“The Lion King” was the first film I ever saw in theaters.
It was 1994, and when I think back on my introduction to Simba and that song about being chill sung by a warthog and a meerkat, I associate it with feeling out-of-my-mind excited. The kind of joy usually reserved for blowing out birthday candles.
It wasn't the first Disney movie I’d seen. In a childhood that perfectly coincided with Disney's animation renaissance, I’d already had a steady diet of “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast” VHS tapes. (I loved the latter so hard that even before I was saying full sentences, I was demanding repeat viewings: “Video, video!”)
By the time “Tangled” and “The Princess and the Frog” came out, I was a teenager using my little sister as an excuse to see animated films in theaters.
It is clear that I am the person Disney trusts will be excited for new versions of its classic movies. I’m old enough to have grown up with the original movies, but young enough to post exuberantly about their remakes on social media.
So far, I’ve been a faithful fan looking forward to the live-action versions. I was psyched for “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” Sure, I compared them to the originals, but not in vain. I had fun seeing them. I mouthed the song lyrics. I learned the new ones.
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But with the new “Lion King” (in theaters now), I suddenly became over it. It being the whole concept of encouraging a studio to reimagine my favorite childhood films. This time, the rhythms of African drums were drowned out by the sound of Disney cashing checks. I was left feeling used for my fandom.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the film's Shakespearean story. Royal heir forms unlikely friendships as he tries to avoid the devastating present, only to realize he must confront his past in order to move forward. There’s a lot to unpack there regarding death, family, responsibility and virtue. It is by all accounts a great movie stuffed with hit songs.
The 2019 version of “The Lion King,” with photo-realistic CGI and perhaps the greatest voice cast ever assembled, is still good. Beautiful, even.
But it feels cheap.
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The new film is almost in-your-face about how high tech its graphics are, taking 30 extra minutes of run time for sweeping shots of gorgeous animals roaming a computer-generated Kenya. But that cutting-edge, hyper-realistic look doesn’t fit the decades-old story. It seems better suited for, well, something new. Something that surprises. You know, like “Coco" and "Moana" did.
More than the same old plot being ill-suited to a brand-new technology, it doesn't give young viewers what I had: a story they've never seen and music they've never heard. The remake is fun, but it's not novel. It feels like a feature-length meme, entirely derivative, whereas when I was young, I had something completely new to wholeheartedly embrace in repeat viewings and claim as mine.
By regurgitating classic films, Disney is robbing would-be fans of the magic of discovery that made their movies so special to me. It's also cheating a generation of aspiring Annas and Elsas who've embraced the belter "Let It Go" from 2013's smash phenom "Frozen" as their own anthem.
As we know, though, Disney isn't halting its production of remakes. Instead, it keeps adding more – including “Mulan” and “The Little Mermaid,” two movies right in my sweet spot. But I'm no longer jazzed about the prospect of revisiting them in live action.
Yes, it’s great that kids will get to see a primarily Asian cast directed by a woman in the live-action “Mulan.” But you know what would be better? The same team behind a fresh story about a Chinese woman prevailing.
And, sure, Halle Bailey as Ariel in “Little Mermaid is inspired casting. But wouldn’t fans be better off watching the R&B singer lead a new narrative, rather than one about a teen who literally gave up her voice just so she could win over a cute boy she knows nothing about?
Too many tweaks make the movies feel as though they're not honoring the originals; too few and they're boring retreads. Disney, I'll make a deal: If you refocus your efforts on making new content, I promise I'll show up, and bring a young relative.
Disney, delight me, again!
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'The Lion King': Why I finally got Disney remake fatigue