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The Circle of Lion Kings



“A king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king”

-Mufasa, The Lion King

[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]he tale of The Lion King has gone through many dawns and dusks in its time. From the cherished animated film (awarded two Oscars), the musical adaption of the Lion King on Broadway (winner of 6 TONY awards), to the animated sequels and prequels that no one dares mention (aka The Lion King 1 ½ and The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride) that seemed to be continuations created due to the original movie’s rampant success. Now, in 2019, the sun has yet again shed its light back onto the story of a king’s death, banishment, and reawakening.


[cbtabs][cbtab title=”The Lion King 1994″]

    The Lion King was produced in the height of Disney’s Renaissance, a time where the studio was able to “remind audiences of the power and beauty of the studio’s classic animation style; integrate catchy, original songs with a deftness rarely seen outside Broadway theaters; and draw in adult audiences” (“What Disney Risked to Make ‘The Lion King’ in 1994”, This Disney paragon successfully- in coordinance with its Cumulative Worldwide Grossing of $968,511,805 according to was able to accomplish these three feats while delivering both memorable as well as dynamic characters and messages of coming of age and responsibility. Due to all these factors in conjunction with the entertaining plot, The Lion King (1994) was able to achieve a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes for both critic and audience score.       

     Despite its many praisings, this award winning animated film received backlash due to some technicalities and stereotypes presented within the children’s movie. One of which was the fact that the movie,meant to be located in Africa, had a mainly white cast with about

35% of the voice actors being black. Even main characters such as Simba, Scar, and Nala were played by the white actors/actresses Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, and Moira Kelly ,respectively. Just as the animated film Mulan was meant to portray the country of China, Hercules with Greece, America with Pocahontas, The Lion King was meant to depict Africa. Yet, with overarchingly Caucasian cast it makes it difficult for the audience to  fully accept this film as a representation of Africa, even if this is an animated movie about orange and yellow lions.      

     Fast forward 25 years, the sun still hangs high and blazing in the sky for The Lion King, the classic tale of “a Lion cub crown prince tricked by his treacherous uncle into thinking he caused his father’s death and fleeing into exile in despair, only to learn in adulthood his identity and his responsibilities” (“Lion King- Plot”       It is through the ceaseless fondness for the 1994 animated movie as well as the 21 years ,and counting, that The Lion King has spent on Broadway since November 13, 1997; according to, this means that there have been more than 9,000 performances of the musical for a cumulative audience of over 100 million people.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”The Lion King 2019″]

     A new dawn has risen in 2019 for The Lion King was released on July 19 but with a twist, the film was converted to live action through the use of Computer Generated Imagery. Although it is undeniable that the animators were successful in their generation of the realist lions, the lifelike appearances of the characters are altering the way the audience perceives this film. “You get a strange hybrid if you dial up the emotions where you’re not sure whether you’re watching animation or live action… meaning, the audience was going to relate to this film in a different way,” comments Adam Valdez, MPC’s visual effects supervisor.

     Reviewers demonstrate this equilibrium of not liking the movie and praising it as the website Rotten Tomatoes remarked that, “While it can take pride in its visual achievements, The Lion King (2019) is a by-the-numbers retelling that lacks the energy and hard that made the original so beloved – though for some fans that may just be enough”. While the average audience score was an 88%, the critic score for this live action adaption was a pitiful 52%.

     Yet ,despite the mixed reactions that are apparent amongst reviewers and audience members, the 2019 Lion King was able to patch up a few loose holes that the 1994 version sadly left hanging. This cast was able to achieve a percentage of 80% of their cast being African American (which includes all the lions). This is comparable to the 1994 animated feature where only 5 out of 14 main characters were black: Madge Sinclair (Sarabi), James Earl Jones (Mufasa), Whoopi Goldberg (Shenzi), Niketa Calame and Robert Guillaume (Rafiki). In an interview within the “The Wild Cast” Featurette for 2019 The Lion King (by Walt Disney Studios on Youtube), Jon Favreau commented on the importance of casting in the remake of this beloved Disney movie, “with this film we wanted to honor the past, but we also wanted to do something fresh. Part of this is the cast”. This new Lion King may not have pleased as many audience members -as many believed that the lions lacked the emotions that the animated film featured- but it was able to represent Africa in a way its predecessor lacked, through a cast that is mostly African American. Only James Earl Jones’ booming voice was re-casted as the venerable Mufasa, king of the savanna; with Simba voiced by Donald Glover, Nala by Beyoncé, Scar by Chiwetel Ejiofor, etc.

     “It’s wonderful to have the tremendous opportunity to bring something fresh and new and different while still maintaining the spirit of the original Lion King”, Jon Favreau expressed his deep respect for the original movie and him looking forward to the challenge of filling its shoes. Although Favreau was only able to give this new take on a Disney classic a 7.1 out of 10 in ratings (according to, he did produce a movie that had an estimated opening weekend grossing of $191,770,759, 21 and a cumulative world wide profit of about $1,564,549,294.[/cbtab][/cbtabs]

  As the audience watches the remade Lion King of 2019, they must remember that this a new dawn , and shouldn’t judge the new movie based previous thoughts about the old one. This tale of betrayal, coming of age, responsibility, and love is the sun that that has never set. With each adaption of The Lion King, popular or not, look closer, you see, the story lives on in each one. 

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