The “live-action” Lion King—which is literally still completely animated and not live action at all—has been divisive since it was first announced. Well, maybe not right away, but definitely when the trailer dropped and people got a load of Scar’s new lewk. Then early reviews started pouring out, insisting that gorgeous, true-to-life animal renderings lack the emotions you can get from a more simple cartoon where birds have eyebrows and can make actual expressions. But some of us were just like, shut up and enjoy Beyoncé.
But the Queen’s extra song and all that fur were not the only difference between the original and 2019 version. Yes, most of the film is almost shot by shot and even line by line the same movie, but there are six key changes that you should *ahem* be prepared for:
“I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”
It’s up to you whether this is a downside or not, but one of the first major changes from the beloved 1994 is Simba’s big musical number. Like some critics point out that realistic versions of the animal kingdom can’t make human expressions, a giraffe can’t exactly climb all over a hippo (although I’d love to see it).
Director Jon Favreau goes for a more realistic approach, with tiny nods to the original choreography. It actually works in favor of the plot, with Simba and Nala able to lose Zazu in the chaos of an animal parade rather than make themselves the center of the circus.
Chiwetel Ejiofor’s mutilated Scar might be less menacing than Jeremy Irons’ campy villain, but the hyenas are actually...terrifying? Shenzi—originally voiced by Whoopi Goldberg—is a fierce leader in her own right this time, partnering with Scar instead of cowing to his will. They’re so much smarter, which makes them more intimidating to the point where Scar’s iconic line—“I’m surrounded by idiots”—was cut.
Personally, I didn’t even know hyenas looked as crazy as they do in this version, but I do know that I never want to see one IRL.
We’ve already talked about the whole eyebrows thing, but that’s not the only difference between the original right hand to the King and this realistic hornbill. Some of the jokes of yesteryear were updated in favor of John Oliver’s signature news-based comedy. My personal favorite joke came from Zazu’s morning report to Mufasa (which is basically exactly what John does in his HBO show): “The birds were tweeting at 4 in the morning. It’s like, we get it.”
I guess with Beyoncé’s new song added to the score, something was going to have to take a cut. It’s just a little weird that it ended up being Scar’s magnum opus, “Be Prepared,” which calls on the hyenas to help him murder his brother and usher in a new era of evil.
Originally, the entire song was let go because Chiwetel is not exactly a singer. Instead, they turned it into a weird, short chant. They should have just...not.
Timon and Pumbaa
Easily the best additions to the Lion King universe are Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan as Timon and Pumbaa, who got to riff and make the characters their own. It’s hilarious.
Oh, and as you can hear, this Lion King doesn’t shy away from the word “fart.” So there’s that....
Obviously, Beyoncé wouldn’t join the cast of The Lion King just to play Simba’s love interest. Beyond her song “Spirit”—which is not a Nala song but rather played over the action as Nala runs back to save the Pride Lands from Scar’s dictatorship—we actually get more scenes from Nala’s perspective. We see more of the devastation Scar and the hyenas wreak on her home as well as her escape in search of help. It makes it all the more gutting when Nala tells Simba she’s “disappointed” in how he turns out.
Can you imagine Beyoncé saying she’s disappointed in you? Everyone who failed that viral Bey assistant quiz on Twitter knows what I’m talking about. *shudders*
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