The Lion King (2019 film)
|The Lion King|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jon Favreau|
|Screenplay by||Jeff Nathanson|
|Based on||Disney's The Lion King|
by Irene Mecchi
|Music by||Hans Zimmer|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios|
|Box office||$54.2 million|
The Lion King is a 2019 American musical drama film directed and produced by Jon Favreau, with a screenplay written by Jeff Nathanson, and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. It is a photorealistic computer-animated remake of Disney's traditionally animated 1994 film of the same name. The film stars the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, as well as James Earl Jones reprising his original role as Mufasa.
Plans for a remake of The Lion King were confirmed in September 2016 following the success of the studio's The Jungle Book, also directed by Favreau. Much of the main cast signed in early 2017 and principal production began in mid-2017 on a blue screen stage in Los Angeles.
The film is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on July 19, 2019. It received mixed reviews, with praise for its visual effects, score and vocal performances, while receiving criticism for being derivative of the original and the lack of physical emotion from the animated characters.
In the African savanna, the young lion Simba idolizes his father, Mufasa, and longs to succeed him as King of the Pridelands. Before this can happen, his jealous uncle Scar initiates a coup which results in Mufasa's death and Simba's exile. Simba grows up in the company of Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and warthog pair with a carefree lifestyle. As tensions rise, he is drawn back into a battle with Scar by the friends from his past life.
- Donald Glover as Simba:
A lion who is the crown prince of the Pride Lands. Glover said that the film will focus more on Simba's time growing up than the original film did, stating that "[Favreau] was very keen in making sure we saw [Simba's] transition from boy to man and how hard that can be when there's been a deep trauma".
- JD McCrary as young Simba.
- Seth Rogen as Pumbaa:
A slow-witted common warthog who befriends and adopts a young Simba after he runs away from home. Rogen said, "[a]s an actor, I [...] don't think I'm right for every role — there are a lot of roles I don't think I'm right for even in movies I'm making — but Pumbaa was one I knew I could do well".
- Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar:
The treacherous brother of Mufasa and the uncle of Simba who seeks to take the mantle of king of the Pride Lands. Ejiofor described Scar as more "psychologically possessed" and "brutalized" than in the original film. Ejiofor said that "especially with Scar, whether it's a vocal quality that allows for a certain confidence or a certain aggression, to always know that at the end of it you're playing somebody who has the capacity to turn everything on its head in a split second with outrageous acts of violence – that can completely change the temperature of a scene". Ejiofor also said that "[Scar and Mufasa's] relationship is completely destroyed and brutalized by Scar's way of thinking. He's possessed with this disease of his own ego and his own want". Favreau said of casting Ejiofor, "[He] is just a fantastic actor, who brings us a bit of the mid-Atlantic cadence and a new take on the character. He brings that feeling of a Shakespearean villain to bear because of his background as an actor. It's wonderful when you have somebody as experienced and seasoned as Chiwetel; he just breathes such wonderful life into this character."
- Alfre Woodard as Sarabi:
The Queen of the Pride Lands, Mufasa's mate, and Simba's mother.
- Billy Eichner as Timon:
A wise-cracking meerkat who befriends and adopts a young Simba after he runs away from home.
- John Kani as Rafiki:
A wise mandrill who serves as the shaman of the Pride Lands and a close friend of Mufasa's. Likening his role to that of a grandfather, Kani said, "Rafiki reminds all of us of that special wise relative. His wisdom, humor and his loyalty to the Mufasa dynasty is what warms our hearts towards him. [He's] always happy and wisecracking jokes as lessons of life and survival."
- John Oliver as Zazu:
A red-billed hornbill who is the majordomo to the King of the Pride Lands. Speaking of his role, Oliver said, "I think Zazu is basically a bird who likes structure. He just wants things to be as they should be. I think there are British echoes there because we tend to favor structure in lieu of having an emotional reaction to anything."
- Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala:
Simba's childhood best friend and future love interest. According to Favreau, the character has a bigger role than in the original film. Favreau felt that "part of [Beyoncé joining the film] is that she's got young kids, part of it is that it's a story that feels good for this phase of her life and her career, and she really likes the original very much. And then, of course, there are these wonderful musical numbers that she can be involved with, and my God... she really lives up to her reputation as far as the beauty of her voice and talent".
- James Earl Jones as Mufasa:
The King of the Pride Lands and the father of Simba. Jones reprises his role from the original 1994 animated film. According to Favreau, Jones' lines remain mostly the same from the original film. Ejiofor said that "the comfort of [Jones reprising his role] is going to be very rewarding in taking [the audience] on this journey again. It's a once-in-a-generation vocal quality". Favreau saw Jones' return as "carrying the legacy across" the original film and the remake, and felt that his voice's change in tonality compared to the original film "served the role well because he sounds like a king who's ruled for a long time".
Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, and Eric Andre voice Shenzi, Kamari, and Azizi, three spotted hyenas who are Scar's henchmen. While Shenzi is a character that was featured in the original 1994 animated film, Kamari and Azizi are the respective renames of Banzai and Ed from the original film. The hyenas' characterizations were heavily altered from the original film's, as Favreau felt that they "had to change a lot" to fit the remake's realistic style, stating that "[a] lot of the stuff around them [in the original film] was very stylised". Kasumba elaborated, declaring that "Those hyenas were funny. These hyenas are dangerous."
Additionally, Penny Johnson Jerald voices Sarafina, Nala's mother. Amy Sedaris, Chance the Rapper and Josh McCrary voice a guinea fowl, a bush baby, and an elephant shrew, respectively, Timon and Pumbaa's neighbors in the jungle. Phil LaMarr voices an impala, while J. Lee voices a hyena.
On September 28, 2016, Walt Disney Pictures confirmed that Jon Favreau would be directing a remake of the 1994 animated film The Lion King, which would feature the songs from the 1994 film, following a string of recent box office successes on the other Disney live-action remake films such as Maleficent, Cinderella, Favreau's The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, with the latter three also earning critical praise. On October 13, 2016, it was reported that Disney had hired Jeff Nathanson to write the screenplay for the remake, with the story written by Brenda Chapman, who was the original film's head of story.
In November, talking with ComingSoon.net, Favreau said the virtual cinematography technology he used in The Jungle Book would be used to a greater degree in The Lion King. Although the media reported The Lion King to be a live-action film, it actually utilizes photorealistic computer-generated animation. Disney also did not describe it as live-action, only stating it would follow the "technologically groundbreaking" approach of The Jungle Book. While the film acts as a remake of the 1994 animated film, Favreau was inspired by the Broadway adaptation of the film for certains aspects of the remake's plot, particularly Nala and Sarabi's roles. Favreau also aimed to develop his own take on the original film's story with what he said was "the spectacle of a BBC wildlife documentary".
In mid-February 2017, Donald Glover was cast as Simba, with James Earl Jones reprising his role as Mufasa from the 1994 film. In April 2017, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen were cast to play Timon and Pumbaa respectively. In July 2017, John Oliver was cast as Zazu. In August 2017, Alfre Woodard and John Kani were announced to play Sarabi and Rafiki, respectively.
Earlier in March 2017, it was announced that Beyoncé was Favreau's top choice for the role of Nala and that the director and studio would be willing to do whatever it took to accommodate her busy schedule. Later on November 1, 2017, her role was confirmed in an official announcement, which also confirmed that Chiwetel Ejiofor would play the role of Scar, and announced that Eric Andre, Florence Kasumba, and Keegan-Michael Key will be the voices of Azizi, Shenzi and Kamari while JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph will be the voices of young Simba and young Nala, respectively. In November 2018, Amy Sedaris was announced as having been cast in a role created for the film.
The Moving Picture Company, the lead vendor on The Jungle Book, will provide the visual effects and they'll be supervised by Robert Legato, Elliot Newman and Adam Valdez. The film will utilize "virtual-reality tools", per Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Legato. Virtual Production Supervisor Girish Balakrishnan said on his professional website that the filmmakers used motion capture and VR/AR technologies, with the production team combinig VR technology with cameras in order to film the remake in a VR-simulated enviroment. Sean Bailey, Disney's President of Production, called the film's visual effects "a new form of filmmaking", and felt that "Historical definitions don't work", stating that "[it] uses some techniques that would traditionally be called animation, and other techniques that would traditionally be called live-action. It is an evolution of the technology Jon [Favreau] used in Jungle Book".
Hans Zimmer, who composed the 1994 animated version, would return to compose the score for the remake. Elton John also returned to rework his musical compositions from the original film before his retirement, with Beyoncé assisting John in the reworking of the soundtrack. John, the original film's lyricist, Tim Rice, and Beyoncé also created a new song for the film, titled "Spirit" and performed by Beyoncé, which was released on July 9, 2019, as the lead single from the soundtrack. John and Rice also wrote a new song for the film's end credits, titled "Never Too Late" and performed by John. The film also features all the songs from the original film, a cover of The Token's "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", and the song "He Lives in You" from Rhythm of the Pride Lands and the Broadway production. The soundtrack, featuring Zimmer's score and John and Rice's songs, was released digitally on July 11, 2019, and will be physically on July 19, 2019.
The first teaser trailer and the official teaser poster for The Lion King debuted during the annual Dallas Cowboys' Thanksgiving day game on November 22, 2018. The trailer was viewed 224.6 million times in its first 24 hours, becoming the then 2nd most viewed trailer in that time period. A special sneak peek featuring John Kani's voice as Rafiki and a new poster were released during the 91st Academy Awards on February 24, 2019. On April 10, 2019, Disney released the official trailer featuring new footage which revealed Scar, Zazu, Simba and Nala (both as cubs and as adults), Sarabi, Rafiki, Timon and Pumbaa and the hyenas. The trailer was viewed 174 million times in its first 24 hours, which was revealed on Disney's Investor Day 2019 Webcast. On May 30, 2019, 11 individual character posters were released. A special sneak peek featuring Beyoncé, Billy Eichner, and Seth Rogen's voices as Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa respectively, was released on June 3, 2019. A special sneak peek featuring Beyoncé and Donald Glover's voices as Simba and Nala singing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and also featuring James Earl Jones' voice as Mufasa, was released on June 20, 2019. On July 2, 2019 Disney released an extensive behind-the-scenes featurette detailing the various aspects of the film's production along with seven publicity stills featuring the voice actors facing their animal counterparts.
The trailers of the film led to a claim of its being a shot-for-shot remake of Disney's 1994 film. On December 23, 2018, Sean Bailey, Disney's President of Production, said that while the film will "revere and love those parts that the audience wants", there will be "things in the movie that are going to be new". On April 18, 2019, Favreau stated that "some shots in the 1994 animated film are so iconic" he couldn't possibly change them, but "despite what the trailers suggest, this film is not just the same movie over again", and later said "it's much longer than the original film. And part of what we're doing here is to (give it more dimension) not just visually but both story wise and emotionally." On May 30, 2019, Favreau said that some of the humor and characterizations are being altered to be more consistent with the rest of the film, and this remake is making some changes in certain scenes from the original film, as well as in its structure. On June 14, 2019, Favreau said that, while the original film's main plot points will remain unchanged in the remake, the film will largely diverge from the original version, and hinted that the Elephant Graveyard, the hyenas' lair in the original film, will be replaced by a new location. On July 5, 2019, the film was revealed to have a 118 minutes duration, making it approximately 30 minutes longer than the original film.
The Lion King premiered in Hollywood on July 9, 2019. The film is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on July 19, 2019. It will be one of the first theatrical films to be released on Disney+, alongside Aladdin, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, Captain Marvel, and Avengers: Endgame.
The film began its international rollout a week before its domestic release, starting with July 12 in China.
Beginning on June 24, 2019 (which marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the original film), in its first 24 hours of pre-sales, The Lion King became the second-best pre-seller of 2019 on Fandango in that frame (behind Avengers: Endgame), while Atom Tickets reported it gave their best-ever first-day sales for a family film. Three weeks prior to its release, industry tracking projected the film would gross $150–170 million in its domestic opening weekend.
In China, where it released a week prior to the U.S., the film was projected to debut to $50–60 million. It ended up opening to $54.7 million, besting the debuts of The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 61% based on 142 reviews, and an average rating of 6.51/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Though it can take pride in its visual achievements, this reimagined The Lion King is a by the numbers retelling that lacks the energy and heart that made the original so beloved – though for some fans that may just be enough." Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 57 out of 100 based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Kenneth Turan at the Los Angeles Times called the film "polished, satisfying entertainment." Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter considered it to be inferior to the original, noting, "The film's aesthetic caution and predictability begin to wear down on the entire enterprise in the second half." At The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw found the film "watchable and enjoyable. But I missed the simplicity and vividness of the original hand-drawn images."
A. A. Dowd, writing for The A.V. Club, summarized the film as "Joyless, artless, and maybe soulless, it transforms one of the most striking titles from the Mouse House vault into a very expensive, star-studded Disneynature film." Dowd bemoaned the film's insistence on realism, commenting, "We're watching a hollow bastardization of a blockbuster, at once completely reliant on the audience's pre-established affection for its predecessor and strangely determined to jettison much of what made it special." Scott Mendelson at Forbes condemned the film as a "crushing disappointment": "At almost every turn, this redo undercuts its own melodrama by downplaying its own emotions." David Ehrlich of IndieWire panned the film, writing, "Unfolding like the world's longest and least convincing deepfake, Jon Favreau's (almost) photorealistic remake of The Lion King is meant to represent the next step in Disney's circle of life. Instead, this soulless chimera of a film comes off as little more than a glorified tech demo from a greedy conglomerate — a well-rendered but creatively bankrupt self-portrait of a movie studio eating its own tail."
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