A scene from the Lion King 2019. (Photo: Disney)

Lion King 2019 v 1994: Which is best?

It cost $AU350 million to make and features an all-star cast, but is the remake of Disney’s The Lion King worth it?

On opening night I fought my way through the crowds at Event cinemas in Campbelltown, in western Sydney, to discover which was better and if, in fact, the 2019 version could blast the much-loved original out of the water?

Like many I grew up with the original animated version of The Lion King where Scar was menacing and evil and Mufasa was the image of a perfect dad. There were catchy songs everyone could dance and sing-along to, and characters we just couldn’t help but love.

But this live action remake takes a different approach to telling the story. Although the events within the film are pretty much exactly the same, there are elements that make it different and a little more modern than the original. The use of CGI technology brought the element of realism to the film and allowed the audience to connect to the characters.

For instance Scar. Yes Scar is still menacing, evil and terrifying, but there are factors that make him a little more tolerable than the original. In the song ‘Be Prepared’, Scar isn’t really singing, he is more talking about his plan to kill Mufasa. Therefore it takes away the element of fear that arises in the original when he is singing the song.

The cast in this remake bring a modern take on the characters whilst keeping parts of their personality from the original. Donald Glover (also known as Childish Gambino) plays Simba and Beyoncé plays Nala. Both characters are extremely similar to the original and both cast members are artists kids and teens listen to all the time. Seth Rogen who plays Pumbaa and Billy Eichner who plays Timon bring a hysterical element to the characters that is a little more modern and different to the original.

James Earl Jones was re-cast to play Mufasa after playing him in the original. Jeremy Irons who played Scar in the original animated version wanted to play the character again, as he thought no one else could play him, but he never got the call. While on the Graham Norton show this was brought up and his response was quote “I know! I know! I know” and grunted afterwards. Chiwetel Ejiofor was cast as Scar.

The three hyenas were played by Keegan Michael-Key (Kamari), Eric Andre (Azizi) and Florence Kasumba (Shenzi). Zazu the bird was played by John Oliver, Rafiki was played by John Kani, Sarabi was played Alfre Woodard and JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph played young Simba and Nala.

Each of these cast members brought something new, interesting and modern to the characters they played which made them all the more loveable.

There are some songs in this remake that aren’t in the original. Timon and Pumbaa sing ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ while dancing alongside their animal friends right before Nala tries to eat them, ‘Spirit’ a new song by Beyoncé was featured as a backing track while Simba and Nala are racing back to Pride Rock in order to save it and the animals from Scar and the hyenas.

There are three other new songs featured in the credits of this film: ‘Never Too Late’, ‘He Lives In You’ and ‘Mbube’.In my opinion, the songs in this remake that are in the original are either better or worse.

‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’ were an improvement on the original animated version, whereas, ‘Circle of Life’, ‘Be Prepared’ and ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’ are much better the first time round.

A fun fact is that in the remake when Timon and Pumbaa are distracting the hyenas so Nala and Simba can sneak up to Pride Rock, instead of dancing and singing in hula skirts and leis, they sing ‘Be Our Guest’ from the Disney film Beauty and the Beast before being chased away by the hyenas. And during the scene where Mufasa dies, even I shed some tears knowing what was happening and what was going to happen.

This film definitely tugs on your heartstrings.

So, if you grew up loving the original Lion King like I did, make the time to go and see this live action remake. It will bring tears to your eyes and laughter to your day. Bring your friends and family, grab some popcorn and make a day of it. You won’t regret it.