Can you STILL feel the love for The Lion King in 2019?

I should start out by saying that I was 10 when Disney released the animated version of The Lion King and it's been one of my favorite movies of all-time ever since.  From the music to the heartfelt story, it was everything a Disney movie should be.  The little girl in me was thrilled when I heard about a remake of this classic hitting the big screens in 2019 and with Jon Favreau directing (he also directed The Jungle Book), I had a feeling we were in a for a real treat.  So can you still feel the love 25 years later for The Lion King?  Short answer - YES!

If you're unfamiliar with the story of The Lion King, let's catch you up with the official Disney synopsis of the film:

Disney’s “The Lion King, directed by Jon Favreau (“The Jungle Book”), journeys to the African savanna where a future king is born. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.

Staying true to the classic story, director Jon Favreau utilizes pioneering filmmaking techniques to bring the iconic characters to the big screen in a whole new way. Featuring the voices of Donald Glover as Simba, BeyoncĂ© Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon, Disney’s “The Lion King” opens in U.S. theaters on July 19, 2019.



So the big question on everyone's mind is how does it stack up to the original.  The story is basically the same, but using CGI to create the characters and background you obviously have the more "live action" feel to film.  Along with that, you lose the cartoon emotions of the animals that you see in the original, instead relying on voice delivery to carry the emotions for the movie.  I think some may find this to be a bit disappointing when compared to the original, but I felt like it just made the story seem more "real." Standouts for me were young Simba and young Nala voiced by JD McCrary and Shahadi Joseph Wright.  They perfected the attitude and innocence of the two young cubs looking for adventure and being anxious to grow up.  I was really pleased to hear James Earl Jones back as the voice of Mufasa - I mean, could you imagine anyone else in the role?  Naturally Beyonce and Donald Glover crushed "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?" leaving you feeling all the feels.  The only performance that didn't click for me was Scar.  I always thought "Be Prepared" was such a great villain song in a Disney film and this one is very different than the original and just didn't work for me.  Hands down though, Pumbaa and Timon (voiced by Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner respectively) steal the show.  If you thought this warthog and meerkat duo were funny before, JUST WAIT until you see them now!
Timon and Pumbaa - stealing the show!!
Photo from Walt Disney Studios

The next thing to know is this movie is visually stunning - I mean unreal CGI.  You will feel like you are right there with the characters in Africa.  I was fortunate to have my screening in IMAX and I highly recommend that if you have a theater near you.  This movie was made for the biggest and best screen around.  With all of this true-to-life feel, the action in the movie is more intense than in the original.  Watching the lions fight is really like watching lions fight.  Watching the stampede in the gorge seems so real and intense that it may be a little much for small ones to handle.  Keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to bring your littlest cubs along with you to the movie.

Musically, the movie holds it's own with the tough-to-top 1994 original soundtrack.  I had chills listening to "Circle of Life" as the movie opened and I think this opening may even be more powerful than the original.  McCrary and Joseph bring the fun in "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" and Beyonce and Glover are powerful in "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?"  Rogen and Eichner are hysterical in "Hakuna Matata" - they definitely use the previous version as an inspiration, but also put their own twist on the song. . .you'll see!  The only song that I didn't enjoy was "Be Prepared" which wasn't even much of a musical number in this adaptation.

I would definitely recommend this and I'm putting up there with Beauty and the Beast as my favorite "live action" remake.  While it wasn't perfect - it was pretty darn close in my book and I can't wait to see it again with the whole family.  And don't miss this FREE Activity Packet you can download which has both educational and fun activities for your whole family!

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I was able to attend an advanced media screening to bring you all the details before it hits theaters!  As always, thoughts and opinions are my own!

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