Fans of The Lion King are feeling the love tonight after Disney dropped 11 new posters depicting the main characters from the studio’s latest “live-action” adaptation of the film, which comes out July 19th.
The movie is the latest in a series of Disney live-action remakes of animated classics and follows close on the heels of Aladdin, which came out earlier this month. Of course, given that The Lion King is a film exclusively populated by animals, “live-action” may be a bit of a misnomer. In fact, the film will be reminiscent of the 2016 The Jungle Book remake with nearly lifelike computer-generated characters. Jon Favreau, who directed The Jungle Book, also directed the new The Lion King.
Last month, Disney released the official trailer for the film, which showcased a series of scenes pulled directly from the original 1994 animated version. The animals saluting baby Simba at Pride Rock, the wildebeest stampede, Rafiki’s drawing of Simba on the tree trunk, and the iconic shot of Simba, Timon, and Pumba walking across a branch backed by the rising full moon.
For many fans, the apparent similarities between the new film and the classic are cause for celebration (why mess with a masterpiece?), for others, they’re a disappointment (why remake it if they’re not offering anything new?). But sources close to the film tell us that, while the scenes in the trailer are pulled from the original, we can expect some key differences in the completed film. Intriguing!
The original animated film of The Lion King came out in 1994 — the height of Disney’s “Renaissance.” It followed films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin and was Disney’s highest grossing animated film of all time when it came out. It was a huge success and is still beloved by Disney fans everywhere. (Fun fact: it was actually Disney’s “B Team” that created The Lion King since the studio thought that Pocahontas was going to be the real blockbuster and put their “A-Team” on that. Boy were they wrong!)
The Lion King was Disney’s highest grossing animated film of all time when it came out.
The story — in case you’ve been living under Pride Rock — follows Simba, a young lion prince whose evil uncle Scar kills King Mufasa and makes Simba think it was all his fault. It’s a coming-of-age story in which Simba must learn to take his place in the circle of life and challenge his uncle to claim his rightful title as king of Pride Rock.
So, what’s up with these posters? There are eleven of them in total, and they are close-up photos of many of the film’s main characters. The striking thing about them is how realistic these animals look.
Whereas the original film took a more stylized approach that allowed the characters to take on more human facial expressions and characteristics, these close-ups look like photographs of animals snapped with some sort of telephoto lens on the world’s best safari.
On the one hand, this realism makes the characters seem less dynamic. The poster of young Simba looks pretty similar to the one of young Nala (Simba’s childhood pal with whom he comes to “feel the love”). And there is very little difference between the picture of adult Nala and the one of Sarabi (Simba’s mom).
On the other hand, some of the other characters seem to capture their character’s personality within a startlingly realistic “photograph,” which is pretty neat. Scar, in particular, is brought terrifyingly to life. You can almost hear him drawling, “I’m surrounded by idiots.” Similarly, Rafiki — the Prideland’s religious leader — seems to have a sort of knowing wisdom in his eyes, which is hard to pull off given that he’s basically a monkey — sorry, a mandrill.
The remake sees the return of James Earl Jones as Simba’s father Mufasa, which is good since basically no one else on earth could play the part. I mean, can you imagine that iconic “Remember who you are” sequence in any other voice but Jones’s? (Answer: no.) The movie also features Donald Glover — otherwise known as rapper Childish Gambino — as adult Simba, Beyoncé as adult Nala, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, and John Oliver as Zazu. It’s a star-studded cast, so be prepared.
The live-action remakes have gotten mixed reviews from fans. Some feel the movies were perfect they way they were and why mess with them? Others are eager to relive their childhood favorites again in new ways. The Lion King comes with the added question mark of how the human characteristics of the cartoon animals from the original will play out in “real life.” But, either way, there’s no doubt that Disney fans across the country just can’t wait to see the King.