The brand new Lion King is... pretty much just the old Lion King with a new (albeit amazing) coat of paint. If you’ve seen the 1994 animated original, then you know know exactly what happens, every plot point, every song. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few differences between the animated version and the new photo realistic version.
As with many previous Disney remakes, the differences are minor details. The changes don’t make you take a new look at the material in any way. Still, for those people who have the original version memorized, every little difference counts. Here are the biggest of them.
Nala has a much larger role
For being essentially the female lead in The Lion King, Nala’s role in the original film is pretty small. She goes with Simba to the elephant graveyard as a cub, then is the one who convinces him to go home as an adult.
While that’s still her main purpose in the new film, she does have a larger role in the remake. We actually see the scene where she leaves the Pridelands looking for help. We also get a new sequence when Simba catches up with her after he decides to return, complete with a brand new Beyonce song. She also plays a larger role in the final battle, taking on Shenzi the hyena herself.
Timon and Pumbaa have a lot of fresh jokes
A great deal of the dialogue in the new Lion King is lifted directly from the original. It’s not just that the plot is the same, many of the conversations are word-for-word, absolutely identical to the previous film.
The biggest change in this regard comes from Timon and Pumbaa. A lot of their dialogue is new for the remake, and much of that is because Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen came up with all new jokes themselves. The two have said much of their work was improv, and it shows.
Zazu isn’t a prisoner
After Scar takes control in the original movie, the next time we see Zazu he’s in a cage, having been imprisoned by Scar. He’s serving the new king against his will, mostly by singing to him to keep him entertained.
In the remake Zazu is free, and he appears to be in hiding. In fact, he’s serving the previous royal family in secret. We see him giving his morning report to Sarabi rather than Scar. He also gets a few good licks of his own in during the final battle with Scar and the hyenas.
The hyenas think Simba might actually be dead
After Scar tells Simba to run away, he decides he wants to be sure the cub is never a problem and so he sends the hyenas after him to kill him. In the animated original Simba makes it through some brambles and the hyenas decide they don’t want to deal with that, so they just figure Simba will never return and tell Scar the lion is dead.
In the new film Simba takes a tumble off a cliff and the hyenas figure the fall probably killed him. They don’t know for a fact he’s still alive as they did originally.
There are new lyrics to "Hakuna Matata," sort of
If you’re a fan of The Lion King soundtrack then there is a lot to enjoy about the new film, as all of the songs that you love can be found. Most of them are identical to the previous version, but there are a couple of exceptions. One of the funnier changes is that a line in "Hakuna Matata" has been extended.
The verse that tells the story of Pumbaa in the original film sees Timon stop Pumbaa when he sings the line that rhymes with "down-hearted", but in the new version, Pumbaa gets to complete the line. What makes it all the funnier is that Pumbaa actually expects Timon to stop him, in one of the film’s fourth wall breaking moments.
"Be Prepared" is almost entirely different
One of the highlights of the original Lion King is Jeremy Irons' performance of the villain song “Be Prepared.” While there were early rumors the song wouldn't even be in the new version, that tuned out, luckily, to be untrue.
However “Be Prepared” goes through a lot of changes for the new film. It’s less of a song in the new Lion King and more like a spoken word piece. The lyrics are also almost entirely different, with only the line about "teeth and ambitions" surviving. Which is good, because it's literally one of the best lines in either version of the movie.
Simba doesn’t fit in
In the animated movie, from everything that we see, Simba’s life with Timon and Pumbaa is everything that he wants it to be. He’s got freedom and he lives a care-free life. However, a new scene in the remake makes it clear that Simba doesn’t really fit in. Simba and Timon and Pumbaa aren't living on their own here, but as part of a commune of various animals.
All of the animals that Simba lives among are prey, and while he clearly has no intention of hurting them, those animals are simply unable to see him as anything other than a predator. It a sequence that helps reinforce how out of place Simba is here.
Scar wants Sarabi to be his queen
Ruling the Pridelands doesn’t go all that well for Scar in either version of the film, but in the animated one Scar appears content to rule alone. This time he's looking for a mate.
In the remake, he attempts to convince Mufasa’s mate Sarabi to be his new queen, mostly as a way to get the lionesses to do what he wants. This scene does call back to a sequence that almost was in the original movie, where Scar tries to convince Nala to be his mate in order to give him heirs, but the scene never made it to the final cut of the movie.
The differences between the animated original and the new Lion King aren’t enough to drastically change the movie, which is one of the issues many critics have with it. Having said that, both movies have their charms and the handful of differences do keep the remake from being exactly identical to its predecessor. One thing the two movies likely will have in common, they're going to be huge box office hits.