From the few glimpses we’ve gotten so far, it’s a safe bet that Disney’s remake of The Lion King won’t leave out the most iconic moments from Simba’s animated coming-of-age tale. In fact, the film’s first teaser appears to set the tone for a pretty faithful retelling, with its focus on the famous early scene in which Rafiki hoists the cub of destiny from atop Pride Rock.
But Disney apparently is aiming for more than a go-through-the-motions retread as it stitches together its computer-assisted live-action version of the 1994 animated classic. While remakes like The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast already show Disney’s live-action features to be completely safe from the retcon treatment, The Lion King still will introduce something new, according to Walt Disney Studios production chief Sean Bailey.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Bailey said remaking animated classics like The Lion King requires striking a delicate balance between pleasing longtime fans and reinterpreting the original material for a new generation. The result, he said, will be a movie all its own.
“The Lion King is a revered and beloved movie, so you'd better revere and love those parts that the audience wants,” Bailey admitted. “But there are things in the movie that are going to be new. [And] it is a new form of filmmaking. Historical definitions don't work. It uses some techniques that would traditionally be called animation, and other techniques that would traditionally be called live action. It is an evolution of the technology Jon [Favreau] used in Jungle Book.”
Like 2016’s The Jungle Book, the live-action treatment of Scar and Mufasa’s family drama is being directed by Favreau, a Disney favorite who’s also in charge of The Mandalorian, the Star Wars TV series bound for the Disney+ streaming service. Featuring the voices of Donald Glover as Simba, JD McCrary as young Simba, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, and James Earl Jones as Mufasa, the sun is set to rise on The Lion King in theaters beginning July 19 of next year.