I grew up on the ’80s and ’90s Disney classics.
I wanted to flip my fins like Ariel, run through the hidden pine trails of the forest like Pocahontas and live in a tale as old as time like Belle. If you were to look back into my childhood, you’d probably find me outside in a field, singing my own version of these songs while I pretended to be the star in my own show. (I’m sure you can tell that I was homeschooled for a while!)
And according to my parents, when I wasn’t outside frolicking somewhere, I was an eager 3-year-old sitting in the theatre, watching the original version of The Lion King, shouting “Nants ingonyama bagithi babaaaaaaaaaa” at the top of my lungs.
Those were the days. And, thanks to Disney, they’re also the days right now for kids growing up today. For nearly a decade now, Disney has been systematically working through its movie catalog, transforming beloved animated classics into live-action remakes (albeit with a lot of CGI, in several cases). That list includes Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, Christopher Robin and Maleficent.
And this week, we add The Lion King to that list as well.
Obviously, Disney’s depending on nostalgia to market these reboots. I mean, who doesn’t want to experience most of these stories in fresh new ways. Still, I can’t help but wonder, will I be able to pass down my love for Disney classics to my littles with these action-packed remakes?
Now, before you think this is some sort of hate fest, it’s not. The live-action versions are beautiful, stunning and absolutely captivating. They’re movies that, as an adult, I’d watch with or without my son.
But these versions, though well made, can also be far more intense than the animated originals, thanks to the moviemakers’ amazing dedication to photorealism. Plugged In’s Bob Hoose reviewed The Lion King and had this to say about its realistic nature:
The fact is, that incredible realism comes with some perhaps unintended consequences. Parents need to be aware that in this beautifully realistic mix, bared claws and teeth look far sharper, dark shadows filled with snarling enemies are far scarier. Those roaring, screeching clashes between anthropomorphized beasties can be far more intense and heart-wrenching. And Mufasa’s death scene feels even more tragic and heartrending than it did in the animated 1994 version.
I suppose it comes with the territory. The goal is to make the films feel more realistic. But will that lifelike quality impact young and sensitive viewers more negatively, too? In the case of the rebooted version of The Lion King, perhaps.