Disney's The Lion King has once more stirred up conversation over whether the studio needs to turn remake animated classic as live-action or hyper-realistic CGI. Of course, technological advancements can add flair to stories, as in 2016's The Jungle Book, while the studio can update themes, as it did this year in Aladdin.
However, in director Jon Favreau's latest retelling, The Lion King more or less remains the same, and some key scenes are actually watered down, leaving fans to wonder whether it makes sense to continue remaking films like that and Dumbo. That said, there are a few takeaways for the studio to consider moving forward.
NOT EVERY RETELLING NEEDS TO BE LIVE-ACTION
Just because The Jungle Book resonated as a hybrid live-action/CG remake, that doesn't mean all adaptions will follow suit. The Lion King doesn't necessarily follow the same path, as it's far more photorealistic due to advanced technology (using more virtual reality than motion capture). Still, when you see the animals speaking and hear their voices, the disconnect with the weird dubbing leads you to feel that Disney didn't need to force this story as a CG film.
Beauty and the Beast had some similar issues, so studio executives should analyze how to improve. It's not like Maleficent or other human-driven stories in which human performers are used, so there will always be the risk and limitations when translating these films in quasi-realistic styles. We even saw this in Aladdin, in which Iago was reduced to a normal parrot, while bits and pieces of Will Smith's Genie didn't come off as visually smooth as intended.
ANIMATED MOVIES ARE STILL A STRONG OPTION
Disney can also look at remaking these classics using CG animation and special effects the way Pixar does. Imagine how cool The Lion King or Aladdin would have been with the aesthetic of say, Frozen or Toy Story. That wouldn't confine the filmmakers, and they would get to build expansive, escapist worlds with few restrictions. That kind of wild imagination is what made those adventures resonate in the first place.
Make no mistake, there's an appreciation, and a billion-dollar market, for these kinds of films. Disney can also polish the traditional style of animation so that it doesn't become a dying art.
WHY NOT JUST MAKE SEQUELS TO THE CLASSICS?
Hollywood is embracing the trend of ignoring bad sequels and continuing franchises from the original movie, so why should these classics be immune? Sure, we had a Lion King direct-to-video sequel and some TV spinoffs, but Disney can always look at finding the right jumping-off point and making new stories based on the already-existing universe. There's no real need to reinvent the wheel or fix what hasn't been broken.
The originals are timeless and aren't going anywhere, so with such a rich universe why can't we get animated or CGI-continuations with Aladdin and Jasmine's kids, or Simba and Nala overseeing a generation that doesn't believe in fate or locked-in marriages at Pride Rock? That prevents derivative storytelling, as seen with The Lion King remake. Sure, tweaks are made here and there for these remakes at the moment, but true creativity comes from repeating success via new stories, not simply by rehashing carbon copies and hoping to strike the same gold as before. This way, Disney doesn't become unpredictable and boring, proving it's the definition of an industry leader.
Directed by Jon Favreau, The Lion King features the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Florence Kasumba, Eric André, Keegan-Michael Key, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and James Earl Jones.