Rumor: The Original Lion King Animators Aren’t Happy About The Reboot

Timon in Lion King 1994
(Image credit: (Disney))

Jon Favreau’s photorealistic The Lion King remake is making a big roar at the box office this summer. The film passed the $1 billion mark after just 19 days at the worldwide box office, along with helping Disney set a number of impressive records fit for a king. However, the movie follows quite a famous and beloved animated Lion King from 1994, that it borrowed heavily from – right down to specific shots.

Some of the animators of the original film apparently aren’t happy with Disney’s recycling of their vision. A few of them told HuffPost they were not planning on going out to see the photorealistic remake. David Stephan, who worked on the opening “Circle of Life” sequence and the design of the hyenas back in 1994 said this:

If you polled the crew of the original Lion King, most of them would say, ‘Why? Did you really have to do that?’ It kind of hurts.

As you can imagine, seeing something you put your hard work in revisited in the same way for the big screen without any involvement or credit could bring about this reaction. Months ago, an original co-writer of The Lion King also came forward about not receiving a story credit for his key scenes that were recreated for this summer’s blockbuster.

However, not every Lion King animator is burning Lion King at the stake. Stephan’s words don’t reflect the opinions of all who worked on the animated classic. Alexander Williams, who worked on the initial designs for Scar had this to say:

I think some of my colleagues forget that when you work on a Disney movie, you don’t own it. They own it. You get paid to work there, which is a great privilege. It’s an amazing company. You get to work on this great stuff. But when you walk away, it’s their movie and they can do what they want with it. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s kind of none of my business whether they want to remake it or not.

From Alexander Williams' perspective, while he worked on the film extensively, since it was under Disney’s umbrella and became a world owned by them, he’s alright with it being reproduced in photo-realistic animation. He treasures the time we worked for Disney and doesn’t feel angered by their decision to recapitalize on it.

David Stephan continued with this point on Disney’s recent direction in projects:

It’s sort of sad that the stockholder is now in the room deciding what movies get made. … Disney’s now taken the cover off, and it’s now in your face: ‘Yeah, we just want to make money.’ That’s disappointing as an artist, from a studio that was founded on originality and art.

Another good point. When Disney remakes their classics and keeps them pretty much the same it does show their hand: making money is important to the studio. While that’s the ultimate goal of every business, remaking a popular story as it is because Disney can instead of investing in new, original stories does bring down the front.

While critics slammed the film for exactly this, audiences are showing they approve of The Lion King remake and others like it with their wallets. Disney is next moving forward with a new Mulan and The Little Mermaid, though the new Lion King seems like it veers the closest to the original than any other Disney “live-action” remake.

What did you think of the new Lion King? Sound off in the comments below!

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.