Disney's live-action remake of The Lion King roars into life next year, promising to reinvent the studio's 1994 animated masterpiece.
The film is one of a series of live-action reboots that are heading our way over the next few years. Here's everything you need to know about the new Lion King movie.
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1. Who is The Lion King director Jon Favreau?
Jon Favreau is best known for kick-starting the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with Iron Man. Retooling the superhero origin story with a dose of vibrant effects and witty humour, all grounded by the presence of Robert Downey Jr. (in a career-rejuvenating role), the original Iron Man is rightly held up as one of the best superhero movies ever made.
More importantly, however, Favreau has past form in the Disney remake environment. In 2016, he steered the breathtaking revision of The Jungle Book to critical and financial success, fashioning a gorgeous jungle environment out of seamless CGI effects. Mixing young Mowgli actor Neel Sethi's live-action performance with CGI recreations of characters like Bagheera and Shere Khan, it was a transporting experience, and Favreau's skill in pulling it together bodes well for The Lion King.
2. What is the storyline of the new Lion King movie?
The story of The Lion King is being kept under wraps, although we imagine it'll stick closely to the original. As if you need reminding, the 1994 movie introduced us to young lion cub Simba, who is framed by his wicked uncle Scar for the death of his father Mufasa. The outcast Simba then returns years later to reclaim his place as leader of Pride Rock.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, who were lucky enough to glimpse footage earlier this year, the new movie begins with a reworking of the classic 'Circle of Life' song. It would therefore appear that the new movie is sticking to its roots, not unlike Favreau's The Jungle Book that went to great lengths to reintroduce classics like 'The Bear Necessities'.
3. What visual effects are being used?
The movie's African savannah characters will be brought to life via CGI, although, given the story lacks the human characters seen in The Jungle Book, there's a question as to whether it's considered live-action or animation. Either way, the technology being deployed promises a truly immersive experience.
Effects supervisor Rob Legato states: "I don’t consider this an animated movie. I consider this just a movie, and this happened to be the best way to make it. We [made] it comfortable for Jon Favreau to come in and be able to direct as if it was a live-action film."
He adds: "We are going to use a lot of virtual reality tools so it feels akin to what you are looking at [if you were on a real set]. You can walk around the set like a cameraman. [Wearing VR headsets] the actors can now walk into a scene and see the other actors and trees … and because you are in 3D, you get a realistic sense [of the environment]. That’s what we are incorporating in the next version of this."
4. Who is voicing the Lion King characters?
The A-list voice cast of The Lion King remake is one of its most exciting aspects. Man of the moment Donald Glover (aka 'This is America' musical maestro Childish Gambino) will be voicing the adult Simba, hot from his appearance as Lando Calrissian in Disney's Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Pop sensation Beyonce will be voicing Simba's eventual love interest Nala, which makes us want to hear a reworked version of 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' between her and Glover.
Pitted against Glover's Simba is Chiwetel Ejiofor as the evil Scar, who has to go some way towards matching Jeremy Irons' peerless turn in the original. Speaking of which, there's a direct connection to the 1994 movie in the form of James Earl Jones, who once again brings his bass tones to the role of Mufasa.
Elsewhere, comedy star Seth Rogen voices comedy sidekick warthog Pumbaa, paired with Angry Birds voiceover actor Billy Eichner as meerkat Timon. The starry ensemble is rounded up by Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard as Sarabi, Simba's mother, and chat show host John Oliver as Mufasa's feathered advisor Zazu.
5. What songs will feature on soundtrack?
Again, we don't know for sure – aside from the aforementioned 'Circle of Life', nothing else has been officially confirmed. However, we do know that the original movie's composer Hans Zimmer, who won an Oscar for his score, will be returning. And before you ask, yes, Elton John and Tim Rice are returning to pen some new ballads for the movie.
How closely will they be sticking to the original melodies and songs? No doubt we'll find out soon enough...
6. Have we seen anything from the movie?
Only the following tweeted image from Seth Rogen, showing him, Favreau, Glover and Eichner in the recording studio. It's captioned with 'Hakuna Matata' – which may be the clearest indication so far that more than one classic song is featuring on the soundtrack.
7. When is The Lion King released?
Note it down: The Lion King arrives in Cineworld on 19th July 2019.
Stay tuned to the blog for more details on The Lion King, including the long-awaited trailer. Tweet us your thoughts on the movie @Cineworld.