“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance.” These words, spoken by Mufasa to his son Simba, say as much about Disney’s approach to live-action remakes of their beloved animated titles as they do about the circle of life.
Or, more pointedly, they speak to Disney’s approach to live-action remakes of their beloved animated titles from the studio’s 1990s renaissance.
For movies pre-Little Mermaid, Disney has given its remake filmmakers much more creative liberty and license. But with 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, that changed. Yes, the story was expanded, but at its core it was a slavish redux of the 90-minute Best Picture nominee classic from 1991.
Now, based on the 2019 trailers thus far for Aladdin as well as the two previews for The Lion King — first “The Circle of Life” teaser, and now this — the same fidelity is clearly a guiding principle (even more so for King than for Aladdin).
In this new official trailer, we see a shot-for-shot duplication of moments from the 1994 original. There’s definitely something…interesting about it, but not particularly exciting. I’ve literally seen this movie before, just in 2D animation rather than the 3D photo-real kind.
That’s cool so far as a side-by-side compare-and-contrast exercise goes, but as a worthwhile artistic effort it feels sketchy and uninspired — which was the exact opposite feeling the world got (and still gets) from the story’s Broadway staging. It would appear that the primary motive here remains, quite simply and crassly, to cash in on nostalgia.
Another clear motive is to advance technology; to that end, I actually find the close-ups of Rafiki to be the most convincing, as if pulled from a nature documentary.
One thing worthy to note: other than a couple of short phrases spoken by Scar (performed by Chiwetel Ejiofor), all of the dialogue in this trailer is heard via voice-over, a.k.a. NOT seen lip-synced with mouth movement. That could be for practical reasons, i.e. perhaps that element is part of the final-pass process yet to be completed, or it could simply be that the studio doesn’t have faith in how it looks yet. Either way they’re not showcasing it, and that earns a raised eyebrow.
Finally, here’s something I’m beginning to realize (or at least articulate): as odd as it sounds, the anthropomorphizing of animals is less credible in photo-real animation than it is in a tradiational 2D aesthetic. That may be why we’ve still not seen virtually any lip-synched shots yet. Ironically, it’s more convincing (or it’s easier to get lost in the illusion of) seeing cartoon animals talk and act like humans than it is to see “real” animals do the same. There are species-based anachronisms that are hard to get past, at least for me.
From Jungle Book director Jon Favreau, the all-star cast of stop-motion and voice performers includes Donald Glover as Simba, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon. The Lion King opens on July 19, 2019.