For months I’ve been dreading going back to the computer-animated jungle with Jon Favreau, whose rollicking remake of The Jungle Book was a blast, but who was bound to be on a much tighter leash with the crown jewel of the Disney Renaissance, The Lion King. I would be all in for giving The Lion King the Jungle Book treatment: trimming the songs, deepening the material, adding some gonzo action set pieces, etc. But there’s no way Disney would let Favreau get away that kind of creativity again.
That’s when it hit me: The nouveau Lion King is just like the opening act of Favreau’s Chef: Favreau is literally Carl, and Disney is Dustin Hoffman. If you haven’t seen Chef, this may not entirely make sense. Then again, if you haven’t seen Chef … why on earth not?
Alas, the mission wasn’t to improve The Lion King, only to mount it as realistically as possible. Favreau wasn’t hired as a creative, but as a taxidermist.
Chronologically, The Lion King stands between the striking triumphs of the early Disney renaissance (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin) and the bumpy deterioration of the latter 1990s (Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, etc.). One way or another, it’s at the turning point between Disney’s creative renewal and its eventual decline. Fans might locate it near the pinnacle, along with Beauty and the Beast, but I don’t feel the love.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.