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movies/tv "The Lion King" Remake Confirmed And Why It's a Terrible Idea


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So for those who haven't heard, Disney and Jon Favreau have confirmed that the latter has been pegged to direct a "live-action" (i.e. CGI) remake of their beloved 1994 classic, "The Lion King."


OK... I have some thoughts...




Sorry, needed to get that out of the way.  Ahem, now that that's over, let me proceed to tell you all why this is a horrible, bad, terrible, no-good, rotten, dumb, asinine, and completely nonsensical idea.  First, some background.  For some years now Disney has been engaging in a rather lazy and obvious cash grab by remaking many of their past films, both classic and obscure, as live-action remakes.  Their justification for this is that they are "updating" the stories for modern audiences.  While the quality of these films varies, most of the ones they've released so far can be justified for a variety of reasons:


(1) "Maleficent": while the movie itself ranges from bad to mediocre, the idea of focusing on the villain in retelling the story is a good one, it just wasn't executed well because Disney went for the easy "oh, the villain is just misunderstood and is really a tragic and good character" cliche, which especially doesn't work for a villain as unapologetically evil as Maleficent.


(2) "Cinderella": again, while the film actually failed in some of the ways it tried to update the original (prominent Internet critics like Doug Walker have pointed out that Cinderella actually comes off as more incompetent and less in control of her life in the new one than in the original) it makes sense that a movie as old as this one, and a classic fairy tale no less, could get a modern retelling.  However, that modern retelling already exists in the far superior "Ever After" starring Drew Barrymore.  Still, the justification for making the film is there.


(3) "The Jungle Book": it's weird even calling this a remake since all it remade was the Disney film from the 1960s, which has virtually nothing to do with Rudyard Kipling's far more interesting collection of stories.  The biggest justification for remaking it is in having an actual child actor (and an Indian one no less) starring in it, and as a technological achievement it's pretty amazing.  That said, most online critics I've watched who reviewed it have said that while it's perfectly harmless, it also felt completely unnecessary, and elements from the original that they tried to call back to were awkwardly shoehorned into that film (more on that later as it pertains to "The Lion King").


(4) "Pete's Dragon": this movie was so obscure to begin with that no one in their right mind would even give a flying buck that it was being remade.  The remake itself sounds like it's perfectly fine, and there's absolutely no surprise there considering it's not some beloved classic to begin with, hence the filmmakers probably had plenty of freedom to just make a perfectly original update.  It got good reviews but very much underperformed compared to these other remakes, most likely because, again, who the buck was asking for a "Pete's Dragon" remake?


Disney is also releasing and/or planning to have remakes for "Beauty and the Beast," "Mulan," "The Little Mermaid," "Peter Pan," "Tinker Bell" (not sure how that qualifies considering there's no original Tinker Bell movie besides "Peter Pan"), and most likely many more.


Now that this quick overview is out of the way, let's get into why Disney may be pushing their luck with these remakes, and why "The Lion King" is the perfect example of a movie they should DEFINITELY not be making.


(1) What does 'timeless' mean to Disney anymore?


As you can see, with most of these films, Disney has justified them by saying that they "need" to be updated for modern audiences.  Now none of these remakes needed to be made, BUT so far there has been nothing wrong in and of itself with the idea of remaking them (although Disney has most definitely exaggerated how many updates have been made, the importance of them, or how they've "enhanced" these stories).  But now we're REALLY getting into the cream of the crop of Disney classics.  To this point, the closest to classics that Disney has remade were Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, both of which, while certainly beloved, were both old, old films and also drawn from fairy tales themselves, hence there is plenty of room for retelling.  Today, however, Disney's walking on thinner ice with some of these, namely in the proposition to remake their landmark titles from the Disney Renaissance which are barely over 20 years old.


These movies, upon release, were hailed as instant classics: "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast," and "The Lion King."  They're Disney at its finest doing what it does best, and people young and old hold them dearly today.  But if they're so great (which Disney has no trouble proclaiming), then one has to ask, why remake them in the first place?  If a movie's timeless, it's presumably perfectly fine as it is, with no need to change it.  Thus, Disney can't simultaneously proclaim a movie a timeless classic while also going forward with remaking it; either the movie's not a timeless classic and thus in need of a remake, OR Disney is just lying to us in order to poorly justify remaking a movie that doesn't need a remake.  The phrase "nothing is sacred" gets thrown around a bit too liberally sometime, but here it actually seems apt to use it; Disney is sacrificing the creative integrity of its studios (which are doing plenty fine as is with no need of these remakes) for the sake of making a few more dollars.  Hardly surprising, but from a creative standpoint, deeply disappointing.


(2) The new medium doesn't work for "The Lion King"


Another element that has been key in Disney justifying these remakes is the idea of having live action, human characters thrown into these classic settings from animated movies.  Even "The Jungle Book" was able to do this with Mowgli, even if the rest of that movie was all CGI.  Again, this is a weak justification, but it at least somewhat justifies the new medium, to a certain extent.


In the case of "The Lion King," however, the justification completely falls apart and we see how weak it really is for any of these remakes.  Simply put, there are no human characters in "The Lion King."  It's a very human story (heck, it's based off of Hamlet for crying out loud), BUT the setting is inhabited entirely by animals.  Why did such a story work so well as an animated film in the first place?  For very much the same reason "Bambi" works as a film as well; in both instances, the filmmakers utilized the strengths of their medium to their advantage.  Animation allowed them to make the animal characters look very realistic while also giving them just enough human features to come across as characters with human mannerisms and emotions recognizable to human audiences.  The animals make facial expressions that their real life counterparts cannot, and display an emotional spectrum that only humans possess.  In animation, this is acceptable because it's a part of how one tells a story in that medium; people don't expect animation to perfectly reflect real life, but rather depict it's own set of characters in its own particular setting in its own particular way.  This is also why in animation, you can have such a wide range of characters in film or television and still tell a story that audiences can latch onto; whether it's something as outrageous off the walls as Ren and Stimpy, as cheap looking as South Park, as massive as anime like Gurren Lagann, as small-scale as a show like Rugrats, or, yes, as seemingly naturalistic looking as Bambi or The Lion King, in all of these humans are able to accept the characters presented to them as characters somewhat like them because they understand that they inhabit an animated medium, where liberties can be taken with appearances and the laws of physics.


The animated medium also allows for musical numbers to be seamlessly blended into the storytelling in a way that even the best live musicals/musical films can't do.  One minute Simba and Nala can be talking to each other about ditching Zazu, the next minute they can be bursting into song with dozens of other animals that have really no reason to be singing with them, and we as an audience accept it because we know it's an animated setting, where something like that can just happen and then never be brought up ever again.  In "The Lion King," the liberties afforded to the animated medium are on display in ways that many animated features do not capture.  The anthropomorphism of the animals in that film is a very strange balance of naturalism with fantasy; they look for the most part like their real life counterparts, and they even exist in an ecology which reflects a real life savanna ecology, but at the same time, they display emotions, mannerisms, and facial expressions that only humans can, some look more cartoonish than others (like Timon and Pumbaa, Zazu, and the Hyenas), break out into song on occasion, and even have things happen like a lion cub getting raised by a warthog and a meerkat and growing up to live beside them.  All of these elements were critical in telling the story that the makers of "The Lion King" had unfold in their film.


Now then, having said all that, we must ask ourselves this very important question: can you do ALL of this in a CGI/live action medium which is supposed to depict the animals as realistically as possible?  I for one do not believe that it's possible.  Let's take a look at the film that will probably closely resemble this proposed Lion King remake the most, the 2016 Jungle Book.








Right away, there's a couple things one notices.  Now, as far as CGI goes, this all looks gorgeous, no doubt.  HOWEVER, if one is comparing it as a remake of an animated film populated by anthropomorphic animal characters, then it fails UTTERLY.  How so?  The expressions.  ALL of the emotion conveyed by any of the animal characters here hinges ENTIRELY on the voice acting.  There are a FEW things they can do with the mouths and the eyes, but not much; in making the animals look so much like their real life counterparts, they've sacrificed a major storytelling feature of the animated medium.  The most interesting character to look at is Mowgli, since he's played by a real kid, and "The Lion King" won't even have a character like that.  Thus, faces like the following will be entirely impossible for the remake to achieve.








These are CLEARLY all facial expressions that animals do not make in real life, and thus in the remake, we shall lose a CRITICAL element of what made the characters in "The Lion King" come to life.  All emotion will be purely conveyed through the voice acting or body movements, but NOT the faces!  It doesn't help that character designs like Scar's won't even be possible; Scar is clearly very exaggerated and cartoonish in his appearance, which helps convey his status as villain.  I anticipate that the live-action one by comparison will look far more dull and generic.


In addition, you'll notice a rather jarring musical transition in the second clip with Mowgli and Baloo.  The song "The Bare Necessities" just kind of... starts out of nowhere.  The bad singing doesn't help, but more than anything it just comes across as completely awkward because you have no idea WHY they're even singing in the first place!  This again shows a damning limitation of the CGI/live action medium, particularly when it comes to remaking films largely if not entirely populated by animals.  Transitions to singing in live action are tricky things to handle no matter who the characters are; in musicals, the audience is just supposed to accept that it's a thing that happens, but even then they need to be led into because the characters themselves are the ones always breaking out into song.  Animation, however, affords some flexibility, and "The Lion King" is a perfect example of this.  There are two types of songs in that film: (1) songs which the characters sing in real time (i.e. "I Just Can't Wait To Be King," "Be Prepared," and "Hakuna Matata") and (2) songs which are sung off-screen or in the character's minds (i.e. "The Circle of Life" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight").  Again, these work in the animation medium because they function as a part of telling the story in their own way.


However, I have NO idea how this is supposed to work in a CGI/live action remake, ESPECIALLY for "The Lion King."  If the animals LOOK as realistic as possible, then it is simply not possible for a song like "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" or "Be Prepared" to happen.  ANIMALS DON'T DO THAT, hence it would simply be entirely bizarre for two lion cubs that looks like this-




-to suddenly start singing in real time.  They MAY be able to keep "The Circle of Life" and "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" since, again, those songs are sung offscreen, and I'm sure they'll find a way to shoehorn in "Hakuna Matata," but again, in a movie that is supposed to be entirely populated with as realistic looking animals as possible, making it a musical simply doesn't work!


(3) What is there to add?


This ties back into my question about timelessness earlier, but more specifically in the case of "The Lion King," what is there to add?  If the film is as timeless as most people seem to think it is, what could Disney possibly add to it?  Making it "live-action" clearly isn't something, because as I've already covered, this will most likely take more away from the film than it adds to it, namely so much of what made the original film work.  There are storylines that got cut out of the film (some of which were added to the Broadway musical) which they could add, but these would not work for a family film.  The most prominent I can think of is if they choose to expand Nala's part in the story (in a bid to say that they're "expanding the most important female character's role," and don't get me wrong, I love Nala, but that would be such a weak way to promote it) by adding in "The Madness of King Scar" scene.  For those of you who don't know, this scene was originally shelved from the Lion King film but added to the Broadway musical; in it, King Scar's madness is on display as he basically attempts to seduce, and then nearly rapes, Nala, prompting her to flee the Pridelands in search of help.  In the Broadway musical it works very effectively, namely because of the unique and beautiful way in which that story is told through a blend of live actors and GORGEOUS puppetry, but it was very wisely shelved from the film.  Children would not understand such a scene and it might very well scare them to see such a thing as potential sexual violence depicted in a family film.  Naturalistic looking animals, many of which at many points in "The Lion King" are chasing characters to either eat or kill them, will also look very unsettling to children; in an animated medium, they can look intimidating one moment but then the next second normal, hilarious, or even adorable.  But again, as CGI/live action animals, there are only so many expressions they can give them, hence some of the perilous situations in the film may be too much for children to handle.  The warmth and charm of the original will most certainly be updated, but in its place will be cold realism and naturalism; that doesn't exactly sound like a worthwhile update.  So again, I am left asking myself, what is there to add to such a timeless classic as "The Lion King."


In conclusion, let me just put it this way... this seems like a bad idea.  I can't pretend to be unbiased; "The Lion King" is my all-time favorite Disney movie and holds a VERY special place in my heart.  But these questions I raised don't just apply to "The Lion King"; many of them, I believe, are going to increasingly apply to more and more of these planned Disney remakes.  Is every Disney remake a bad idea?  Of course not!  But some of them seem at best completely unnecessary, and in "The Lion King's" case we find a project which seems to have every potential to utterly fail as a remake to a movie that quite frankly didn't need it and surely won't be improved by making its characters look more realistic.  Sometimes, timeless is just that, and doesn't need to be touched one bit.  Let's hope a majority of audiences agree and decide not to reward Disney if this cycle of remakes starts to get out of hand.


Feel free to leave your thoughts below, I'm interested in what everyone else has to say about this rotten news.

  • Brohoof 7
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To be honest, I haven't really been all that interested in any of these live action Disney remakes that have been happening these past few years.

But even as someone who is generally indifferent to them, I do have to agree that making the Lion King of all movies into a Live Action movie isn't a good idea.

I am pretty sure that the huge success that the Jungle Book was this year, was what lead to this being announced.

But unlike the Jungle Book, there are no human characters in the movie, so it baffles me to why this would end up being a live action movie.

With how all of the characters are going to be CGI, they might as well just make it be an animated movie instead, but we already have that, so I don't see the need for this movie to exist.

  • Brohoof 1
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Dear faust they've already plucked up the timeline using the lion guard, which despite that major flaw is still decent as is, why they gotta ruin the rest of the magic? It's got more than enough sequels and spin-offs, leave it alone. Slag it I'm just gonna advise everyone to stock up on whatever mob accessories are preferred and keep a strong eye out If a cherished film is ruined round up all the other fans and give 'em an ole fashioned protest. We'll get a practice run with DreamWorks if their project set to release next year over Netflix involving a certain movie that really deserved a sequel long ago bombs severely....



There's so many lines on this one. With all the double edged swords it's not surprising if there ends up being a slight debate over the idea. Still though this move is one that's better going with the tried and true move and just do nothing or another sequel/spinoff that would fix the timeline issue between the guard and Simba's pride. The latter suggestion being the most brilliant as tia knows every fan hating that rift would be elated with intel explaining kions absence during the pride/outlander war. Slag, throw that other cub in as well, that'd really send the fandom into a celebratory tizzy. 

  • Brohoof 1
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030 I just heard about it on the radio in the car and looked that the recent topic list and saw... What are the odds lol

(Dw I'm in passenger)

Edited by Ju88snow
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This is one of those movies that seriously doesn't need a remake. I know that Disney sees bringing classics into live action CG fests as a money pool but the Lion King was already a near perfect film. What exactly will a remake accomplish? Nothing, just cashing in on an all-time classic. Why not just call it a spiritual sequel to the Lion King and boom, it can be its own thing and they can experiment with it. Instead we are going to get a story that we already know and have seen it better, in a film that very likely will not be as good as the original. Makes me ask; What's the point?

  • Brohoof 1
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I'm personally not a really hard-core fan of The Lion King (I still think it's good, just not one of my definitive favorite Disney films), but I still think Disney's decision to remake it is going way too far. Why remake a beloved modern classic that's already overwhelmingly popular and one of the company highest grossing films ever?


Times like this really make me anxious for Disney's future in movies.

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This sums up exactly what I thought when I heard there was going to be a remake this morning. It wouldn't work in any way. The Lion King is my favorite movie of all time, and the thought of them remaking it in CGI just because they feel they should makes me sick. There isn't much I can add to your analysis, really. I'd go see it out of some perverse fascination, and because I'd like to see the 'madness of Scar' scene since I've never had the opportunity to see the musical, but I don't think it'll be any good. Nothing could outdo the original.

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Lion King is like Back to the Future. THEY SHOULD NOT BE TOUCHED. But of course, money talks. 








Edited by RealityPublishing
  • Brohoof 1
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I haven't seen any of the Disney remakes nor am I really interested in most of them, but I am open to alternate interpretations of familiar classics. It's just that Hollywood too often doesn't do them right.

There's really only one reason why Disney's doing these movies; they're big, BIG bucks. The Jungle Book is the number 4 movie of the year at the box office both domestically and globally. In the latter, it took in $965.8 million. Why wouldn't Disney want to ride the gravy train if people are coming out to see these movies in droves?


Edited by Wind Chaser
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Well that is a terrible idea. Kids will grow up knowing this film instead of the original.. There's no way it could exceed the original or bring anything new to the table so why even bother making one? :/

  • Brohoof 1
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  • 5 years later...

Worst Disney remake by a clear mile. Way to take an epic emotional rollercoaster and turn it into an overlong, ugly mess. The blank faces drive me crazy. :dry:

Edited by TomDaBombMLP
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Thank you Disney for this rather poor excuse for a remake that was only outclassed in terribleness by whatever you tried to pass off as Mulan. It's not like all it takes is a pair of eyes to see that a real lion's face is incapable of contorting into an expression that displays impactful emotion. Also, this movie's too close to the original while only making a few of the most idiotic of changes. Because actually giving Scar more of a backstory would take too much effort, let's just have Rafiki go "TUT TUT TUT" in response to the news of Mufasa's death and call it a day. Pitiful. :mlp_maud:  

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  • 11 months later...

This is why it is a terrible idea:

  • The original movie was a masterpiece.
  • 3D isn't going to make it better.
  • Replacing Elton John with rap music (that's probably what they did, I haven't seen the movie).
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