“The Lion King”: So Realistic It Loses Its Charm

Zazu (John Oliver) and Young Simba (JD McCrary) in "The Lion King." Photo by Walt Disney/Kobal/Shutterstock (10341456d)

Disney’s live-action remake of The Lion King will likely split audiences down the middle, but there is no denying the impressive visual splendor that the film brings. The overhead shots of the Savana landscapes are rich in color and life, and the cinematography in this respect is flawless.

While the realistic depiction of the animals became clear in the trailer, this becomes even more apparent upon watching the full feature. The animals are so realistic that at times you will likely forget that what you are watching is digital animation. This makes the violence more real and the hungry hyenas even more frightening than the Disney original. Regardless of your overall opinion of the film, it’s difficult to deny that the team has done an incredible job of bringing our favorite Disney characters to life.

The trouble is, the animal characters are so realistic that something is lost in the remake. There is something ever so slightly unsettling about the talking lions and an element of emotion is lost. Every hair on Simba’s mane beckons you to reach out and touch it, and yet the pain on his face when he says goodbye to his father is less convincing. It seems a little ironic that the film’s success in being so visually stunning is ultimately what detracts from the original’s charm.

In terms of the storyline, the 2019 version is darker and more Shakesperean. Nonetheless, there are some uplifting and hilarious moments, mostly in the form of Timon and Pumba. Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner do a fantastic job portraying the comedic duo and their rendition of Hakuna Matata is one of the most charming moments of the ordeal.

Ultimately though, Disney’s commitment to remaking all their old catalog with realistic live-action characters is yet to be justified. While a sense of realism is gained, a sense of wonder and charm is lost. What makes Disney so special is its ability to take us into a magical world where childhood never dies. By making their films more realistic, this charm and magic are stifled and the overwhelming power to the delight of the original “Lion King” feature is lost.