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Over the past few years, Disney has seen great success in making live-action remakes of its animated blockbusters. This all began with Maleficent, and continued with projects like The Jungle Book, Cinderella, and The Lion King. The latter was Jon Favreau's remake of the 1994 Oscar winning original, which made a ton of money when it hit theaters last summer. Elton John's beloved music was adapted into the new version, but it turns out that the iconic songwriter wasn't happy with the latest version of Simba's tale.
Elton John's music was a big reason why the original Lion King was such a powerful moviegoing experience, and what ultimately earned the animated blockbuster its Academy Awards. Those stunning songs were re-recorded with the remake's cast, including Donald Glover, Beyonce, Billy Eichner, and Seth Rogen. But those new version are what John has taken umbrage with, as he put it:
The new version of The Lion King was a huge disappointment to me, because I believe they messed the music up. Music was so much a part of the original and the music in the current film didn’t have the same impact. The magic and joy were lost. The soundtrack hasn’t had nearly the same impact in the charts that it had 25 years ago, when it was the bestselling album of the year. The new soundtrack fell out of the charts so quickly, despite the massive box office success. I wish I’d been invited to the party more, but the creative vision for the film and its music was different this time around and I wasn’t really welcomed or treated with the same level of respect. That makes me extremely sad. I’m so happy that the right spirit for the music lives on with the Lion King stage musical.
Well, that was certainly honest. It looks like Elton John wasn't a collaborator with Jon Favreau's version of The Lion King. And as such, he believe the joy and power of his songs were lost in the remake. And it's also why the soundtrack failed to make an impact on the music charts following the movie's release in July.
Elton John's comments to GQ may surprise moviegoers, given how many people ran to theaters to catch a screening of the new Lion King. The digital technology Jon Favreau used to bring The Jungle Book to life was applied to the remake, allowing the various animals of Pride Rock to be rendered in photorealism. It was a stunning visual treat, although Elton John wasn't happy with the handling of the music.
While the new Lion King was at point a shot-for-shot remake of the original, there were some liberal changes to the music. Keys were altered to accommodate the new cast, including tracks like "Hakuna Matata". Scar's signature song "Be Prepared" was almost unrecognizable from the original, with the lyrics changed for the new story and Chiwetel Ejiofor. It results in some of the songs be disappointing for the hardcore fans, including Elton John.
Beyonce's single "Spirit" was also added to the The Lion King's third act, which stuck out like a sore thumb among Elton John's original songs and the iconic orchestration. Luckily for John, he believes the true spirit of The Lion King's music lives on the with the long-running Broadway musical.
The Lion King is available on Digital HD on October 11, 2019 and on DVD and Blu-ray on October 22, 2019. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.