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The LION KING Remake: Is It Worth It?

Many say that 2019 is the year of Disney. Disney movies have filled the top spots of the box office chart for much of the year so far. Among these Disney movies, the live-action remake of The Lion King, whose original counterpart has been praised as one of Disney’s all-time bests, is the one that has received the most attention from the public. Despite high expectations toward the movie, however, the remake of The Lion King remains one of the most controversial movies among Disney’s live-action remakes. Thus, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) will look into Disney’s The Lion King remake and some of Disney’s other live-action remakes.

Live-Action Remake of The Lion King

About The Lion King

The original Lion King movie was Disney’s 32nd animated film released in 1994, and the movie released this July is the remake of the original Lion King. John Favreau, who successfully directed Disney’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book, took charge of the live-action remake of The Lion King. At the time of the original’s release, both the critics and the public praised the film’s strong story whose premise comes from William Shakespeare’s masterpiece Hamlet and its music by Hans Zimmer. The original movie even won an Emmy and an Academy Award, which is uncommon for an animation film.

A Splash into Reality

At the beginning of the remake, the original soundtrack Circle of Life and the realistic scenes of nature successfully hold the viewers in awe. This opening seems to give its viewers an everlasting inspiration, whether the film has been remade or not. In addition, the realistic visuals of the movie, unlike its animation counterpart, make people realize how much computer graphic technology has advanced. Especially in scenes where the movie captures even the most minor details of each animal, the audiences may fall into an irony in which they feel the beauty of nature through a scene made using computer graphics. Plus, although there is room for controversy, the film does not fall away from its highly successful original storyline, except for scenes they added to make the story make more sense than the original.

What Made the Remake Less Attractive

Despite the visual entertainment The Lion King remake provides, the movie seems to have lost much of the charm of the original film.

Did It Need to Be This Real? Losing Distortion and Exaggeration

1. Real Bugs vs Animated Bugs: Losing the Fun

The words “distortion” and “exaggeration” might sound negative, and a lack of these features may be a positive feature in diverse fields. However, when people consider creative works such as movies, distortion and exaggeration may even be considered essential. Filmmakers make animated films under the premise of deformation, which actively allows change and distortion of shapes. Such rather unrealistic elements of the animation film allowed the animals to do things they do not actually do. For instance, in the scene where Simba crosses a bridge with Timon and Pumbaa, Simba swings his head from side to side according to the beat of the background music. Although it may seem unrealistic, this helps people to immerse themselves in the scene. The remake, on the other hand, heavily concentrates on making the movie as real as possible and loses this appeal the original movie had. Compared to the original movie which expressed the bugs that Timon and Pumbaa ate as delicious food, the realistic representation of the remake made the scene rather disgusting, losing the fun the scene originally had.

2. All Characters Wearing a Poker Face: Angry, Joyful, or Sad?

Another point that made the film based on a masterpiece original less attractive is the loss of the characters’ expressions. In the original movie, it is easy to find out the characters’ emotions just by looking at the characters’ expressions. Such rich expressions make the audience feel closer to the main characters who are originally predators. The animation also actively uses close-ups to show what the characters are thinking, while the remake only allows the characters to have limited expressions due to the movie’s focus on reality. The trade-off is easy to deduce: reality won and the characters lost. The trade-off becomes more drastic whenever Scar, the antagonist of the movie, appears. The duplicity of Scar is one aspect that makes the character sophisticated and interesting. Because of the loss of facial expressions, such an aspect of important Scar, though it exists in the voice and dialogue, loses an important point.

Singing Turning into Background Music

When people think about Disney animation movies, what comes to the minds of many are their musical-like scenes. The live-action remake of The Lion King, however, does not deliver such an appeal to its audience. The choreography of the original movie is lost or becomes less interesting. The focus on reality also gives the impression that the characters were not singing the songs in the film. It almost seemed like the characters were just moving their mouths while the songs were playing. The original film had the characters open their mouths wide when they reached high notes and other features that made the characters seem like they were singing their songs; the remake even tries to avoid showing the animals’ singing. This becomes clear when Timon and Pumbaa are singing Hakuna Matata, a song that has less chorus and concentrates on the characters’ vocals. Rather than showing the characters sing the song like the original movie, the remake puts less of these scenes and shows Timon and Pumbaa dancing around while the music flows.

Disney’s Live-Action Remakes

Remakes of previously successful original movies may be a good choice business-wise. Considering that the people who watched the original movies when they were young will bring their children to the theaters to watch the movies together, the remake is more difficult to fail than succeed. Except for Jumbo and Alice Through the Looking Glass, the remade live-action movies have achieved five times their production costs as revenue. However, The Lion King remake did not seem to have touched and inspired its audience as the original movie once did. The case of The Lion King shows the importance of carefully balancing reality and theatrical acceptance.

안유진  ge.jyn14@gmail.com

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