My relationship with the 1994 Disney animated classic The Lion King has been rather tumultuous over the years. I knew it was a great film, but that fact was often overshadowed by its overplay in the public consciousness to the point where there didn’t seem to be anywhere in the cultural sphere that the film didn’t permeate.
That my sister, who was seven years old at the time, played The Lion King on a seemingly endless loop in our house also contributed to my ambivalence toward the film.
In preparation for this review, I rewatched the original film the day before seeing the new “live-action” remake. I found myself rediscovering why The Lion King has the staying power it does and why the film is truly timeless. The 1994 film is an animation masterpiece on par with what was done by Walt Disney himself and his original set of genius master animators. The Lion King has a wonderful mix of drama, comedy, music, charm, and a story that is both epic in scope and intimate enough to be relatable.
The same cannot be said for this “new” version of The Lion King. Oh sure, it goes through the beats of the story, and the animation is impressive enough, but this film had no heart and no soul. The charm was gone, and it left me asking the question, “Why does this film exist at all when the 1994 original is vastly superior?” Then I saw the box office news and it all made sense.
Disney’s recent string of live-action remakes of its classic animated features has been hit-and-miss. I’ve enjoyed a few of them (Cinderella in particular) and really disdained others (Beauty and the Beast). My feelings for the latter category stem from a frustration with the Disney talent pool’s refusing to do something new or interesting with these properties while still maintaining the spirit of the original. And The Lion King (2019) was probably the worst of these.
I WOULD SAY “SPOILERS AHEAD,” BUT…