Dear Disney: You can remake Mulan, Dumbo, and Pinocchio. But stay away from my Lion King


Disney announced yesterday (Sept. 28) that it’s developing a reboot of The Lion King. Director Jon Favreau, who made this year’s critically acclaimed remake of The Jungle Book, will direct it.

Let’s get a few things out of the way: I like the vast majority of Disney animated films, I like Jon Favreau, and I liked his adaptation of The Jungle Book.

But I love The Lion King, and I can’t fathom any reason to remake it other than it’ll probably net Disney another easy $1 billion. The original film, released in 1994, is as close to perfection as Disney has ever gotten. From its timeless music, to its unrivaled voice cast, to its buoyant animation (which very much holds up today), The Lion King was and remains the gold standard for animated cinema.

So it’s hard not to see this remake as anything other than an attempt to capitalize on the success of Favreau’s The Jungle Book, which made $965 million worldwide. Disney isn’t even really trying to hide it. In its press release announcing the news, the company said that Favreau’s The Lion King is already “on the fast track to production”:

The Lion King builds on Disney’s success of reimagining its classics for a contemporary audience with films like Maleficent, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book. The upcoming Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson as Belle, is already one of the most anticipated movies of 2017. Like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King will include songs from the animated film.

Hmm. The Lion King doesn’t need to be reimagined for a contemporary audience—the original one still works! Why can’t today’s children watch that one? It’s one thing if the animation or the story or the music is outdated, but none of them is.

To assuage any concerns we might have, Disney points out that this film will include songs from the original one. Yes, of course, I assumed as much, because those songs are awesome and out of the hundreds and hundreds of Disney songs, they’re the only ones I have on my Spotify and actively listen to.

I don’t blanket-hate the idea of all remakes. I may not be excited for Disney’s upcoming live-action reboots of Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, Cruella, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, or The Little Mermaid (okay, I am excited for that one, because Lin-Manuel Miranda is involved)—but I do understand the desire to reimagine some of them with modernized stories and new technology.

And let’s give credit where credit is due: This conveyor belt of remakes and reboots hasn’t stopped Disney from developing wholly original films as well. As long as the studio continues to make movies like Zootopia, then I can live with a live-action Pinocchio and won’t put up a fuss.

What I can’t live with is a “live-action” The Lion King—or whatever you’d call this reboot, since the original animated film featured no humans. All the animals in this new iteration of The Lion King will probably be computer-generated, like how Favreau filmed his Jungle Book move. I’m sure it’ll look incredible, but beyond that, we don’t know anything.

Perhaps if all the terrific voice cast returns (Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and Moira Kelly, among many others), composer Hans Zimmer and Elton John again do the music, and the story isn’t changed much, then this reboot could work out. I guess it would be cool to see all those animals redone with state-of-the-art computer imagery. And it might be interesting to see how the film treats Scar’s usurpation of the animal kingdom as an allegory for the 2016 presidential….

No. I won’t allow Disney to reel me in that easily, and neither should you.

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