The Lion King movie review: Animation brought to life, but with a cost

Lexi Johnson

Admittedly, I was skeptical upon hearing of the highly anticipated remake ofThe Lion King, as the original film marked my first experience in a movie theater, and has since been held in high regard as a precious childhood memory. However, nostalgia lured me into the theater and I found myself rooted in my seat as the familiar opening theme song, “The Circle of Life,” filled the room.


The classic animated Disney film The Lion King originallypremiered in 1994. 25 years later, the film has been revitalized with new computer animation technology, allowing the story and its beloved characters to come to life. Its scheduled release date, July 17th, was highly anticipated by fans around the country. 


The new Lion King follows the same plot as its predecessor almost scene-by-scene. The voice actors who play the familiar characters of Simba, Nala, Mufasa, Scar, and Zazu are comprised of notable pop culture figures such as Donald Glover, Beyonce, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and John Oliver. While the voices, along with their songs throughout the film, convey the passion and raw emotions that once made the original so moving, the visual representations of the characters fall short. 


The CGI effects are stunning, rendering it worthy of nearly being mistaken for something from a nature documentary. But it’s these effects that drastically severs it from the original. Emotions are lackluster and dimly conveyed through the digitized animal faces on the screen. Based off of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, The Lion King is steeped with allusions to this quintessential theater production. But where are the raw subtleties of this classic adaptation that once made it such a pivotal Disney film? Perhaps if the songs and dialogue were omitted, then this film would have had more purpose. But implementing an anthropomorphic visual element on such realistic animal characters was a risk to begin with. Disney has been riding a wave of CGI remakes, with The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin being the most recent releases, with rumors of The Little Mermaid being their next focus. 

The hand-drawn animation of the originals will likely hold up better than this new era of computer animated films, as personable emotions and playfulness are more easily conveyed this way. But with a new generation of Disney lovers, naturally comes with it a new burst of creativity and technology that will define future children’s movies and remakes of other classic films. Overall, this revamped version of The Lion King is still enjoyable to watch as it delves into many familiar themes of dicey family dynamics, loyalty, and of course, living life with no worries – Hakuna Matata. I only hope that I can abide by the Hakuna Matata philosophy as more of my nostalgic favorites continue to be converted into this new, high-tech version of modernity.

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