The Circle of Live-Action 

One woman’s journey into singing aloud in a crowded theatre 

Jayde Atchison // Staff Writer 

Hakuna Matata—it means no worries, but when it comes to the 2019 edition of The Lion King there seems to be many worries. I kept hearing dramatically different reviews for the photorealistic remake, as people either loved or hated it. So, I took myself to the theatre on a Saturday night to do some serious research. Warning: there are spoilers ahead with the similarities and differences of the films. 

If you are a fan of the original Disney classic, the opening scene will send chills up your spine as it is reminiscent of the iconic 1994 opening credit sequence. To truly age myself, I saw the original in theatres and was a self-proclaimed mega fan with a Lion King duvet, stuffed animals, lounge chair and kitchen set. As much as I loved the 90’s vibe of the original, my breath was taken away when the incredibly detailed face of Rafiki came on screen. The first few minutes had me half expecting David Attenborough to start educating me on why this crowd of animals were marching toward Pride Rock. 

The cat characteristics displayed in this movie showcase an attention to detail that I was not expecting. Watching Mufasa and Scar mark their territory by rubbing their heads against rocks created a stunning edge to Disney’s repertoire. In the original, the scenes were filled with multi-coloured dance sequences with unrealistic, but wonderfully creative designs. I haven’t been to Africa (yet), but I am 99 percent sure that glowing neon green would be a highly uncommon geyser colour. Gone are the days where animals wipe their faces on leaves with humanistic traits. Here are the days where the audience can wonder whether some shots are actually capturing real beasts in the wild.  

Not only do the scenes hold more realism, they have a darker tone. The moment Simba and Nala go to the Elephant Graveyard and are cornered by hyenas made my skin crawl. We’re talking “stop-eating” scared. The whole movie seems catered to an older audience, as though Disney realized they needed to grow up for their millennial fans, and remodeled the remake accordingly. It feels a little contrived, but I can’t even say I’m mad about it. The recreation of Scar’s solo “Be Prepared” had me wondering how kids might react to its newfound intensity. 

If the PG rating isn’t enough to draw you into the theatre, the casting and musical renditions will be. With a predominantly African American cast, this movie takes over the old westernized Disney films. Names like James Earl Jones, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric André, Beyoncé, and of course Donald Glover, offer an experience no other Disney film has provided. We should really thank James Earl Jones for staying alive and healthy to provide his iconic voice to Mufasa a second time, as the movie may not have been as impactful without that spirit-booming “REMEMBER” reverberating down at the audience.  

Any Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) fan has reason enough to see this film to experience the musical masterpieces from the soulful singer himself. As much as I love Matthew Brodrick as our 90’s Simba, Donald Glover is the rightful heir to Pride Rock (and my heart). Simba just can’t wait to be king, but I can’t wait to go listen to this soundtrack on repeat.  

So, is this the best or worst thing to happen? Neither, I would say. But in the era of Disney remakes and reboots, The Lion King respectfully sticks to the original storyline, and achieves a realism with deeper and darker appeal. I thought it was beautifully made, and as a millennial I had no shame in singing along to all the songs alone in a theatre.  

Planning on checking it out to see where you stand on the line between loving and hating it? Just be warned that all of the memes were right—seeing Mufasa die in HD is just as sad as you think it’s going to be. 

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