Disney’s The Lion King has come under fire from critics for sticking way too close to the original in terms of plot and script. Among the complaints they had with director Jon Favreau’s remake is that it strays too close to the original and doesn’t offer anything new. In a new podcast with Variety, Favreau explained his decision to not alter too much of the original and preserve the revered nature of the 1994 animated film’s classic scenes.
Everybody’s got their own formula. I’m not saying this is the way you do it, but it’s the way I’ve done it. You don’t want to reinvent it completely. You want people to see it and be able to say, ‘I saw “The Lion King.”’ Just like when I went to see the play.
I went to see the play. I had seen the movie, and I said, ‘I saw “The Lion King.”’ Now the play is an hour longer and has different songs, different scenes but somehow it captured the essence of the film. You would casually say it’s the same exact story.
I can’t fault Favreau for his reasoning. It’s always a risk changing too much of the source material to make it a different film entirely. And The Lion King is so iconic, you couldn’t possibly modify or update the story to give audiences something new. I suppose that means it was best not to touch the movie at all but that’s a separate discussion I guess.
Contrary to The Lion King though, Favreau’s 2016 Disney remake of The Jungle Book was extremely well received and garnered praise from both critics and audiences alike. I guess had Favreau tweaked the plot to offer the right balance of old and new, it would’ve struck a chord with everyone. Speaking of which, The Jungle Book was actually the movie that birthed or seeded the idea of a Lion King remake in Jon Favreau’s head, especially when he observed the capabilities of the technology in use.
I knew that with the tools that we had and what the technology had to offer and the team that had done such a great job on ‘Jungle Book’ that there was an opportunity here to show the naturalism of that world. I understood how to make animals act and talk through animation. I understood how to direct animation too because there were some sequences in ‘Jungle Book’ that didn’t have Mowgli in them. Those scenes were completely CG. I was comfortable directing the animators.
Check out the full podcast in the embed below where Favreau talks about a lot more, including roping in Beyonce for the movie and his thoughts on working with her. The Lion King is out in theaters and is doing well with audiences thus far.