Animation has come a long way. When the first film The Lion King was made in 1994, the traditional, hand-made animation method was used. Today the Disney Studio used the latest technology of photorealisitic computer-animated equipment. This new, astounding method makes everything look real and not at all “drawn” as in the old days of Snow White and Pinocchio. This is, after all, the 21st century, and those films were made in the Dark Ages of animation in 1937 and 1940 respectively.
The history of the development of the original film is an interesting one. Plans were being formed way back in 1998 when former Disney mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy Disney put their heads together with others to work with writer Thomas Disch to write a screenplay. Production began in 1991 at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the theme park in Florida.
Then the decision was made by the aforementioned moguls plus Peter Schneider to turn the film into a musical. Great composers were needed. Originally, Benny Andersson of ABBA was asked to write some songs, but he had to decline due to previous commitments. Then, lyricist Tim Rice, who was working with Alan Menken on songs for another animated film called Aladdin, was asked to find a suitable person to write songs. He suggested pop singer/composer Elton John, and history was made.
Film critic Roger Ebert assessed the picture as a “superbly drawn animated feature.” As such, the film won many accolades, including two Oscars® for Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer) and Best Original Song (“Can You Feel The Love Tonight” by Elton John and Tim Rice). Also nominated for the Academy Award® were the songs “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata.” The film was one of the highest grossing movies of the year and earned a total of $968,000,000 during its first release.
Following the old Hollywood adage that if something is good once, it will be good twice or three times, Disney gave the green light for a complete re-do of The Lion King for today’s 21st century audiences. Plans were confirmed about doing a remake of this popular movie when Jon Favreau was signed in September of 2016 to direct the film. Favreau had just come off directing the highly successful The Jungle Book.
Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson was brought on to write the script with a story by Brenda Chapman. Although gossip was the film was to be a “live action” remake, Favreau quickly said that it was not a film using real actors, but a modern technological marvel. The studio worked in conjunction with a visual effects outfit, The Moving Picture Company, employing the latest visual reality methods by using new animation methods and motion capture.
In what are some of the most beautifully filmed scenes put onto a motion picture screen, the credit must go to cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. The Philadelphia born artist has been nominated for an Academy Award ® six times. Those films are The Right Stuff (1983), The Natural (1984), Fly Away Home (1996), The Patriot (2000), The Passion of the Christ (2004), and Never Look Away (2018). This guy knows what he’s doing! He has worked with some of the top directors of our time, such as Barry Levinson, Roland Emmerich, William Friedkin, Jim Sheridan and Warren Beatty. You won’t be disappointed with his superb artistry in this new version of the Disney classic. Everything he touches and points his camera at is a work of art.
As in the original movie, the music plays a great part in the enjoyment of the film. Musical genius Hans Zimmer is on board as composer, and all the favorite Elton John-Tim Rice songs light up the sound track Especially popular are the hit songs “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” “Hakuna Matata,” and “Circle of Life.” Popular singing artist Beyonce chipped in with John and Rice to create a new end-credit song for the film.
This is not the same 1994 film simply rehashed. It runs longer at 118 minutes for one, and some iconic scenes were reimagined for the new version. Director Jon Favreau had the unenviable task of creating a brand new film without copying the old one. He has accomplished his goal by fashioning a film that stands on its own, and it is a beautiful one, indeed.
(Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and rated “PG” by MPAA. The 1994 film was rated "G.")