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…
There have been few movie series so perfectly ended as Pixar Animation Studios’ Toy Story Trilogy. The third entry tied up all the loose ends, pulled at our heartstrings almost to the breaking point (that furnace scene…), and left all our favorite characters in a great spot where they would be taken care of and happy.
But I suppose that, given how well Toy Story 3 fared at the box office, there was no way Pixar, and its parent company Disney, would leave that money-making potential alone. There would eventually be a fourth entry in this venerable series. And now, it’s here.
Toy Story 4 reunited us with all our favorite toy friends that we’ve grown to love in the past 25 years and took them on a new adventure that indeed had its moments that were genuine and heartfelt. But ultimately, this movie seemed unnecessary and even hindered the legacy of the previous films. Perhaps Pixar should have just left well enough alone.
Despite its superfluousness, Toy Story 4 had a strong, quality thematic core to it that made it one of the deepest Pixar films to date – containing questions about the very nature of existence and what we are here to accomplish. Thankfully, we have a Creator who gave each of us a reason for being.
Animation has often been described as “the illusion of life” – a trick of the eye that seemingly gives sentience to a series of drawings (or computer data in later years). As the art form has evolved over a century, the illusion aspect has enabled animators to break the bonds of earthbound logic and truly conceive whatever their minds can imagine.
Such was the case with Walt Disney’s 16th animated feature, Sleeping Beauty. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, this film remains a timeless classic in the Disney canon. But it’s also an important film to the animation art form – helping take the medium into the next phase of its existence with a bold, pioneering design coupled with fluid, believable animation. Its artistry, craftsmanship, and storytelling have yet to be rivaled by anything that has been released since – Disney or otherwise.
When it was released in 2012, Wreck-It Ralph was a revelation. It seemed that Walt Disney Animation Studios had entered into a new renaissance of quality animated films (with the exception being Frozen). Wreck-It Ralph was fun, clever, had a heaping amount of logic in its world-building, and contained some very important themes about life and purpose.
Its sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet, has failed at almost every aspect of what made the first film great.
Funny and clever only sporadically, Ralph Breaks the Internet sucks the heartful soul and sound internal logic from the original film while galavanting in a bright, shiny world of non-stop pop-culture gags and one-note jokes. Bringing in modern cynicism and politics didn’t help this film, either. This is very sad for me to report, as I am a big fan of Disney animation and loved the first film.
But despite all of its flaws and leaps in logic, Ralph Breaks the Internet did touch on another deep point about the nature of life and humanity. I just wish it was in a better movie.
While this Tuesday is Election Day in the United States, it’s also a new Blu-ray Tuesday! Sick of all the election news? Treat yourself to a couple of great home releases. This week, a superhero family and a silly old bear come to Blu-ray. And there’s an excellent release that happened last week, but I’m including this week.
Here are my picks for November 6, 2018.