Arts and Entertainment

The Lion King: Old and New

This article explores the differences between the 1994 cartoon Lion King movie and the 2019 live action Lion King movie, and my thoughts on them.

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Note: This article is not a review of the live-action Lion King movie; it is merely a comparison between the two movies and what I thought worked and did not work. And if you haven’t watched either of the two movies, you might not want to read this because it contains some details that are important to the plot.

Twenty-five years ago, Disney set out to make a cartoon about a group of lions in Africa and one particular lion’s early life as he struggled through family tensions and hardships, friendships, and personal beliefs. The film was a hit and grossed $9.6 million worldwide. This summer, a remake was created with the same title: “The Lion King.” Due to the popularity of the old version, millions flocked to movie theaters to see the new and (possibly) improved version. The film grossed over $1.4 billion, becoming the ninth highest-grossing film ever. The plot was the same but there were major differences, the biggest being that this new movie was live-action while the prior one was a cartoon. There were, however, other noticeable differences.

The Songs. Before any dialogue is even spoken, the first song (“Circle of Life”) fills the ears of everyone in the audience. For the first minute or so in both films, the only sounds in the song come from animals and a man singing in an African language, but afterward, a woman begins singing in English. When I watched the 2019 version and heard this voice, I felt like something wasn’t right. To me, the new voice was emptier and not as clear as the 1994 version. After having heard the old soundtrack countless times, I couldn’t bring myself to accept the new version of the song; I was too attached to the old one. This happened with every song in the 2019 version. I felt like the producers should have kept the old songs because they are a staple of the 1994 version. It’s like when you hear remixes of popular songs: they aren’t as good as the original.

Timon and Pumbaa. Everyone (who has watched either one of the two Lion King movies, and if you haven’t watched at least one, what did you do in your childhood?) knows that Simba’s two unexpected friends—a meerkat (Timon) and a warthog (Pumbaa)—help Simba grow and overcome his past troubles. In the 2019 version, these two animals have much more screen time and deliver a whole bunch of hilarious jokes that actually made me laugh. They even crack some jokes that would only make sense to current audiences (based on recent sayings and trends). These two critters make the new film extremely enjoyable, especially after witnessing what Simba goes through with his lion family (which was even more heartbreaking because it was live-action). The producers made the movie extremely enjoyable and comedic through Timon and Pumbaa.

Simba’s Time Away from Home. In the 1994 version, after Simba spends time away from his family, Timon and Pumbaa are the only ones there to comfort and spend time with him. It seems like the three have a great time together. However, in the 2019 version, Simba hangs around lots of different animals, and though he mainly stays around Timon and Pumbaa, the other animals do have an impact on his life. Most of the animals are scared that Simba will eat them, and this fear drives them away from interacting with him. It is more obvious in this film that Simba feels left out when he isn’t with his lion family. This is hinted at in the 1994 film but is much more apparent in the 2019 one. Personally, I wish they had kept the extra animals out because I felt even worse for Simba after I saw how the other animals viewed him. He had already gone through a tough childhood and had continued to be neglected.

The Journey of Simba’s Fur. In the 1994 film, a monkey finds a tuft of Simba’s fur that blows through the wind, signaling to him that Simba is still alive. In the 2019 version, this tuft of fur makes a much more epic excursion that leads to some cool cinematics that I personally really enjoyed. The fur is first shown blowing off of Simba’s mane, and it travels through the Sahara, trees, and water, being picked up by a few animals along the way. It’s such a magical journey, and it gave me the impression that all the animal communities and biomes in Africa are one. This reflects society as a whole: without one essential part, the others collapse. Similarly, if the wind hadn't been blowing correctly, or the ant hadn’t picked up Simba’s fur, it would not have been delivered to the monkey, and Simba’s future would have remained unclear.