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A few years ago, Disney tried something outside the box with Maleficent, a live-action retelling of Sleeping Beauty. After making plenty of money off of that movie, the studio has gone hard with live-action retellings of other animated projects, and will soon be moving forward with The Lion King, director Jon Favreau's follow-up to The Jungle Book. Plenty of people have feelings about the pros and cons of these endeavors, but if there are any people who are qualified to have opinions, it is the creators behind the original animated Lion King movie. I recently spoke to producer Don Hahn and co-director Rob Minkoff ahead of the film's latest Blu-ray release, and they had plenty to say about the upcoming movie. Hahn gave us his honest observations, noting there are two sides to the coin. He said about his feelings:
The honest answer is thrilling and terrifying. The thrilling part is to see Beauty and the Beast or Lion King turned into and reinvented and turned into the new version of the story is great. And that's what stories are for, stories are for telling. They're not for sitting on a shelf. So, to have them retold is great. The terrifying thing is, these are our children. And so it's sending your child off to school. But we're sending our child off to school with Jon Favreau and that's not a bad thing.
There are certainly conflicting feelings related to seeing your babies get remade. Don Hahn, especially, has experience with working in Disney's live action environment, as he was an executive producer on Maleficent and Beauty and the Beast. So, in some ways it's easy to see why the producer might be excited to see something new come down the pipeline that was directly influenced and inspired by the classic Lion King. However, even with Jon Favreau at the helm, that's no guarantee of box office success. Disney wants to make a good movie, surely, but it may not be exactly what the studio is envisioning when the final project is released. And that could be better. But it could be worse, as well.
One thing is for certain. Jon Favreau's The Lion King will be different from the animated 1994 movie, simply because it will be stylized in a different way, and will presumably be mimicking nature in real life. Co-director Rob Minkoff shared that Favreau's version really may not be super close to the animated version. He said,
The blues and yellows are unique to [our] film. If you went out and put a camera on Africa, it would look different. So, right away, the way it's gonna look--the new movie--is sort of influenced by you know, how reality looks. That said, they hired a fantastic DP for the project. It's gonna have a unique look. And the way they approach the characters is going to be very different. You know we have the drawn animation which is very specific to Disney and this kind-of very expressive face. But in the live action movie, obviously they are going to be 'real' animals.
Although the live action movie will be using CGI and motion capture, similar to The Jungle Book, I think there is a comparison between what Rob Minkoff has said about the live action film and how the live action Jungle Book felt, style-wise, when compared to the animated movie. There will certainly be a lot of changes with the new movie, but hopefully those changes will keep new audiences entertained and will serve to help both movies remain special in the hearts of audiences, for different reasons.
While we wait for the new movie, Disney is releasing The Lion King back onto Blu-ray with a slew of new special features as part of its Signature Collection. You'll be able to get your hands on that movie starting on August 29. As for Jon Favreau's version, you'll be able to see that in theaters in 2019.