Okay, Disney. The Lion King (1994) is my, like, second-favorite Disney cartoon. How are you going to handle it? Hopefully with great care.
You want to change the jokes?
Great. That’s a must.
You want to give Nala some kind of “Lion Queen” status, more agency, even her very own second-tier villain?
Fine. Do that. Yay for us wimmin.
But then, you also want to take away Rafiki’s words of wisdom? You’d better have a good reason!
You know what I’m talking about… right?
Thanks a lot, 2019.
Maybe, since this 2019 version is a thoroughly researched hyper-realistic CGI version, someone decided having Rafiki carry a stick was too unnatural?
Nope. Rafiki still uses the stick to fight the hyenas in 2019.
So why is the “learn from it” stick dialog gone?
Someone decided that unprovoked violence is never a good idea.
And, I mean—well—I have to agree, in general… I just… I just really liked that analogy. <sniff>
Realism may be the wrong target.
I think a big problem with the 2012 Lion King—maybe the biggest problem—is that the CGI lions’ faces don’t emote a tenth as well as the cartoon lions’ faces. Dialog without appropriate facial expressions feels strangely hollow. So the new version feels more liony… but correspondingly less human.
Congratulations, Disney. You’ve achieved realism at the cost of the very anthropomorphism that allowed you to tell human stories using animals in the first place.
Disney Remake Recap (thus far)
I was never a huge fan of the relatively plotless Jungle Book (1967), which predates my own childhood, so I thought The Jungle Book (2016) remake was pretty cool.
Cinderella (2015) was a little overly complicated, but pretty conservative, I thought, though the classic rags-to-riches fairytale of Cinderella is anything but monolithic and doesn’t exactly belong to Disney.
I thought the remake of my third- or fourth-favorite Disney cartoon, Beauty and the Beast (1991), had some good ideas, but there were some things I didn’t like about Beauty and the Beast (2017)—for example, the visual style of the castle.
I didn’t watch Dumbo (2019). Just not keen, I guess. Seems to have been a common sentiment.
I loved Aladdin (2019), the remake of my third- or fourth-favorite Disney cartoon, Aladdin (1992). It was full of sparkles, fun songs (with, uh, WAY less racist and sexist lyrics, in some cases), and mostly good new ideas, some of them perhaps borrowed from the excellent French comedy Les Nouvelles Aventures d’Aladin (2015). My biggest criticism is maybe that I wanted Jafar’s face to be pointier. That detail feels unaccountably important. I’m not the only one who thought the casting was problematic.
Now I’ve seen The Lion King (2019), the remake of my second-favorite Disney cartoon. My reaction is: well, okay, I see what you did there, but no thanks.