I'm a freelance writer living in Perth, Western Australia.
Published July 15th 2019
I just can't wait to see this again
Disney's 2019 retelling of The Lion King is a stunning film which is of great necessity to be seen by both those who grew up with the original animated feature from 1994 and those who are completely new to the story alike.
Growing up, I was that kid who rented the original film from the video store so often that my family purchased me my very own copy on VHS and I nearly wore that tape out. So as a self professed die-hard fan of everything Lion King related, I am here to tell you straight up that this new film is absolutely brilliant and the absolute best Disney remake I have seen so far from the Disney company. Everyone involved clearly worked very hard on this and it shows from every aspect. I truly hope they all know how well they have done and they should be so proud of the outcome!
Everything the light touches will someday be ruled by Simba
Warning, do not see this film without having a pack of tissues handy as almost everyone in the cinema I was in ended up needing them at some point.
Masterfully directed by Jon Favreau (2016's The Jungle Book and 2003's Elf) who used photo-realistic computer-generated animation and incorporated a near perfectly blended combination of inspiration from both the original animated feature as well as Disney's famous live stage production of the same name and was written by Jeff Nathanson (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Speed 2: Cruise Control). The film is also lovingly dedicated to Mark Livolsi who was famous for his editing work on such films as Marley & Me and We Bought A Zoo and unfortunately passes away in 2018, making 2019's The Lion King the last film he ever worked on. His talents and the talents of the rest of the editing department are beautifully showcased in this film.
Throughout my viewing of this wonderful film, I got goosebumps on more than one occasion, starting with the stunning shot for shot opening scene where all the animals are travelling to welcome newborn Prince Simba, voiced as a cub by JD McCrary (Atom: The Misadventures of a Real Super Hero and K.C. Undercover), who perfectly conveys the naivety, mischief and wonder of a young Simba.
The little prince following in his father's paw prints
Contrary to popular rumours, while some iconic scenes have been faithfully been remade shot for shot, a lot of the film is not made that way at all and is a whole new film in itself. For those not familiar with the original, the story centres around a pride of lions living in the African Savanna and after seeing this film, you just might want to start planning your next trip there!
Fans of the original will be delighted to hear James Earl Jones (1994's The Lion King and Coming To America) reprising his role as the all-mighty voice of King Mufasa and after the absence of Queen Sarabi from all of the sequels, prequels and spin-offs for so long, it is so wonderful to see her character back in the picture, this time voiced by the stunning Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact and Captain America: Civil War), who brings a new and beautiful voice to her, in a way which is very respectful to her original voice actress, the late, great Madge Sinclair (Coming To America and Gabriel's Fire).
All of the voice actors have done an incredible job in bringing true life into the characters, including Shahadi Wright Joseph (2019's US and 2016's Hair Spray Live!) as a young Nala, John Oliver (2011's The Smurfs and The Love Guru) as the pompous, but loyal Zazu, John Kani (The Ghost and the Darkness and Black Panther) as the baboon shaman Rafiki, who impressively speaks in English, as well as Causa, Chiwetel Ejiofor (2012 and Serenity) as Simba's jealous, scheming and outright evil uncle Scar, Seth Rogen (Sausage Party and This Is the End) as Pumbaa the gassy warthog and Billy Eichner (The Angry Birds Movie and Billy on the Street) as his best friend Timon the meerkat.
The film follows Simba from a young cub, growing up, playing with his best friend Nala and getting into serious trouble, when the two of them venture into the outlands. They are almost captured an eaten by a pack of hyenas, lead by the fearsome Shenzi, voiced by Florence Kasumba (Black Panther and 2017's Wonder Woman).
Scar, Shenzi and her pack
It is very cool to note that this time around, while the hyenas do still team up with Scar, they are in fact lead by Shenzi, which emulates real hyena behaviours in the wild, where their packs are always lead by a dominant female.
After Scar orchestrates a horrific and traumatic event in Simba's life, he runs away from the pridelands and vows to never return, leaving his family to believe he is no longer alive and Scar assumes his place as the new, selfish and destructive king of Pride Rock.
Meanwhile, Simba is eventually rescued by Timon and Pumbaa, who along with their forest friends, teach his their way of life, among a series of hilarious jokes, many of which breaking the fourth wall in very clever ways and even reference another very famous Disney film leading to much hilarity.
Many years pass and soon Simba is a grown-up lion now voiced by Donald Glover (Solo: A Star Wars Story and Spider-Man: Homecoming) and struggling to fit in with his new jungle friends, but by sheer luck he is reunited with Nala, now voiced by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (Dreamgirls and Austin Powers in Goldmember) and it doesn't take too long before love is in the air and Simba must choose whether he will go back home and fight his uncle for his born right to be king, or continue to abandon his birthright to stay in the jungle.
The soundtrack is absolutely wonderful, with both new renditions of the original songs and musical interludes, as well as a few new ones and to my absolute delight the credits include a stunning rendition of He Lives In You which hardcore fans of the franchise will recognise from both the Broadway musical of the same name as well as being the opening song to The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, which I am 100% hoping will be remade in the same style by the makers of this film. It would be very cool to see it blended with both The Lion Guard and Lion King book series, as they are quite different from the films.
The wise and clever Rafiki
The only downside to this film for me personally, was the new version of Scar's song Be Prepared[/I, as someone who was very much anticipating this song, I was rather disappointed with it now being more of a speech than a musical number, although the new version did still suit the scene and characters involved.
All in all, this is a beautifully made film which must immediately be seen by the whole family.
[I]The Lion King (2019) is rated PG as it contains Mild themes and violence.