Mandatory Movie Battles: ‘The Lion King’ 2019 vs. 1994
Before we jump into it, we can all agree that describing the new Lion King as “live-action” is used loosely here, as the 2019 film is relatively all CGI. We’re willing to give the terminology a pass, though, considering Jon Favreau’s artistic photorealism makes the movie look like a nature documentary where the animals happen to be talking and singing. The animated version of The Lion King made waves in 1994 and remains the epitome of classic Disney, earning itself a Golden Globe and Academy Award along the way. In our latest Mandatory Movie Battles, The Lion King faces off with itself as we determine who has the biggest roar: live-action or animation?
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures
Besides reliving a classic Disney tale, or discovering it for the first time, the real grab for the live-action adaptation is the special effects. Favreau and his VFX team offer a game-changing visual experience you have to see to believe. The furry characters may not come off as physically emotional and expressive as they do in the original animation, but you will absolutely feel like you're watching National Geographic, to the point where you will simultaneously be in awe and little creeped out when the animals speak and break out in song.
This race was a little tight, but at the end of the day, Elton John's award-winning music for the 1994 film is nothing short of a work of genius. That's not to say the original motion picture soundtrack for the live-action version isn't worth every penny. Beyoncé, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, and Billy Eichner belt out the lyrics made famous from the original in stunning fashion. Animated Lion King composer Hans Zimmer returned to write the score for the live-action film, with a new song from John included. Still, the soundtrack is essentially an updated version of music already beloved and works as an homage instead of something greater.
We love baby JTT as much as the next '90s kid, and Jeremy Irons was magnificent as Scar. But the old crew has quite the talented voice cast to contend with. Beyoncé, Glover, Eichner, Rogen, and Ejiofor, as well as the genius return of James Earl Jones as Mufasa, take the star power to a whole new level.
The live-action version is all about playing on our nostalgia, which wouldn’t exist if the original Lion King had not have been so incredible and emotionally devastating. Disney was smart to capitalize on those feelings, which will surely earn the CGI-filled adaptation a hefty box office, but the animated classic deserves all of the credit.
The focus of the new movie was to recreate The Lion King, shot-for-shot, with next-level VFX. Favreau was not concerned about taking on a new angle of the story, but of bringing a new generation to the wonder that is Pride Rock and reminding those of us who have loved the tale from the beginning why The Lion King is so special. If you’ve seen the animated version, you already know exactly what happens to Simba and his friends. And that Mufasa’s brother is an asshole.
Disney utilized their billions of dollars well in the adaptation, and it’s certainly worth experiencing on the big screen. The reason why the filmmakers didn’t steer away from the original tale, though, is because they didn’t want to mess with perfection. The 2019 live-action adaptation may blow your mind with its eye-popping visuals, but it will never be King.
Overall Winner: Animation