Disney Slammed for Wanting Live Action ‘The Lion King’ Cinematic Universe

in Disney, Movies & TV

Mufasa and Simba in 'The Lion King' (live action)

Credit: Disney

Disney films have an illustrious and captivating history that has enthralled audiences for many years. The Walt Disney Company’s unwavering commitment to creativity, innovation, and heartfelt storytelling has firmly embedded their films into the fabric of popular culture, ensuring their enduring appeal for years to come. Since the groundbreaking release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Disney has consistently delivered a remarkable series of timeless classics, including beloved films like The Lion King (1994), Beauty and the Beast (1992), Frozen (2013) — and even Pirates of the Caribbean — among numerous others. These movies have not only entertained multiple generations but also pushed the boundaries of animation and narrative techniques. Disney’s unwavering dedication to excellence and its ability to craft enchanting worlds has garnered an immense and devoted global following.

The Death of Mufasa
Credit: Disney

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The original Lion King, and the live action remake

The Lion King is a timeless animated Disney film that continues to captivate audiences worldwide. Released in 1994, the movie tells the story of Simba, a young lion prince who must overcome adversity and reclaim his rightful place as king of the Pride Lands. Packed with memorable characters like Mufasa, Scar, Timon, and Pumbaa, — originally voiced by James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, and Ernie Sabella, respectively — the film explores themes of love, loss, and self-discovery. The Lion King’s iconic songs, such as “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” have become beloved classics. With its stunning animation, powerful storytelling, and unforgettable music, The Lion King remains an evergreen masterpiece that continues to trend and resonate with audiences across generations.

hakuna matata
Credit: Disney

The Lion King remake from 2019 directed by Jon Favreau, however, is a “live-action” film that claims to breathe new life into the beloved Disney classic. The movie boasts an all-star cast, including Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé as Nala, James Earl Jones reprising his role as Mufasa, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the villainous Scar. This photorealistic adaptation utilizes groundbreaking CGI technology to transport audiences to the majestic Pride Lands, calling itself “live-action” despite still being a mostly animated film — albeit using 3D photorealism over a 2D style.

The Lion King
Credit: Disney

The movie recreates the original animation’s iconic songs, such as “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata,” and features the return of the timeless story of Simba’s journey to become king. The film’s CGI-heavy visuals, talented cast, and faithful homage to the original have made it a box office hit — but a bit of a critical misstep for The Walt Disney Company.

The Lion King — like Star Wars or Marvel?

With how universally loved the original Lion King animation was, it seems like a no-brainer that Disney in 2023 would want to play with their nostalgia-generating IPs.

In a revealing interview with the New York Times, Sean Bailey, the executive in charge of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production’s live-action remakes division, finally addressed Disney’s approach to their highly-discussed and sometimes controversial live-action remakes. Breaking the silence surrounding his long-held position, Bailey provided insights into the division’s strategies and decision-making processes.

The Lion King (1994) Simba and Rafiki
Credit: Disney

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In fact, the Lion King “epic cinematic universe” à la Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars franchise has already begun. Mufasa: The Lion King is a photorealistic prequel directed by Barry Jenkins, the Oscar-winning “Moonlight” screenwriter, and scheduled for release in 2024.

Now, it appears that Bailey is coming forward to discuss the popular IPs’ expansion — talking about how The Lion King could expand into “a big, epic saga” like with the space opera series, Star Wars. Bailey is candid, talking about how there is a “lot of room to run” with this concept — provided they can “find the stories”:

There’s a lot of room to run if we can find the stories.

The Lion King
Credit: Disney

The fan backlash to a Lion King saga

As expected, the controversial live-action remake has dragged out a ton of public opinion. This includes user Sean Murphy, who is unapologetic in calling The Lion King remake out for being “one of the most soulless adaptations”:

While @feelingmajestic compared the two, stating that “no live-action” remake would ever be “better than the original”:

Users like Matt Hartwell are also chiming in with their disdain for the proposed “epic universe” project, highlighting how it was “honestly a disappointment to most”, as well as explaining why it was also curiosity that drove people into theaters:

At the end of the day, it seems like the Disney machine will keep chugging, if there’s money to be made.

What do you think of Disney starting a The Lion King cinematic universe? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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