the lion king remake

Jon Favreau has a lot to live up to with his The Lion King remake. The 1994 original is one of the crown jewels of the Disney Renaissance of the late ’80s and ’90s and one of the most successful Disney animated movies of all time.

And Favreau is aware of that pressure to adapt a popular story still fresh in people’s minds — it was one of the pitfalls that Beauty and the Beast had to navigate with Bill Condon’s 2017 adaptation. But he has a method for making sure he does right by the original The Lion King.

Favreau is dealing with material that fans are passionate with, and he told Entertainment Weekly at the Tribeca Film Festival that in order to properly adapt it, he has to be equally passionate.

When you’re directing, you have to love [what you’re making]. You have to love it to the point of obsession. I have to live, breathe, sleep it, dream it. If I’m going to do my best work, I need to be completely immersed… you look at the material and you get inspired, and then try to update it for our time. With the Disney stuff, people know even more… With Lion King, people really know [the original], and they grew up with it and it has emotional impact. I think about what I remember about The Lion King?

Favreau went through this process with his adaptation of The Jungle Book as well, honing in on iconic images and moments from the original film to pay homage to in his live-action version.

“I made a big list, and those are the images we definitely needed,” Favreau said, “and you have more latitude to shift and change those things.”

Favreau hit those emotional and nostalgic beats in his version of The Jungle Book, which was praised for its use of motion-capture technology as well as its earnest retelling of the original story.

Although Favreau got it right the first time, The Lion King is a bit fresher in people’s minds and arguably more beloved than The Jungle Book. It was an issue that Condon’s Beauty and the Beast dealt with poorly — by being too loyal to the source material, it created a stiff and unoriginal live-action adaptation that critics accused of playing too safe. Favreau also faces the hurdles of creating a film with wholly CGI and motion-capture characters. While many of the characters and set-pieces in The Jungle Book were computer-animated, Favreau had the benefit of a central human character, Neel Sethi’s Mowgli, around whom the action could revolve. Favreau will have no such advantage with The Lion King, which will feature no human actors.

But Favreau has had practice delivering a worthwhile live-action adaptation of a beloved Disney classic, and he has a passion for the material. And with talented stars like Beyonce, James Earl Jones and Donald Glover voicing the characters, The Lion King already sounds rather promising.

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