I’m not sure who was responsible for the idea of Disney using modern filmmaking techniques to reimagine their library of classic animated films, but whoever it was deserves a raise. Starting with Cinderella, the House of Mouse has put together some fantastic reworkings of their classic titles, with a rather ambitious game plan laid out to introduce a hell of a lot more to a new audience. Out of that extensive list though there was one title – arguably the biggest in their animated feature library – that was conspicuous in its absence. No longer though. Ladies and gentlemen, Disney are developing a new live-action version of The Lion King!
The news comes from Disney themselves, who confirmed that not only are they tackling this project, but that they’ve tapped Jon Favreau to helm it. The fan favourite filmmaker was of course the man behind Disney’s incredible live-action/CG hybrid adaptation of The Jungle Book, which has become the fourth highest grossing film of 2016, bringing in $965 million worldwide since its release in April.
But besides for mountains of cash, there’s something else that’s quite important about Favreau’s version of The Jungle Book, as it boasted what is possibly the greatest CG visuals ever put to film. Specifically, the mindblowingly photorealistic animals and jungle that Favreau and co brought to life on-screen. That type of technology could do absolutely amazing things with the world of The Lion King. Not to mention Favreau showed an incredibly deft hand at crafting an adaptation that maintained so much of what audiences loved about the original, but also making sure that it was its own incredible thing. And he’s going to need all those skills to live up to this daunting legacy!
For the two of you reading this who has never seen it, The Lion King told “the story of Simba, a young lion who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as King of the Pride Lands; however, after Simba’s uncle Scar murders Mufasa, Simba is manipulated into thinking he was responsible, and flees into exile. Upon maturation living with two wastrels, Simba is given some valuable perspective from his childhood friend, Nala, and his shaman, Rafiki, before returning to challenge Scar to end his tyranny and take his place in the Circle of Life as the rightful King”.
Released in 1994 by Disney, it was about as big a critical and commercial smash hit as you can get. Its list of accolades are massive and include two Academy awards for Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer) and Best Original Song (Elton John & Tim Rice), two Golden Globes for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical and Best Original Score, and not to mention numerous other awards. It’s soundtrack also won two Grammy awards and sold over 14 million copies. At the end of its initial theatrical run, it ranked as the second highest grossing film of all time. It was since overtaken quite handedly by other releases, but two separate re-releases – once for IMAX and another for a 3D conversion – saw it climb back up to become the second highest grossing animated film of all time behind Toy Story 3. It was since displaced down to sixth by newer releases like Minions and Frozen, but it is still estimated to have had the largest actual ticket numbers among any animated film and is the highest earning hand-drawn animated film of all time.
Besides for its incredible legacy on the big screen, The Lion King was also adapted to stage where it garnered just as much praise and commendations. Since debuting on Broadway in 1997, it has won six Tony Awards, has become the the third longest running Broadway production of all time (they’re still doing shows) and is the highest grossing Broadway production of all time.
The original movie also spun off a very popular 1990’s animated show focusing on Simba’s two companions Timon and Pumbaa, as well as direct-to-DVD sequels and a brand new animated series, The Lion Guard, which is currently running on Disney Channel. That’s not to mention the massive merchandising empire that has sprung up from around the title. All of this means that The Lion King has a pop culture status that simply dwarfs everything else in Disney’s stable. So yeah, no pressure, Mr. Favreau.
There’s no current release date for this new version of The Lion King, but its probably still going to be a while off as Favreau and co need to get working on The Jungle Book 2 next. That’s besides for Disney’s list of adaptations which has already also included Maleficent and Pete’s Dragon and next will tackle Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the titular characters in March 2017. Thereafter, Disney still has another 13 – YES, THIRTEEN! – other adaptations including a Mary Poppins sequel starring Emily Blunt, a 101 Dalmations prequel titled Cruella starring Emma Stone, Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo, the Ava DuVernay directed A Wrinkle in Time, a live-action version of The Little Mermaid which just lost its star Chloe-Grace Moretz, a Peter Pan spinoff focusing on Tinkerbell starring Reese Witherspoon, and much, much more!
Last Updated: September 29, 2016