No, Disney Isn’t Making a ‘Live-Action’ Lion King Movie
Some days I weep for mankind, and today is one of those days. And no, not because Disney announced that they’re remaking The Lion King with director Jon Favreau. That was inevitable, and after Jon Favreau’s mostly impressive (and arguably even superior) version of The Jungle Book earlier this year, I think we should all be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for a while.
No, today I weep for mankind because multiple, reputable outlets (a small sample: here, here and here) are referring to the remake of The Lion King as “live-action,” implying that either those very simple words have lost all meaning, or that people have simply forgotten what they meant. A “live-action” film version of The Lion King would be a wildly irresponsible, extremely dangerous production. Recreating an enormous stampede that results in the death of a majestic lion would be a ludicrously expensive, complicated, and morally disgusting idea, even if you fake the actual “death” part.
“Live-action” is an expression that has a definition, and it’s not “photorealistic computer-generated imagery.” If a film is live-action it means that the action has been recorded live, in front of a camera. I suppose you could argue that puppet-based films like The Dark Crystal and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas occupy a grey area, but I’m pretty sure Disney isn’t not planning to go old school on a Lion King remake with the director who just created a CG-animated proof of concept with The Jungle Book.
To be clear, Disney themselves are only referring to Jon Favreau’s upcoming remake of The Lion King as a “reimagining,” which is industry code for a remake with marketable differences from the original, in style and/or content. But of course, I can see where some of the general confusion comes from. Jon Favreau’s remake of The Jungle Book has been called “live-action” with at least some validity, since the film’s protagonist was a human actor, even though every other element was animated. But The Lion King has no human characters, making it patently unnecessary to combine live-action and CGI elements. (I suppose it’s possible that Jon Favreau could try, but at the moment we have no reason to suspect the production would go to all that trouble.)
So get mad if you absolutely must at the remake of The Lion King. Or be a rational adult about this and reserve your judgment until you actually see the danged thing. But don’t call it “live-action” unless Disney plans to use real animals on set, and don’t be surprised if that never happens.
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William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved, Rapid Reviews and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.