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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 5, 2019


THE ORIGINAL animated version of “Lion King” is made of handdrawn images. This new supposed live action version is totally computer generated and it does so with determined accuracy to make the cutting edge images on screen photo realistically lifelike.

Technically, you cannot fault it as the animals are rendered in believable detail that they look like the animals in a nature documentary.

But when the animals start talking in human language, it somehow feels discomfitting. An animated animal can be given a wide range of facial expressions than a real one. That’s part of the magic of cinema and is aided by our imagination. We have also seen “The Lion King” on Broadway, which is still running,where the actors are garbed like the animals they represent, just like the shortened theatrical version in Disneyland, but it’s not off-putting.

You know they’re humans just playing a part and it’s part of stage magic. But when a photo realistic animal on screen expresses his inner feelings and start singing, the effect is something else. There’s just a feeling of disconnection.

The new version is almost faithful to the 1994 original, from the wordless opening scene showing the birth of Simba as the sun rise and bathes everything in a rich glow. Then you hear the inspiring “Circle of Life”, a wonderful fusion of pop with African music. The effect remains as compelling as the first time we saw it.

Also retained is the gist of the story that is somewhat reminiscent of “Hamlet”, the panoramic vistas of wild Africa and, of course, the other songs which have become familiar, like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Hakuna Matata”. There’s also an original song, obviously made for Oscar consideration, “Spirits” by Beyonce who plays Nala, but sorry, it fails to impress us and sounds so forgettable as she is kept on the sidelines.

Among the actors whose voices are used in the movie, it’s only James Earl Jones who’s familiar with his distinctive voice, reprising his role as Mufasa, Simba’s dad in the original. Sadly, Chiwetel Ejiofor pales in comparison to the campy treatment of Jeremy Irons then as Scar. The storyline remains the same. Mufasa’s brother, Scar, is hungry for power and manipulates the death of Mufasa then sending the lion cub Simba into exile, believing that he caused the death of his own father.

Scar then connives with a pack of hyenas to gain power in the Pride Lands while Simba grows up with other animals, mainly with Timon, the meerkat, and Pumbaa, the warthog (voice by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, we do miss the late Robin Williams from the original) who become his friends in exile with their “no worries” philosophy in life.

It is when his old friend, Nala, appears and convinces him to regain his rightful place in the Pride Lands that Simba gains courage to confront Scar, leading to a climactic battle.

The movie is directed by Jon Favreau, who was earlier more successful in 2016 “The Jungle Book” whose advantage is that it has a human character, Mowgli. His “Lion King” doesn’t quite equal the grandeur, the joy, scope and fun of the original.

Actually, it looks pointless to do this kind of remake but we’re sure, profitability wise, it will send cash registers ringing merrily because the 1994 version is a landmark, a brand.

This is their 3rd animated film made by Disney into live action atfer “Dumbo” (which flopped dismally) and “Aladdin” (a big hit). “Lion King” is also a hit and as of this writing, it has already earned about $400 million, even eclipsing previous blockbuster, “Spider-Man: Far From Home”.