and scenery. It is certainly impressive, but it lacks the expressive emotion of the original. There isn’t much benefit to this at all. Furthermore, actors give very wooden and down-trodden performances – they scarcely emote their lines. Sometimes Zazu (John Oliver), Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumba (Seth Rogen) seem to ad lib and it gives a little life to what they do, but it tends to feel out of place and awkward. Like they’re trying to be at odds with what they’re doing.




From the still faces, the still characters and the unenthused plot, musicals and performances, The Lion King is on terrible ground. The film can easily be summed up by a number of stills that look pretty but otherwise show nothing of character, performance or the slight interest in narrative. One such example is Raphiki (John Kani) holding up Simba (JD McCrary, Adult: Donald Glover) at the beginning. There is a beautiful sky and the baboon looks realistic, but he sits there barely holding Simba in a pose that says: ‘yeah here it is, whatever’. The Lion King rushes through it all and never bothers to try and be the story it’s wanting to retell.



With the birth of a new king, Scar, the brother of the current king, feels his claim to the thrown getting further away from him. Making an alliance with the Hyenas he plans his path to the throne.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Aladdin (d. Ron Clements, John Musker USA 1992)

Aladdin (d. Guy Ritchie USA 2019)

Dumbo (d. Tim Burton USA 2019)

Lady and the Tramp (d. Charlie Bean USA 2019)

Maleficent (d. Robert Stromberg USA 2014)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (d. Joachim Rønning USA 2019)

The Lion King (d. Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff USA 1994)

The Lion King (d. Jon Favreau USA 2019)


Further Reading

Official Site

Press Conference Interview

Jon Favreau Interview

Cast Interview

Behind the Scenes

Side by Side Trailer

Side by Side Trailer #2

Fixing the Look


If you liked this

Aladdin (2019): ‘Disney Blues’ – A Film Review

Dumbo (2019): ‘Burton Ruins Disney Again’ – A Film Review

Beauty and the Beast (d. Bill Condon USA/UK 2017)


This was an analytical review of….


The Lion King (d. Jon Favreau USA 2019)


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