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Behind the Screen: “The Lion King”

FILM REVIEW
“THE LION KING”
Rated PG
118 Minutes
Released July 19th

The artistry of this new computer-animated photo-realistic rendition of “The Lion King” is spectacular. The approximately 360 people who worked on the visual effects team turned what appear to be real-life animals into stunning realizations as speaking and singing actors in a family drama about their lives on the plains of Africa. Their faces and personalities light up the screen, as do the incredibly detailed and realistic landscapes of their territory.

“The Lion King” has a storied legacy, beginning with the animated film of that name which was released in 1994 by Disney. Director Jon Favreau noted that he was not going to try to create new songs but to “build on what people remember and love about the old ones.” The original composer, the great Hans Zimmer, reworked his original score using musicians from all over the world. The songs from the original animated film (1994) written by Elton John and Time Rice are sung by the current film’s cast, which includes Beyonce, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, James Earl Jones, Alfre Woodard and Keegan-Michael Key among others.  The musical of the same name was mounted on Broadway and National Tours after the success of the 1994 animated film and used the same music. The current film introduces a new song by John and Rice, which is sung by Beyonce over the end credits. Also featured is a cover of the classic pop song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” This song was first recorded in 1939 in Zulu for a South African record company and became one of those songs that play spontaneously in your head when covered in the early 1960s by the Kingston Trio and The Tokens. In this film Rogen’s Pumbaa and Eichner’s Timon perform the much-loved song with great exuberance.

My only problem with fully becoming immersed in the new version is one of perception.  I can suspend reality to believe that a cartoon animal can talk and sing. When the animal is as lifelike and realistic as depicted in this movie, for me there is a major break in credibility, which causes a disconnect in the intimacy of the characters for me. Perhaps this is a generational perception for those of us who grew up watching cartoons. Will the kids of today grow up perceiving realistic animals as talking and singing? Maybe we will know the answer to that question in the future.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

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