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The Lion King: Jon Favreau’s Remake Of The Classic Has Big Shoes To Fill


It’s almost impossible to find someone who has never watched The Lion King. Even kids born a few years ago have been introduced to the classic. Whether you are a child or an adult, shedding copious amount of tears watching Mufasa die is unavoidable. The film has stood against the test of time, will probably not go out of relevance anytime soon. When Jon Favreau announced that he’s doing a CGI remake of the 1994 classic, the adult in me wasn’t amused. Though his remake of The Jungle Book was topnotch, what if he makes a mess of the classic? What if it goes under the modern, pop culture-riddled knife? Would it lose its relevance, I thought.

However, the child in me argued that perhaps it could be fun. They’d probably have an Acapella version of ‘Circle of Life’ and ‘Hakuna Matata‘ might just get remixed to something that only Beyonce can do justice. The feverish excitement set in when the official cast was announced, and it’s hard not to be impressed.

First of all, there’s Beyonce playing Nala and Donald Glover playing Simba. John Oliver of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver plays Zazu, Seth Rogen, best known for his stoner films, plays Pumbaa. And did I mention Bae Beyonce is part of the cast?

Compared to the previous cast, where Matthew Broderick voiced for Simba, the prince (and later king) of Pride Lands of Africa, the new cast is a major thumbs up to inclusivity. James Earl Jones returns to voice for Mufasa, because, let’s be honest, you cannot imagine the original leader’s voice lent by anybody else. And, since pop culture now is all about references, there might be a Star Wars reference slipped in, so be on the lookout for that one.

The Lion King in 1994 was subtle in its depiction. While its main cast was mostly Caucasian minus a few exceptions like Jones, Madge Sinclair (voiced for Sarabi) and Robert Guillaume (voiced for Rafiki), the remake appears to promise better representation with a cast that looks good on paper. The relationship between Timon and Pumbaa, voiced by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella in the original was represented as two male creatures fostering a lion cub and bringing him up with their own values and teaching him the way of life. While it wasn’t made explicitly clear, one can assume that their relationship represented that of a homosexual couple with fine parental skills. Add to that, the casting of Timon couldn’t be more apt considering Nathan Lane came out as a gay man a few years after the film’s release.

The remake might as well confirm this theory. And given the treatment meted out against the LGBTQ community, it sure would help. Plus, wouldn’t Seth Rogen make just the coolest warthog around, especially if it includes a lot of his philosophies from his stoner flicks?


What people think:

When Silverscreen got in touch with a few children of the 90s about The Lion King, the collective sentiments appeared to be nostalgia. And for a lot of people, it was also one of the first films they watched in a theatre.

Simran C was only three when she first watched the film. It was more of an exposure to cinema, considering she wasn’t even born when the film released and had to settle for a videocassette version of the film. “Most of us at some point wanted friends like Timon and Pumbaa or even name our pets after Simba or visit Africa just to see the animation come alive. I cannot wait to watch what Beyonce can do as Nala, so if anything, I’m looking forward to this remake,” says the 21-year-old graduate.

For 26-year-old Raisa Nasreen, a freelance film critic, the film holds memories of how she got to watch a “cartoon” during school hours. “I first watched The Lion King when I was seven years old. My school decided to treat us all to a film which was captivating the world. Back then, I was fascinated by the fact that I am watching a ‘cartoon’ film during school hours, I was fascinated by how these animals sang and danced. But that was about it. Years later, I watched the film again, when I was completing my undergraduate degree. What shook me was how this film tried to connect with me emotionally. I cried when Scar betrayed Mufasa. I was overwhelmed when Rafiki held Simba with all the glory. This film remains as one of my favourites. Disney just announced the new live-action version of the movie and I am pretty excited. With new voices, this version of The Lion King would be spiced up, and I really wish they retain the authenticity of the original,” she says.

To Kamla, a student of management studies, the film was a bit of a reality check. “I’m up for a new Lion King. The original is the first movie I remember watching in a theater. Also, the first movie made me realise that parents die,” she rues.

To Advika Jalan, a student, the film taught her lessons. “The film is an important part of my childhood actually. I loved the idea of ‘Hakuna Matata‘. Also, Simba overthrowing Scar reaffirms everything you’ve been taught since childhood – good will always triumph over evil, except this is more vivid than any moral science class.”

To Gokul Nair, a features writer, the film was all about discovering hidden meanings as an adult. “The Lion King was one of the first animated movies I saw on-screen. I didn’t realise it then, but I was oblivious to the deep meaning behind it, or the fact that it was inspired by Hamlet. But it’s become one of my favorite memories from the 90s. And that ‘Hakuna Matata’ song has become a staple in my life!”


The remake is scheduled for a 2019 release, and even has composer Hans Zimmer on board. If anything, the film doesn’t sound like a disappointment so far given that Favreau has checked all the necessary boxes.

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