Disney’s THE LION KING Reimagining – A Nostalgic Journey

Walt Disney Studios’ reimagining of THE LION KING boasts an all-star cast helmed by director Jon Favreau (THE JUNGLE BOOK, CHEF). This film has gorgeous animation, a polished look and a stunning soundtrack, but so did 1994’s original THE LION KING, right? However, if you’re hungry for spectacle or have huge nostalgia for THE LION KING, check out this refreshed version.  

In case you’ve been living under a rock on the ‘90s or just need a refresher after 25 years, THE LION KING follows lion cub Simba (voiced by Donald Glover) learning life lessons from his father, who just happens to be the King of Pride Rock, Mufasa (voiced once again by James Earl Jones). All is not well in this kingdom, however: Simba’s jealous, power-hungry uncle Scar (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor) concocts an evil plan to get rid of both Mufasa and Simba so he can take the throne. This is a Disney film, so you can guess what happens to Simba’s dad. Alive but running scared, Simba flees the kingdom and grows up in a new home with warthog Pumbaa (voiced by Seth Rogan) and meerkat Timon (voiced by Billy Eichner). But what is Simba to do when his best childhood friend Nala (voiced by Beyonce) returns begging him to take up the mantle of king? Well, it’s all in the title…

With all of Disney’s live action retellings, on our podcast we’ve asked ourselves “Do we need this film?” In most cases, the answer has been “yes.” Something about the story, setting or character changed. In ALADDIN, Jasmine has a new purpose as Sultan and a female friend. 2017’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST received 5 new songs and we found out what happened to Belle’s mother. Even Jon Favreau’s JUNGLE BOOK received an updated ending and a MUCH scarier Shere Khan. But Favreau’s THE LION KING is literally, beat for beat and shot for shot, almost an exact copy of the original. It really serves as a reminder of just how amazing the original is. 

THE LION KING

I’m a film music junkie, and THE LION KING 1994’s soundtrack ranks as my #1 Disney movie score. I’ve listened to it A LOT and feel the Hans Zimmer and African music consultant Lebo M absolutely captured the spirit of Africa. Watching Favreau’s THE LION KING this year, I was struck by how similar the score was to the original, again beat for beat and shot for shot. Unsurprisingly, Hans Zimmer and Lebo M were also involved in the making of this new version.

So, what ARE the differences? Timon and Pumbaa, for one. Voiced by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan respectively, the characters and all of their improv together absolutely leap off the screen. I don’t like fart jokes at all, but my favorite moment of the film is when the two are singing “Hakuna Matata” and it gets to the part that everyone knows — where Timon interrupts Pumbaa before he can complete a rhyme with “farted.” What they did with that moment in this film had me in stitches.

While the score is nearly the same, the soundtrack boasts a few differences. Beyonce voices Nala, so of course must contribute a new song as well — “Spirit” accompanies Simba’s journey back to Pride Rock. You’ll also hear a new Elton John song over the end credits, “Never Too Late.” ‘Be Prepared’ gets a new spoken first verse and African drum treatment that more firmly links it to the rest of the soundtrack.

The making of THE LION KING is the more fascinating story. Did you know that a VR multiplayer filmmaking game was used to “film” THE LION KING? Did you know that Hans Zimmer rehearsed and recorded the score with a very special orchestra and chorus? Check out my press conference piece for these enlightening tales.

Should you see THE LION KING? If you are nostalgic for the original, this film hits all those nostalgic notes. The feelings and emotions are the same and you will probably love it. But if you expect an update on story and character for 2019, this is not the film for you. If you do see THE LION KING beginning July 19th, 2019, please let us know your thoughts!  

I’ll leave you with a surprise performance from Lebo M and the cast of ‘The Lion King’ Broadway Musical singing “Circle of Life” to put you in the right mood.

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About Richard & Sarah Woloski

Richard and Sarah Woloski are the co-hosts and creators of the Disney / Star Wars Podcast Skywalking Through Neverland. The husband and wife team strives to create a polished, positive and fun weekly show celebrating fandom. They also love writing for Adventures By Daddy. Find them @SkywalkingPod