The Lion King Director Jon Favreau Promises It'll Surprise Audiences

The Lion King trailer shot young Simba

The Lion King has a tough job balancing expectations ahead of its July release. On one hand, some fans like the heavy nostalgia factor. They like the recognizable scenes. They don't want many changes. On the other hand, why bother remaking The Lion King if it's going to look so similar to the beloved 1994 movie?

So now it's director Jon Favreau's job to convince everybody that The Lion King movie he's making is exactly the one they'll want:

The original holds up incredibly well, so the challenge here was to tell a story in a different way but still deliver on people's expectations while surprising them somehow.

Jon Favreau told USA Today the humor has been updated from the original animated movie, but the iconic moments are still there. He reiterated that it won't be a shot-for-shot remake.

That was a concern of some fans after the first "Circle of Life" teaser came out. Shortly after that, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures production chief Sean Bailey explained how the computer-animated Lion King wouldn't just repeat the past:

The Lion King is a revered and beloved movie, so you'd better revere and love those parts that the audience wants. 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.

Jon Favreau has earned some credit on this front, not just for directing The Jungle Book in 2016, but also from his previous successes with Elf and Iron Man. So if Happy Hogan says surprises are ahead, hopefully they will be pleasant ones.

Unfortunately, change-averse fans have already shown their claws. There was instant criticism about the depiction of Scar in the most recent trailer.

So it's really going to be a challenge to please everyone. That's always the case, but these many upcoming Disney remakes are really putting themselves in a delicate position. Then again, it worked for The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Maleficent.

Sometimes copying the past works, sometimes going in a very different direction works. And sometimes it just doesn't quite click with audiences, like the new Dumbo. The upcoming Aladdin movie is in a similar boat. Will Smith's Genie has been the focus of early criticism, but maybe most fans will end up loving the result. After all, the internet does not offer a full representation of the fandom, young or old. It's the box office that will be the true judge.

In one very good sign for The Lion King, the first teaser it dropped back in November broke Disney's record for trailer views. There's a lot of interest out there, and that does come with high expectations and early criticism. It would be worse if people didn't have anything to say at all.

The Lion King features the voice talents of Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones back as Mufasa, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Billy Eichner as Timon, Alfre Woodard as Sarabi, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. The movie opens in theaters July 19, as one of the many films -- both Disney and non-Disney -- headed to theaters in 2019.

Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.