How Disney Is Approaching The Lion King In Live-Action, According To Jon Favreau

The Lion King

Director Jon Favreau is following up his incredibly successful Disney adaptation of The Jungle Book, with an even more beloved Disney classic, The Lion King. Recently, the director spoke about his approach to the popular story. Favreau seems to clearly understand that he's dealing with material that fans are passionate about, and he says that in order to properly adapt it, he has to be equally passionate. According to the director...

When you're directing, you have to love [what you're making]. You have to love it to the point of obsession. I have to live, breathe, sleep it, dream it. If I'm going to do my best work, I need to be completely immersed... you look at the material and you get inspired, and then try to update it for our time. With the Disney stuff, people know even more... With Lion King, people really know [the original], and they grew up with it and it has emotional impact. I think about what I remember about The Lion King?

Jon Favreau's comments during the Tribeca Film Festival (via Entertainment Weekly) are similar to something Josh Gad told me about Beauty and the Beast prior to its release. Because both of those films were newer, and stories that current movie fans had grown up with, the responsibility to do it "right" was much greater. The Lion King is one of Disney animation's biggest movies ever and as such the pressure to make a live-action version that lives up to its predecessor may be even greater than it was for Beauty and the Beast. Favreau's method for making sure that he does it right is apparently to simply immerse himself in the material.

The director said that he did something similar with The Jungle Book where he thought hard about what aspects of the Disney original he really remembered, knowing that those would be the moments that his film also had to have. Then, he was able to figure out how to incorporate those beats into his version of the story.

That doesn't mean, however, that Jon Favreau will simply be recreating everything from the animated original. While he talks about focusing on the film's iconic moments, he also talks about where he has the latitude to change things. The idea here seems to be that if the overall experience is still the one that people expect, the few places where things get changed up can actually make the experience better because people do still like to be surprised now and then. It seems like a strong formula. Most of the negative criticism that Beauty and the Beast received was from sources that felt the live-action version played it too safe and didn't do enough that was new with the material. If The Lion King is able to find the right balance, it could be an even bigger hit.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.