Oh boy. I’m gonna be honest here, I started writing this before I saw the new film, and shortly after I’d re-watched the original 1994 classic. In an amazing quirk, that first sentence is 25 words, and it’s been 25 years since The Lion King first graced cinemas. It’s pretty astonishing to think that it’s been that long, yet here we are. The legacy of the original movie had spawned two sequels (well, one sequel and one… prequel?), two TV shows, a world-wide musical (which is phenomenal by the way), and a cultural impact that easily sits alongside several other pop culture classics. From the timeless story to the beautiful music and setting, The Lion King has stood the test of time. The film stands as the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated movie of all time, and yet, Disney themselves were originally not backing it to be a success.
Pocahontas was also in production at the same time as The Lion King, and most animators believed it would be the more successful and prestigious of the two films. After all, Disney, being an American company, felt a story that tapped into American history would have more weight. Pocahontas can certainly be considered a success, but The Lion King has left an indelible impression on pop culture. It is part of our psyche, and it’s a world-wide smash hit. I love it (clearly, given my avatar!), and I hold The Lion King in my top five movies – where it shall stay.
So the news of a remake at first filled me with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Disney have been dusting off the classics to make a great many remakes of late. Beauty and the Beast was well received, Aladdin less so, Cinderella was inoffensive, and Maleficent was a creative and entertaining twist on Sleeping Beauty. Dumbo was considered mediocre (I cannot speak for that one, and in fact I cannot personally speak for Aladdin), whilst I dare say I didn’t mind The Jungle Book remake, and nor did I mind (if we go a bit further back) the 101 Dalmatians remake.
It could be considered quite lazy on Disney’s part to indulge in so many remakes. It is also risky, as a lot of people – especially with films that are relatively young (like The Lion King) will have very fond memories of the original. Indeed, when Disney release their The Little Mermaid remake (the source of controversy for some stupid, bigoted reasons), they will have remade the Big Four, and time will judge whether they should have. A hit and miss record with these projects will certainly raise questions as to whether Disney should be making these films, and some quarters of the web have already asked if they need to exist. Personally, by that logic, we never needed the originals, for films are not a logical necessity. I am grateful to the creative minds that have given us such a wonderful legacy.
I’ve digressed a bit. Am I nervous about the new movie? Yes, absolutely. I cannot fully put into written form what the original means to me. Even now, it moves me to tears. It carries so much emotion and is so uplifting that I am always carried away by it. To tread upon this territory is to take a huge risk. From what I have seen of the trailers and heard of the music, there is a huge respect and love for the original, even as a new team seeks to put their own mark on a classic. My wife would say Disney misfired with Aladdin, but then again, they hit the mark pretty well with Beauty and the Beast. I am keeping my fingers crossed, and as of next Tuesday, when I’ve seen the new film, I’ll be offering my thoughts and views. Stay tuned for a podcast and a sequel to this post!
25 years of magic!