Not long after the first teaser trailer for the upcoming live-action Aladdin remake dropped, Disney has released the first look at its reimagining of another 1990s animated classic: The Lion King. Unlike the former, this teaser shows us a lot more than just a long camera pan over some sand and a few golden trinkets in the Cave Of Wonders.
While it is mostly sweeping shots of Pride Rock rendered in the same stunning photorealism that director Jon Favreau brought to The Jungle Book in 2016, the one-and-a-half-minute trailer also gives us our first, eagerly anticipated look at a few of the film's main characters like Simba and Rafiki, and our first listen of the dulcet tones of James Earl Jones as Mufasa.
We'll dig into those and more from the trailer.
THE DAWNING OF THE NEW, BUT FAMILIAR
As we've come to expect from Disney's continued recycling of its back catalogue, many of the scenes in this trailer are shot-for-shot remakes from the original film. It even begins with the same shimmering, rising sun over the savanna that the 1994 movie does.
The same can be said for the aerial view of birds flying over a river and -- closer to the ground -- of the antelope raising their heads skywards, heeding the call to gather at Pride Rock. For those who wore their VHS tapes out rewatching the animated version, these images will be burned into their memory.
"EVERYTHING THE LIGHT TOUCHES..."
For anyone feeling a little disconcerted by seeing another precious slice of nostalgia reconstituted into the hyperreal, the sound of James Earl Jones' voice narrating the bulk of this trailer will be comfortingly familiar. For those unfamiliar, Jones is reprising his role as Mufasa -- Simba's father and King of Pride Rock.
As with the visuals, the lines Jones delivers are, word-for-word, the same ones Mufasa recites to his young son atop Pride Rock in the source material, setting out the boundaries for his eventual rule. "Everything the light touches is our kingdom."
BIG PAW PRINTS TO FILL
Another moment that will be very familiar to older Disney fans comes when lil' Simba steps forward to find his paw encased in a much larger one left by his father. In the original movie, this scene takes place after Simba has to be rescued by Mufasa from a hyena ambush in the "dark, shadowy place," which he forbade him from visiting.
Mufasa leads his rebellious son into the tall grass to scold him, but his words are superseded by this one simple action from his son. Seeing their comparative sizes, Simba realizes how much growing he has left to do before he can truly follow in his father's footsteps -- both externally and internally.
GRAB THOSE TISSUES
The trailer does an excellent job of walking a thin line between foreshadowing and spoiler territory. The death of Mufasa is an iconic moment of childhood trauma, both for viewers and Simba -- the unfortunate witnesses. It's up there with Dumbledore, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Gandalf's untimely ends, all of whom, including Mufasa, live on in ghostly form.
This dramatic turning point in The Lion King's story is touched upon when we see wildebeests stampeding into a ravine -- the cause of his death. This is timed perfectly with Mufasa's voice-over narration: "One day, the sun will set on my time here... and will rise on your time."
THERE COMES A LION -- OH YES, IT'S A LION
Right on cue, the "rise on your time" line from Mufasa leads us into cub Simba's baptism at Pride Rock, which takes place at the start of the 1994 film. This gives us our first glimpse of Rafiki, the wise, old mandrill who acts as a shamanic advisor, or "mjuzi," to the royal feline family to ensure the circle of life is maintained.
His role also seems to include being the master of ceremonies at all important occasions. As he does in the animated original, Rafiki marks Simba with some red dust and presents him to his future subjects gathered under the jutting rock.
This is also the cue for "The Circle Of Life" to start playing, the song from the film's beloved soundtrack that opens the first film. (And yes, those are the real lyrics, translated from Swahili to English, in the heading.)
After the cast list, which -- given the star power involved -- rightfully gets a prominent feature, we're left with a parting shot of, presumably, Simba as an adult. This is a key reveal because, as well as a loose retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet, The Lion King is primarily a coming-of-age story -- a literal one, thinking about the infamous "puberty log."
In this scene in the trailer, Simba roars at the parting clouds in the night sky. Mufasa's voice booms out for a final time: "Remember..." The trailer cuts off before we see his spectral body form in the heavens as it does in the animated original, where he advises his son to "remember who you are."
For all that this first trailer offers us, there are still many notable absences. We never actually see Mufasa, or Sarabi -- Simba's mother -- properly, nor is there any trace of Simba's childhood friend-turned-romantic-interest Nala, or the comic relief duo, Timon and Pumbaa. There's also no Zazu, the sassy avian steward to Pride Rock's royalty.
Speaking of sassy, the film's main villain, Scar is also nowhere to be seen, nor is his trio of hyena henchmen (and one henchwoman.) Clearly, Disney wants to keep us hungry for more.
Directed by Jon Favreau from a script written by Jeff Nathanson with story and character writing by Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Wollbverton, Disney's The Lion King stars Donald Glover as Simba, Beyonce Knowles-Carter as Nala, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Billy Eichner as Timon, Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, James Early Jones as Mufasa, Alfre Woodard as Sarabi and John Oliver as Zazu. The film arrives on July 19, 2019.