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I loved The Lion King growing up so I was stoked to receive the invite for an advance screening of Disney’s new live-action The Lion King at the Lockheed IMAX Theater in the Air and Space Museum. This theatre has a five-story screen providing one of the most immersive movie experiences in DC. The Lion King was created using a blend of traditional live-action filmmaking techniques, state-of-the-art virtual-reality tools and the highest-level CG animation. There are times you almost forget you’re not watching Disney Nature.
The photorealistic production is so well done that the speaking animals seem out of place at first. I found myself questioning things, but then I remembered, it’s a fictional movie! Jon Favreau was very keen to keep things as natural as possible. I will say though, that the hyperrealistic animals move in such a realistic manner that some of the personalities from the original version seem a bit muted. However, I don’t think it’s possible to avoid these differences when adapting to a live-action format. The younger fans may find the fight scenes and stampede are more intense than the original. The IMAX theatre will have influenced the intensity of our screening a bit, but it’s still more graphic than the original.
The live action film is more dramatic, but it follows the story almost identically to the original. Because the live-action version of The Lion King hasn’t changed drastically, it is still a fun family movie. I love that a new generation will have the chance to fall in love with this story, the characters and the music!
The music from The Lion King is so iconic I was worried I wouldn’t like any changes, but the new music team included Elton John, lyricist Tim Rice, composer Hans Zimmer, African vocal and choir arrangements by Lebo M, and Pharrell Williams. The updated soundtrack also features two songs by one of my personal favorites, Beyoncé. We have been blasting Beyoncé’s new song “Spirit” since the screening. The new version of “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” by Shahadi Wright Joseph and JD McCrary was one of my daughters favorite songs. “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” are updated, but not drastically altered. We love all of the new music!
Just Can’t Wait to be King (& Queen)!
I had a chat with Shahadi Wright Joseph (voice of young Nala) and JD McCrary (voice of young Simba) this week during their short trip to Washington, DC on their press tour. Shahadi and JD are nothing short of youthful bliss. Spending time with these young actors emphasized that the essence of the film is children and family. Shahadi and JD exuded excitement over their participation in the film. They especially enjoyed being able to bring their youthful energy and own personalities to the characters and it shows on screen.
The freedom with the roles they received from director Jon Favreau was much different than Shahadi’s previous experience in The Lion King on Broadway. Shahadi says her Disney inspired childhood allowed her to easily and naturally be herself while portraying Nala. It is this type of familiarity with the characters that makes these remakes so much fun. JD’s found it easy to relate to the young Simba and it shows in his performance. Of all the songs he performed as Simba, JD’s favorite was Hakuna Matata, and who can blame him? After meeting these smart, talented young actors, I can see so much of them in their portrayals of Simba and Nala. We can’t wait to see what comes next for JD and Shahadi, but we are hoping JD’s future includes his three goals: the role of Miles Morales, winning an award and have his own life-sized hamster ball. We would love to see Shahadi in her dream role of Tiana and the first female Hercules? Whatever is next Shahadi, we hope you will shoot for the stars!
**I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask if they met Beyoncé and was pleased to hear that although they did not have the privilege of working with her during recording they did meet her several times during press coverage.**