Updated: Nov 13, 2019
***Spoilers Ahead….Also, if you’ve seen the movie the title should make you giggle!***
On July 19th, Disney released the (extremely) long-awaited live-action remake of The Lion King, and us 90s babies couldn’t have been more excited.
Since they’ve announced the remake, I’ve been anxiously counting down the days until I could see Pride Rock in all of its glory on the big screen again.
When The Lion King (OG version) was released in 1994, I was a wide-eyed, full of life 2 ½ year old. I vaguely remember going to the movie theater to see the film, but I do remember it being such a HUGE part of my childhood. I, like everyone else I know, felt such deep connections to The Lion King, from crying when Mufasa was killed (in cold blood I must say) to wanting to be Nala and find a king like Simba (I sooo had a crush on Simba). The Lion King shaped my childhood and was a movie that gave me as a little black girl a connection to the culture I love so much (even if the characters were all animals).
Because The Lion King is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES, I had high hopes for the live-action remake. Being able to relive my childhood, but also see how today’s technology could enhance the story was very appealing to me.
The day finally arrived! I pack my snacks (and my wine), and pulled into the drive-in theater. I felt like a kid all over again- bouncing up and down in my car with the biggest smile on my face.
Then “IT WAS TIME” (in my Rafiki Voice)......(I have something else to share about this iconic quote later).
The movie began and I was transported back to 1994...or so I thought. The live-action remake was BEAUTIFULLY done, but there were some differences (and missed opportunities) that made it clear that this was a different movie.
In the OG Lion King, the movie instantly started with the iconic “NAAAAAAA” that we all know so well- in the remake there was a short pause before that “NAAAA’ snatched my life. While I loved the beauty of the scenery they showed, I was longing for that initial punch that starts the movie off on a high note.
As the story progressed, there were a few other things that made 2-year-old me cringe a little.
The story seemed dragged on in some places and rushed in others.
There were a few staple Lion King moments that were changed or left out that changed the feel of the movie for me like Simba’s slow-motion run back to pride rock (Beyonce’s song should NOT have been used for this moment), Young Nala pinning Young Simba (if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t worry, this still happens, it just didn’t have the attitude behind it like the OG version), or Rafiki’s infamous “IT IT TIME” quote. I knew there were going to be some differences, but some of the missed moments made my nostalgia cry a little.
Mufasa’s classic voice (done by none other than the great James Earl Jones) brought back all types of memories, but slightly lacked the power of the OG version. HOWEVER, I know that’s because Elder James is much older than he was in the original version. Although his voice in this one was a little softer, you could still feel the wisdom behind each word.
After I left the movies, I went through the film over and over trying to pinpoint what was bugging me about the remake. I read multiple reviews that criticized the voice acting saying that the actors portrayed no emotion, but I didn’t feel like that was the issue. Then it hit me: It was the CGI animation.
I will use a disclaimer here: The CGI was AMAZING! Everything was extremely realistic. But I think that was the problem.
In the OG version, because it was a cartoon, the artists were able to draw facial expressions really well for the characters. Their lines matched their facial expressions- in the live-action, however, that wasn’t the case.
I felt like the majority of the actors did an amazing job as their characters (Beyonce surprised me as Nala, and Donald Glover was THE BEST as Simba), but you couldn’t get a feel for their lines because the characters faces didn’t match what they were saying. It felt like watching a poorly animated dog movie (and we all know how many of those there are).
Though that aspect was a thorn in my side while watching the film, it didn’t ruin it for me. I still FULLY ENJOYED the remake and will see it as many times as my bank account allows.
I will say the standout in the film (other than Donald Glover as Simba *heart melts*) was Timon and Pumbaa (played by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan). They both brought a fresh sense of humor to their characters, and I was thoroughly entertained watching them. Timon and Pumbaa are two of my favorite characters from The Lion King, so they both had big shoes to fill, and they did!
Overall, I was very pleased with the remake and will give it an 8/10. Though I am partial to the OG version, the remake did not disappoint. It was interesting seeing the story in a new light, and I’m happy that the younger generation can fall in love with the same story that stole our hearts many years ago.
Cover Photo Credit: Disney via Essence Magazine
About the author:
Saidah Murphy is the CEO of SM Media Enterprise, a film, television, and podcast production company based in San Diego, CA. With this company, Saidah works to create a safe space where people of color, especially women of color, can freely tell their stories and share them with the world.
Saidah was born and raised in Detroit, MI and uses her upbringing in an African-Centered household and education system as inspiration and motivation for the work she does today.
Through this inspiration, Saidah started the Black Girls Need Love Too: A Healing Podcast where she leads conversations of healing with other black women around various topics like family relationships, mental health, body image, and more.
Saidah is committed to using her interests and passions to help drive change in the world. She is committed to helping uplift and progress the black community forward. Saidah is also an advocate for mental health awareness and education, and hopes to use her platform to bring attention and progression to the issues.
Saidah currently lives in San Diego with her daughter Lena.