EXCLUSIVE REVIEW: Disney's 'The Lion King'

The newest adaptation of Disney’s 1994 classic, animated film The Lion King, helmed by Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book) is absolutely amazing! From start to finish, the movie is engaging, cinematically beautiful, showcases some of the cultural and historical legacies of Africa and has many life lessons embedded within the storyline. The music soundtrack adds a perfect layer to the already vibrant, culturally rich live-action film. The film’s life-action qualities are perfect for kids and how they learn from both an auditory and a sensory perspective. For adults and parents, the film’s screenplay written by screenwriter Jeff Nathanson has many powerful teachable moments and anecdotes that this stir the heart and spirit.

This newest adaptation definitely maintains the spirit of the animated version, while adding a very realistic, contemporary and immersive approach that loyal and engaged fans, as well as new viewers will appreciate no matter what stage of life they are in. Favreau takes The Lion King to an entirely new level with the use of innovative evolution storytelling technology that blends live-action filmmaking techniques with photoreal computer generated imagery. The film looks so real, that it’s hard to image that the images that you are looking at are not the real thing.

Set in an African savanna using virtual technology, the classic tale of generational inheritance and stepping into your rightful place; comes to life as young Simba internalizes the stern, yet inspirational words of his father, King Mufasa, a leader who rules with compassion. Simba in his earnest desire to be great like his father, epitomizes hope for the future and an empowered forthcoming royal destiny. Yet, darkness is still lurking in the form of his Uncle Mufasa who was the former heir to the throne. As a result of greed and jealousy, the legacy of Pride Rock is threatened as a result of great tragedy, betrayal and manipulation. The destiny of a distraught young Simba is derailed for a moment as he is coerced into exile, but with the help of two unassuming, newfound friends Pumbaa and Timon, Simba struggles with his identity—but he eventually gains the courage to return home and take back the place that is rightfully his.

The Beauty of The Lion King

THE LION KING - Featuring the voices of John Oliver as Zazu, James Earl Jones as Mufasa and JD McCrary as Young Simba, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 19, 2019. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In The Lion King, the beauty of the continent of Africa is beautifully displayed. The African savanna ecosystem is especially showcased in the scene where Simba is introduced to the place in a hidden forest where Timon and Pumbaa reside with their friends. In these scenes, beautiful animals like: zebras, antelope, wildebeest, and bright-colored caterpillars are showed. Audiences, especially animal lovers and landscape artists will love the visually appealing way in which the animals and African landscapes and ecosystems are presented. Just the sight of the regal pride of lionesses, with their beautiful, healthy manes perched high on Pride Rock is in a distinct way inspirational. The beat of the drum, the chanting at the beginning of the film, the emergence of animals from around the land, the jubilee surrounding Pride Rock and the regal manner of the chosen pride of the Pridelands is absolutely perfect.

The Voice Cast of The Ling King

THE LION KING - (Left to Right) Billy Eichner (Timon), Shahadi Wright Joseph (Young Nala), JD McCrary (Young SImba), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), Florence Kasumba (Shenzi), Donald Glover (Simba), Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (Nala), Alfre Woodard (Sarabi), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), John Oliver (Zazu), Keegan-Michael Key (Kamari) and Eric André (Azizi). Photo by Kwaku Alston. © 2019 Beyoncé/Kwaku Alston.

Young Simba (JD McCrary) and Young Nala (Shahadi Joseph) are a complimentary pair as young counterparts in the film. Their singing talent is also evident through their voice acting. While the entire voice cast delivers, Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and Timon (Billy Eichner) are scene stealers. Rogen and Eichner provide comedic relief at all the right moments. The voices of James Earl Jones as Mustafah and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar provide the perfect amount of gravitas to carry those characters. Beyonce Knowles’ husky, glottal voice is very suitable for Nala’s tenacity and grit. As Simba, Donny Glover’s lighter airier pitch provides the perfect balance of youthful optimism and zeal needed to convey Simba’s gentle, yet brave heart. John Kani as Rafiki is fabulous. John Oliver with his British accent, is perfectly cast as Zazu. Mrs. Alfre Woodard as Sarabi is as regal, maternal and classy as any matriarch of a royal family could be. Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, and Eric Andre are dynamite as the hyenas! The entire cast contributed exacted what was needed to make this classic tale alive once again.

Parents Need To Know

THE LION KING - Featuring the voices of JD McCrary as Young Simba, Shahadi Wright Joseph as Young Nala, and John Oliver as Zazu, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 19, 2019. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Jealousy and sibling rivalry are major themes that propel the storyline of the film forward. There are moments in the film that may be scary for younger audiences such as the stampede in which young Simba’s life is almost jeopardized. Scar’s actions towards Mustafa before he falls to his death may be a trigger for children who have experienced parental loss. Some of the hyena scenes are intense for younger kids, but the storyline masterfully includes comedy at all the right moments to balance this out. Lessons on integrity, bravery, honesty and family unity are interwoven throughout the movie. There are also moments throughout the film that highlight the importance of teach children about their ancestors, their rights and who they are early on in life.

Favreau’s The Lion King is a wonderful adaptation of this classic animated film that is sure to engage, inspire, inform and entertain viewers of all ages. There are many positive takeaways and it’s the perfect summer movie for the entire family.

Disney’s The Lion King is set to release nationwide on July 19, 2019.

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