It seems right to feel less emotional each time we get to watch Disney’s “The Lion King”. Yet, we’re always weeping like a baby each time we re-watch the old and beloved animated film. The same happens with Jon Favreau’s CGi-animated piece of the classical story which still serves the same purpose, this time brought by the realistic look of animals who could not look any better.
The story repeats itself as it follows little Simba who must learn through the hard way about bravery, courage, and the true meaning of being a king of Pride Rock. Before that, he has to go through the loss of his dear father, Mufasa, the king who leaves his loved ones. Simba exiles himself from the future that prepares for him the same circle of life – the life that was ready for him before the day he was born and must live the same until he dies – as the lion king.
Set in the Pride Lands of Africa, a pride of lions rules over the animal kingdom from Pride Rock. In an emotional and deeply moving opening sequence, we are introduced to the newborn Simba by Rafiki the mandrill, the kingdom’s shaman and advisor. In the meantime, Scar, Mufasa’s brother and Simba’s uncle, is not happy with the sudden change of him no longer being second in line to be the King. He creates an evil plot to dethrone Mufasa and get rid of Simba to rule as the new king with the help of hyenas.
When Scar finally manages to set a trap for both Mufasa and Simba, that scene will break any heart once again, no matter how many times you have seen it since 1994. There’s nothing that can prepare you for the scene where Simba tries to wake his already deceased father and cries a lot when he realizes he’s no longer alive. However, whatever Scar had in his mind and even was able to execute, Mufasa’s words once said to Simba will come true even after years pass by – “Everything the light touches… is our kingdom. But a king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.“
The reason why “The Lion King” works is the return of the main voice star who reprised his role as Mufasa, James Earl Jones. His voice adds more depth to Mufasa, being an old ruler, wise, uncompromising, fearless, yet scared to death when danger comes to his son. Chiwetel Ejiofor was perfect as Scar, John Oliver was decent as Zazu, Alfre Woodard brings that delicate yet powerful presence to Sarabi when needed and she clearly could be undefeated. And, of course, whether it was the young Simba (voiced by JD McCrary) or the grown-up one (voiced by Donald Glover), there was not even a little slip in the character we love so much. As for Beyonce’s part voicing Nala, she still cannot bring the beauty of Moira Kelly’s voice given to Nala in the animated version.
As for the CGI version of the characters – it was all pure perfection. After watching it three times, there’s not even a single complaint of the so-called lack of emotions. All the animals looked amazingly real – the way they should have been. All of them had their way of expressing themselves, sometimes even more expressive than some people who claim to possess the ability to feel human emotions. Of course, there’s no need to compare to what has been done in the animated version because the animals we see in CGI version should never have the same narrative on their face. If that happened, it would not be real at all.
In the end, “The Lion King” is another great achievement from Disney who is, on its own, the King of Family cinema. To bring back a challenging concept is hard and requires a certain level of courage. But the good news is, they did the right thing because it delivers all the moments we loved in an emotional way by bringing back the golden era of The Lion King that still has no replacement on the horizon. So, don’t worry about what others say; just go and see it yourself. Enjoy it, cry with it, laugh, and cheer out loud because that’s what “The Lion King” is all about – about family time spent together and appreciating every minute of it.
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