THE RETURN OF THE LION KING.

Courtesy of The Lion King / Walt Disney Pictures

25 years after the first release, Disney decided to release a live-action iteration of the Lion King.

Disney have had incredible box-office success this year, releasing 3 high grossing films: Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel and Aladdin, so when Disney announced they would be releasing a photorealistic computer animation version of The Lion King the internet was filled with mixed emotions. Pretty much every 90’s kid couldn’t wait to see this new interpretation of the film. However, some were quite sceptical whether the sense of emotion will be taken away.

How would Disney be able to recreate such unforgettable scenes? I was filled with so many questions, would it just resemble a David Attenborough documentary? Is there any need to remake such a notable film? I didn’t think anything would top the nineties version for me. Nevertheless, as soon as the cast was announced and the trailer was released I was quickly filled with excitement. 

Donald Glover would play Simba, Beyoncé would play Nala, Chiwetel Ejiofor would play Scar, James Earl Jones reprising the role of Mufasa and Seth Rogen would play the beloved Pumbaa, I mean at this point I was just astonished at the calibre of great actors that would feature in this remake of the most successful animated films of all time.

The opportunities that The Lion King would be offering for a celebration of African culture were bound to be amazing. Speaking in a press conference, John Kani who plays Rafiki in the film spoke about the importance of certain roles being played by Africans and says he “tries to find himself within what he does”.

The director Jon Favreau is one to trust with the job of remaking such a film considering the previous films he’s directed, including 2016’s The Jungle Book and 2008’s Iron Man.

Having sat down with my popcorn and tango ice blast I was ready to be blown away. Greeted by the opening sequence I was instantly transported to the Serengeti- I was feeling goose bumps. The fact that certain clips for the original were kept the same frame for frame heightened the nostalgia. However once the characters begun speaking there was no emotional connection, the facial expressions were non-existent but the voices carried the emotion. I cannot imagine any other line up of actors playing all the characters from the great Mufasa to the feisty hyena. The chemistry between best friends Timon and Pumba was still there, it definitely took me back to my childhood. The banter was lit!!!! And when Mufasa dropped at the gorge…… heart-wrenching.

In addition to having a lead role in the film, multi-Grammy Award-winning artist Beyoncé Knowles Carter produced and curated “The Lion King: The Gift”. This is an album that features African artists such as Wizkid, Mr Eazi and Tiwa Savage, as well as songs inspired by the Disney film that focuses on aspects of African culture. In an interview Beyoncé did with Good Morning America, she stated The song “Spirit” on the album is “a love letter to Africa… it becomes visual in your mind. It’s a soundscape”

The 27 song album has over 60 million audio streams in the US alone and is said to include short clips from the film Beyoncé is said to have used her influence and love for The Lion King to create songs that reflected African Music, but did she? From a commercial point of view, afrobeats is the biggest musical export from the continent at the moment and I can’t blame Disney for taking advantage of this. However the lack of East African artists have left some feeling disheartened.

The album still acts as a form of representation for Africa, for example, Brown Skin girl is an anthem for all in Africa and the diaspora.

“I wanted to put everyone on their own journey to link the storyline. Each song was written to reflect the film’s storytelling that gives the listener a chance to imagine their own imagery while listening to a new contemporary interpretation. It was important that the music was not only performed by the most interesting and talented artists but also produced by the best African producers. Authenticity and heart were important to me.”

Beyoncé said in a press release.

Regardless, African music has always been a huge inspiration for many around the world so the publicity will give artists opportunities to break into the American market. I have no doubt The Lion King will be amongst one of the most profitable films of 2019 but the 1994 version still stands as the most prominent version in my opinion.

The Lion King is now available in cinemas. The Lion King: The Gift is available on Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, and other music streaming platforms.

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