The Lion King Co-Writer Upset 2019 Remake Won't Credit Him

baby simba in 2019 lion king remake
(Image credit: (Walt Disney Pictures))

While many Disney fans are excited about the studio's remakes of Dumbo, Aladdin and The Lion King, here's one red flag: The original creators of the animated classics are not being credited, nor are they receiving residuals with the release of these sure blockbusters. That's the case despite some of the remakes appearing to borrow heavily from their work.

The latest to speak up on the subject is one of The Lion King's storyboard artists, Jorgen Klubien. While he is thankful he received story credit for his concept idea for a key scene in the 1994 beloved classic, his contribution to the material looks like it will be ignored in the 2019 remake. Klubien shared his frustration with The Hollywood Reporter:

How can they not bring my credit forward? How can they just eliminate it?

The issue is complicated, but lies in how animated films receive fewer credit protections and no residuals through The Animation Guild. The Writers Guild of America, by contrast, protects creators of live-action films.

However, on the upcoming Lion King remake -- which is still technically animation through VFX techniques -- credited writers could be entitled to the rights unavailable to those worked on the 1994 film. According to THR, if the 2019 movie was written under WGA jurisdiction -- which isn't clear at this time -- the credited writers will be entitled to residuals, even though the writers of the original film are not.

The Writers Guild of America's head of credits, Lesley Mackey, told THR that the original Lion King would be considered "source material" -- like a novel or comic strip -- because it was created outside of WGA jurisdiction. This is despite the new Lion King clearly implementing some of the same exact shots from the animated film -- shots that were thought up by Jorgen Klubien and 17 others who were credited for "additional story material" in the original movie.

But in another difference, WGA rules won't allow more than two writers or teams to share story credit. The Animation Guild (TAG) doesn't have the same rule. So it's possible that under WGA Jorgen Klubien may not have gotten a story credit at all.

An unnamed animation veteran bemoaned the flawed double standard between animation and live-action artists:

It's truly ridiculous that animation directors and writers are not covered by the DGA and Writers Guild.

Co-screenwriter of the original The Lion King, Linda Woolverton, said she received a royalty for the Broadway iteration of the film but will not be entitled to Guild residuals, along with original writers Tom Disch and Ron Bass. She said she is unhappy she wasn't asked to participate in the remake.

Linda Woolverton also wrote the screenplay for the animated classic Beauty and the Beast and received the same treatment when it came time for the live-action movie to be developed. She similarly voiced her disappointment about her lack of involvement, along with noting that she didn't believe it was "true to the mythology of the storytelling." As you may remember, the live-action Beauty and the Beast was incredibly close to her original work, yet she wasn't asked to be involved.

She still has a working relationship with Disney, as she has written the scripts for the live-action Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent movies. She said one of the reasons she moved on from animation was because of the lack of benefits from the medium.

Another remake coming up, for Aladdin, has also angered one of the writers of the screenplay for the 1992 animated film, Terry Rossio. He recently took to Twitter to point out that the only words spoken in the trailer for the upcoming release were those he and his writing partner Ted Elliott came up with. Yet they receive no credit or compensation for it.

It's certainly brings to attention a frustrating aspect of Disney's remakes. Considering Disney's track record of earnings for these remakes, the studio can afford the extra effort to make these filmmakers happy, but they just aren't obligated to credit or offer the original creators residuals, thanks to The Animation Guild's few protections. The Lion King live-action remake opens in theaters July 19.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.