Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first animated feature film. Everyone believed it wouldn’t work, and that it couldn’t. All kinds of rumors spread before its release. My favorite was one that said people could go blind watching the bright colors for a feature-length amount of time. Nobody went blind. Disney instead made a critical and commercial success. The movie was so successful it held the title of being the highest-grossing animated film for fifty-five years. It wasn’t until Aladdin’s release that it was overthrown in 1992. Since then the title has been passed along every couple of years, and now it has once again. This time Frozen has passed the crown to The Lion King (2019).
The Lion King (2019) undoubtedly looks like a live-action film, so don’t feel stupid questioning it. It will even make it into the top ten highest-grossing films in the next couple of weeks. The question is can Frozen 2 take the number one spot? It’s possible, although I feel unlikely.
Disney is now king of the box office and I’m curious to see what’s in store for the future. So I want to get deeper into the storied history of the Walt Disney Company in future posts by digging into the past. I’ll start by looking at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
For now, I think The Lion King (2019) may hold this title for two to three years.
The Lion King (1994) is one of the most beloved films in the house of mouse, and for many, it is their favorite. For one it’s a great film, however, I think it also has a lot to do with the timing. The Lion King along with the other titles in the Disney Renaissance were all exceptional, and all very much BINGED.
If you think back to the eighties when the Betamax and VHS started to take off it was still a mostly rental experience. You would head down to the local video shop and rent the movie for a night or a few days. To buy one movie outright could cost close to $100 US, and that was back then. It’s understandable as film studios were scared of home video killing the movie theater experience and named absurd costs. By the nineties, nearly everyone with a tv owned a VHS player and the cost to buy a movie was now consumer-friendly. Enter the kids of the nineties. We owned every new Disney movie, and they weren’t released as frequently as today, so we spent a lot of time binging the same VHS over and over again. We ran those tapes so often that the tapes began to deteriorate. Basically, every child of the nineties could perform these movies off script like a performance of Shakespeare in the Park.
Twenty-five years after The Lion King (1994) was released, I can still recall every scene. To this day the movie is not dated. Sadly, The Lion King (2019) is not good, but terrible even. The movie looks beautiful, sounds great, yet what looks like live-action animals talking ruins the movie. The talking works with some of the animals like Timon, Pumba, and Rafiki. Just not the lions, not at all. Even the characters mentioned don’t quite fit because the original voices are so engrained into us that we have trouble buying anyone else in the role. Disney really needed to get this one right for the fans of the original. The Jungle Book (2016) worked well because I don’t think we collectively remember the original as well. And from memory, the animals all worked for me. With The Lion King (2019), Jon Favreau shot it to look like a nature documentary and he should have gone all the way. First off take out all the spoken dialogue. Cut it down to eighty minutes. Keep the songs and just play them over the film. Have David Attenborough, or better yet Nathan Lane, the original Timon to narrate the film. These changes would take the movie from a meh to a woah.
I’m sure there are defenders for The Lion King (2019), but it falls in the same category as live-action movies with talking animals to me. It’s hard to not see Disney using this film as a cash grab because.. well, a billion in revenue already? That’s more than the original made. In another twenty-five years, this version will be dated and the animated will continue to be a classic enjoyed by everyone.
Long Live the King (94)!