Alternate Character Interpretation: Was Scar's Villainous Crush on Sarabi and the fact that she was his predecessor's queen the only reasons that he wanted her for his? It is possible that the fact she had produced offspring could have been an additional factor that would have motivated him to want Sarabi for his mate.
Animation Age Ghetto: Despite the film being animated, Disney refuses to call it an animated film and repeatedly markets it like it's live-action, to the point where they submitted it as a live-action film at the Oscars and were surprised when it ended up in the animated category instead. Many wonder if this is because Disney is afraid that audiences won't take the film as seriously if it's seen as a "cartoon" instead of a "real" film.
Banzai and Ed being renamed as Kamari and Azizi, respectively, as the two were the only characters in the original film to have non-Swahili names.note not counting Scar or Nala, the latter of whom has a made-up name and the former's real name in tie-in material is Taka, which is a Swahili name Banzai is a Swahili word though. It roughly translates to "lurk".
The teaser trailer, though largely lauded for its visuals, received some criticism for its color palette and lighting not looking as vivid and surreal as the originals iteration of Circle of Life. The Academy Awards TV spot showed off improved lighting and color, confirming that the visuals were far from being done.
From the first teaser trailer, an Indian rhino could be seen amongst the crowd of animals bowing at Simba's presentation, marking a big case of Misplaced Wildlife. One of the latter TV spots released before the film shows that the animal has been replaced with an appropriate African species of rhino. Its possible that the Indian rhino was used because the completed asset from The Jungle Book was being used as a placeholder until the African rhinos model was finished.
A criticism of the original was how Scar underwent a degree of Badass Decay, going from The Chessmaster to a whiny Psychopathic Manchild and incompetent ruler once he takes Mufasa's throne. The remake mitigates this in that while Scar's rule still brought decay to the Pridelands, he actually does something by leading the Hyenas in their hunts, as opposed to the original who just lounges in his throne room. Thus, there is still consistency with his character.
Award Snub: At least for the Beyhive, who didn't take well that the Academy Awards passed over "Spirit" for Best Original Song.
Depending on who you ask, Donald Glover either did a good job as Simba, effectively playing the character as laidback yet insecure (while arguably being less stilted and vocally dissonant compared to Matthew Broderick's portrayal), or his performance was flat and wooden and the character of Simba as a whole was a waste of Glover's talent.
While the announcement that James Earl Jones would reprise the role of Mufasa was almost unanimously well-received, his actual performance in this film has proved controversial. Some appreciated the nostalgia of hearing his iconic voice once again, while others found his performance to be phoned-in and tired note Though the blame for this has not been placed on Jones himself, as his voice has aged considerably since the original film and the difference is very obvious due to most of his dialogue being word-for-word the same. Some also found his reprisal to be too distracting and out of place with the new cast and would have preferred if a different actor was cast instead.
Chiwetel Ejiofor's portrayal of Scar, and the film's overall reinvention of the character, is by far the most controversial. Some enjoy the film's more twisted and impulsive take, while others missed the more witty and sarcastic smooth operator from the original film. Many also found it somewhat hypocritical that James Earl Jones was brought back to play Mufasa but Jeremy Irons was not brought back to reprise his equally-iconic performance as Scar note According to Irons himself, he was not even contacted with the offer and would have likely accepted if he was.
Complete Monster: Scar is a wrathful and bitter lion driven by an insatiable desire for power. Envious of his brother Mufasa's position as king, Scar attempts to have Mufasa's son Simba—Scar's own nephew—killed by tricking him into entering the domain of the vicious hyena clan. When this fails, Scar allies with the hyenas and orchestrates a wildebeest stampede, killing Mufasa and blaming Simba for the tragedy, exiling him before sending the hyenas to finish him off. Taking over as king, Scar reduces the Pridelands to a barren wasteland by killing everything with no restrictions in addition to starving the lionesses when Sarabi, Mufasa's widow, refuses to become his mate. When Simba returns, Scar attempts to kill him personally, stopping only to tauntingly reveal his role in Mufasa's death. When his crimes are exposed, Scar orders the hyenas to kill everyone in sight, and when Simba has him at his mercy, attempts to blame them for his crimes.
Critical Dissonance: As with Aladdin (2019), the film has earned a rotten score from critics at Rotten Tomatoes but earned better reviews from many audiences and fans alike. Specifically, it has a 52% on the critic's score and an 89% from audiences who were confirmed to have purchased a ticket.
Critical Backlash: While reception has been mostly mixed and many agree that it is inferior to the original, some of the hyperbole around the film, such as its existence being seen as signs that Disney is becoming lazy and less creative, have resulted in this to some fans.
Critic-Proof: Despite repeated bashing from critics and general animation fans, the film still managed to become the highest grossing animated movie of all time, bringing in $1.65 billion worldwide and beating Frozen's previously held record by more than $350 million. Though many guessed from the start that, despite criticism, it would likely turn a profit since this is Disney after all and a remake of a beloved classic.
Dancing Bear: Many reviews accuse it of being more of a tech demo than a movie, going out of its way to maintain the illusion that these are real animals in real settings with them never doing anything that the animals wouldn't be capable of besides talking. They also hope that now that the animation technology has been given this test run using an already popular story, it can be put to better use going forward.
One has popped up with The Jungle Book (2016), which makes sense since they are both Disney movies featuring talking animals that share the same director. The Lion King is rather unfavorably compared to it, due to the former being considered the best of the Disney Remakes, since the original Jungle Book is in-name only adaptation, while The Lion King is, for the most part, its own story, which still holds up to this day, so the idea of remaking it makes no sense for many. The facial animation is also compared, some argue that the animals in The Jungle Book look way more lively in comparison, despite the movie coming out three years earlier.
Another has popped up with the Frozen fandom, due to this movie dethroning it as the highest grossing animated movie. Even people who didn't like Frozen support their reaction, since they hate the Disney remakes more. Others point out that Frozen still is the highest grossing animated movie, due to the Flip-Flop of God whether Lion King counts as animated. And then Disney themselves announced out of nowhere that Frozen II is supposedly the highest grossing animated film ever, ignoring this one.
Naturally, since it's a remake of one of the most beloved animated movies of all time, there's a Broken Base between fans of the original and the remake. Plenty of diehard fans of the original have shown hostility against the very idea of a photorealistic remake, thinking that refusing to let the characters emote kills any attempt at drama and argue that even beyond that, the characters and plot are said to feel like cheap imitations, rather than actually being new interpretations. And while most of the debate is one-sided, since many fans of the remake only watched it for nostalgia's sake, there are some who argue that the remake is superior to the original, since "photorealism is better than traditional animation since any work being animated immediately makes it childish".
The film presents the hyenas as far more than just Scar's lackeys, being their own separate society who he approaches for help. And at the film's end many of them, including their leader Shenzi, are still alive and Simba will need to continue maintaining the uneasy truce with them as king.
The fic gives another origin for Scar's scar: he got into a fight with Mufasa. This fight isn't explained and thus is fanfic fuel.
Scar is attracted to his brother's mate. A Sibling Triangle between Sarabi, Mufasa, and Scar isn't a new idea in the fandom, but the film adds fuel to it.
Simba and Nala aren't the only cubs in the pride. Who these new cubs are and whether they're the same as extended media cubs (Tama, Chumvi, etc) creates a lot of fanfic fuel.
When Simba returns to Pride Rock, Zazu finds Simba alive much earlier than the original and expresses disbelief. Simba happily greets him and Zazu warmly welcomes him home and bows to him.
Before that, when Simba gets in trouble with Mufasa for going into the Elephant Graveyard, Zazu comes to Simba's defense by pleading with Mufasa to not be so hard on him, saying that he knows a certain headstrong cub who's gotten into scraps and achieved some prominence.
As before, Mufasa's ghost comes to bring Simba out of his misery and inspires him to return to Pride Rock. This time, Mufasa has an added line saying that what he is most proud of as king is having Simba as his son.
Simba: Please, don't leave me again!
Mufasa: I never left you, and never will.
A brief one, but at the end of the film where Rafiki presents Simba's and Nala's cub, Timon and Pumbaa are watching from the sides with the other animals from the oasis, implying that either they're simply attending the presentation to be there for their friend, or Simba invited them to be members of the Pridelands.
While the choice to remove any anthropomorphizing so as to make the animal characters more true-to-life also means eliminating human-like embraces, the emotive gesture where Rafiki greets Mufasa during the "Circle of Life" (and its Call-Back with Simba just before he ascends Pride Rock as king) is still rather moving: gently placing a hand on his forehead and stroking down the bridge of his nose.
Hilarious in Hindsight: Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Scar, who wants to be rid of his benevolent king brother and nephew to become (a tyrant) king, setting up a trap to kill Mufasa amidst protecting Simba, and will fight anyone who goes against him. In Maleficent: Mistress of Evil released later in the year, Ejiofor plays Conall, a fellow Dark Fey and kind leader who explains to Maleficent the history of their kind and advocates for peace between the Fey and the humans, believing she is the one who can make it a reality. And just like Mufasa, he also dies protecting her in a trap set for the Dark Fey, with his final words to her being "Remember who you are."
The film — despite being one of Disney's most high profile projects in years — getting such a middling critical reception resulted in some fans bringing up the old accusations of Disney bribing critics, saying they must have forgotten to send out the checks this time.
Considering how bafflingly restrained Eric Andre is during most of the press surrounding the movie, fans joked about how Eric is constantly being watched by Disney assassins to be on his best behavior in the lead-up to the film.
This fancomic isn't the only time fans have had Azizi quote some of Eric Andre's best bits.
John Oliver has said that "Invisible Beyonce" has become something of a running in-joke amongst the cast, due to her being absent for a cast photo, but photoshopped in later.
For a song called "Can You Feel The Love Tonight", the song clearly takes place in daylight, leading to many joking that it should be called "Can You Feel The Love This Afternoon", or joking about the African midnight sun, that someone forgot to turn off.
YourMovieSucks.org has made a meme out of the way Mufasa says the word "Yes" in one scene.
Misaimed Marketing: The 2019 Academy Awards teaser is titled Long Live the King and uses the phrase in it. While the phrase is not original to the 1994 film, its use there as a Pre-Mortem One-Liner for one of the most iconic deaths in cinema, only to reappear here in a high-profile teaser for the film, comes off as more than a little odd.
Moral Event Horizon: Similar to the original film, Scar crossed it when he punched Mufasa in the face and knocked him off the cliff to his death.
Most Wonderful Sound: In the teaser trailer, hearing James Earl Jones once again voicing Mufasa and Lebo M's iconic opening chant from "Circle Of Life" can bring a tear to one's eye.
James Earl Jones was approaching ninety years old when the film was in production, and it becomes very clear that his voice has greatly aged since the original film twenty-five years ago. Sad as it is, Jones is widely agreed to not have the same power behind his voice that he used to have, and while he can do the "voice from beyond" such as Mufasa's appearance in the clouds just fine, his more demanding lines leave something to be desired. His scolding of Simba in particular goes from furious to gently agitated, his pleas for Scar to help him in the gorge sound much less desperate, and some audio from the original film is reused for "If you ever come near my son again" and "I'm coming Simba, hold on".
The sequence where Rafiki finds out Simba is alive. In the original, he comes across some pollen carrying Simba's scent; here, he finds a piece of his mane... after an Overly Long Gag of the mane floating down a river, being carried by a bird, eaten by a giraffe, ending up in said giraffe's dung, the dung being rolled across the desert by a dung beetle, and finally being carried by some ants that happen to pass by Rafiki's tree.
While Beyonce's musical contributions to the film have been praised, her actual performance as Nala has not been so warmly received. Beyonce's delivery is stilted and lifeless, making Nala's more serious moments feel boring and almost comical as a result.
When Simba and Nala reunite, Nala instantly recognizes Simba the moment he recognizes her, rather than realistically being confused at first like in the original. This despite the fact that she thought Simba was dead and he's now a grown lion who looks completely different from his cub self. Then she rejoices for only about five seconds before she turns serious and tells Simba that he has to come home. Her change of tone is so abrupt it can come off as comical. Similarly, after "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is over, they have their argument which lasts for a few seconds before Nala decides she "made a mistake" and walks off, again happening so quickly after the love song it can be hard to take seriously.
As much as the visuals try to give the acting that extra push it needs, they often do not work together, as only three or four of the film's myriad animals seem like they get actual emotive faces. This leads to young Simba looking rather awkward when his father falls to his death; the cry is heart-wrenching, but the face looks like a kitten meowing.
About half of the rewritten "Be Prepared" is Scar simply shouting the title over and over, actually kind of sounding like more new lyrics were supposed to go there but then they hit the deadline and just threw a bunch of "Be Prepared"s in.
Furthermore, the "song" is sung very awkwardly, as if Ejiofor can't decide whether he's singing a musical number or just giving a motivational speech. Overall, it just does not do justice to the original version of the song.
The iconic "Long live the King" moment is often ridiculed, due to Chiwetel Ejiofor's awkward reading of the line, and then slapping Mufasa in the face instead of throwing him. It doesn't help that the original scene is one of the most dramatic moments of not only the movie, but of Disney animation overall, which was really hard to live up to. James Earl Jones' "Scar... help me!" and falling scream as Mufasa also sound awkward and stilted compared to the raw terror he expressed in the original.
The opening of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" comes completely out of nowhere, feeling like there should have been at least a couple extra seconds to build that it's time for another song. Also, Pumbaa's brief and funny interjections from the original are expanded to pure Don't Explain the Joke territory. Furthermore, the scene takes place in broad daylight, which clash heavily with the song's chorus and the line "the sweet caress of twilight".
Simba's flashback of Mufasa's death once Scar reveals the truth. In the original, the animation is set against a deep red backdrop, with the camera zooming in on cub Simba's pupil before shifting to Simba lunging at Scar. In this version, the footage of Mufasa plunging to his death and Simba's reaction are simply slowed down (not helping matters is that, in the remake, the flashback also includes Scar, despite Simba only learning his involvement that very moment).
When Scar goes to warn Mufasa that Simba is in danger, he does so in a very Dull Surprise tone, that sounds like Scar is barely interested in the moment. What follows is Mufasa giving a very awkward "Simba!?" that also suffers from Dull Surprise, turning what was originally a major Oh, Crap! moment into intentionally funny.
Narm Charm: Others find the floating mane sequence to be epic, and one of the more original flourishes in an otherwise shot-for-shot remake. It could be favorably compared to the "The Egg Travels" sequence from Dinosaur, Disney's first stab at photo-realistic animation. It also very much connects to the "circle of life" theme showing how the animals' interconnected lives make it possible, without overly spelling it out.
Nightmare Retardant: Mufasa's death scene is, for the most part, done faithfully. However, instead of just tossing him into the ravine, Scar sends him to his demise by slapping him in the face. And while Mufasa's yell as he falls in the original is physically and emotionally agonizing, his yell in this version sounds almost bored in comparison.
Older Than They Think: Most associate "He Lives In You" (which plays over the credits in Swahili) with the sequel when the song was originally featured on "Rhythm of the Pridelands", which features music unused in the original film and was later re-purposed for the musical.
Padding: The 88 minutes of the original are stretched to two hours. While there are a few plot additions (many of whom are generally well-received), it's often accomplished by long pans of the painstakingly rendered scenery and making scenes longer than they were originally - along with the above mentioned mane sequence, which even cuts to black before the dung beetle, the mouse in Scar's introductory scene is seen wandering through the Pride Lands before entering the lion's den.
Signature Scene: Mufasa's death once again, though this time for the wrong reasons. Many critics of the film consider it to be the defining example of what the remake got wrong about the original as noted elsewhere on this page. Indeed, even some of the film's defenders will admit that it didn't even come close to emulating the original.
So Okay, It's Average: Reviews cite it's a technical marvel in photo-realistic animation, and cite certain characters such as Zazu, Kamari and Azizi (Banzai and Ed in the original, see Author Saving Throw above), and especially Timon and Pumbaa to still be a delight even with new voice actors and in CGI. But that's essentially all it has going for it. The story is beat for beat that of the 1994 original and despite the extra runtime doesn't change a lot — in some cases even shortening certain segments such as "Be Prepared" — and general consensus is you're not missing much if you want to skip this movie aside from the different medium, making it something of a Dancing Bear.
Special Effects Failure: When Mufasa is talking to Simba about the antelope, they forget to animate the former's lips at one point.
Superlative Dubbing: The Japanese dub of the film is considered arguably the best version of the film, as it manages to capture the performances and nuances very well despite being a different language. The performance of Mufasa in particular is seen as very good.
Surprisingly Improved Sequel: Beyoncé's Black is King is a visual album/movie using music from a spin-off soundtrack she created for this movie that links the songs together with a story inspired by The Lion King, just with humans. The movie/visual album also got much better reviews from critics and audiences, to the point where some felt that that should have been the remake instead rather than this movie.
Tear Jerker: Say what you will about this film, but the film still has plenty of heartwrenching moments despite its realism.
Mufasa's death as always. This time, when Simba tries to wake him up, he scratches him with his paw, like a little kitten.
This version deals with Simba's Adaptational Angst Upgrade after Mufasa's death. He often refers to himself as a nobody, showing that he's gained some serious self image and self esteem issues, which can be heartwrenching for those who have dealt with similar issues.
Speaking of which, before Scar forces Simba off the cliff after his Breaking Speech, there's this exchange:
Scar: Are you the king?! You're what?! SAY IT! Simba:(broken whisper) ...I'm nothing.
"Be Prepared" has been given new lyrics, but is incredibly short compared to the original. It's also not performed with nearly as much gusto as the original and more of a spoken work version rather than singing some of the lines, which left some viewers disappointed. Some critics described it as feeling like a reprise of a song that never actually happened.
The hyenas are changed from being comedic villainous sidekicks to mostly serious and dark and more threatening figures (though Kamari and Azizi do have a running gag about Azizi invading Kamari's personal space). This didn't sit well with fans of the hyenas, claiming that it was possible to have made them more legitimately threatening while still keeping their funny bantering. Many are also disappointed with how Kamari and Azizi are nowhere near as expressive and have less personality than Banzai and Ed did.
In the original film where Scar kills Mufasa, he acts like he's going to save him, but sinks his claws into his claws saying his Long live the king line and letting go, while in this version, he mostly does the same thing, but he knocks him off by slashing his face to knock him into the ravine which feels a little overkill.
The "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?" song and sequence takes place entirely in the middle of the day, making the scene feel very weird since the song lyrics make several references to "night" and "twilight", and the original scene took place in the late afternoon and twilight to match this.
Simba goes and hears his dad's voice in the clouds like in the original version, but apart from brief flashes of lightning showing the outline of Mufasa's head, it's all you see of him and all Simba looks at otherwise is clouds. This was apparently done for 'realism', but a lot of viewers felt it was far less visually impressive and didn't pack as much of an emotional punch as Mufasa's spirit dramatically appearing in the night sky, especially as it's one of the most iconic scenes from the original. Though some did cite appreciating the added dialogue from Mufasa at least.
The funny, yet meaningful scene where Rafiki hits Simba with his staff to show how the past can hurt, "but you can still learn from it", is completely removed. The staff doesn't even make an appearance until the climax as Rafiki brings it out solely to fight the hyenas with it. Viewers were especially annoyed by this removal because the lesson Rafiki teaches to Simba in this scene strengthens Simba's resolve to return to the Pride Lands and helps drive home one of the story's main Aesops.
The famous stampede scene in the original took place in a great canyon, with what appeared to be hundreds of wildebeest stampeding throughout the scene. In the remake, the giant canyon is greatly reduced in size, making it look like the wildebeest are just running down a hill towards Simba, and their numbers are far from as impressive and intimidating as the original gave off. It ironically makes realistic wildebeest thundering after Simba look less scary than the animated wildebeest did.
Related to above, the scene where Nala goes to Timon and Pumbaa to ask if they know where Simba is after he goes back to Pride Rock and Rafiki telling them that the king has returned, was completely removed and replaced with the Spirit song and scene.
"I Just Can't Wait To Be King" loses some of it luster since it's basically Simba and Nala running around animals at the watering hole with Zazu trying to keep up compared to the original's trippy animation which had the cubs riding and jumping on animals that made it much more bouncy and fun. Again the lack of expressions don't help it either especially in the ending shot of the song where it just looks like a bunch of animals gathered together then a chorus singing along. Credit where it's due though, the VAs do a good job of singing it.
In Brazil, the fact that none of the original voice cast returnednote only three of whom are deceased, namely Mufasa, Scar and Timon, not even for cameos, became a sore point for fans, specially as the remake of Aladdin did bring back the original Genie.
Scar's famous "it's to die for" line has been changed to "it's a gift [Mufasa will] never forget". The original line worked because of its Double Meaning that is obvious to the average viewer and not Simba. It makes the replacement seem almost nonsensical—how is Mufasa supposed to "never forget" the "gift" if Scar was going to kill him?
Most likewise didn't like Nala's characterization as a cub since in the original both Simba and she were similar and acted pretty much like kids while at the Elephant Graveyard which made their friendship and later relationship more believable, instead instantly getting spooked at the surrounding and trying to get Simba to turn around. It's also meant to be poignant in how they mature as they grow up. Nala having moved passed those days and trying to be the initial link to get Simba to come back home while Simba is still trying to run from his responsibility over being, what he thinks, was the cause of his father's death. This movie also doing a rather sloppy job of showcasing the buildup to that as Nala instantly tries to get Simba to come home rather than be joyful at seeing him alive, the two catching up via "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and then dropping the news of what's happening at home as what happened in the original.
The relationship between Simba and Scar has been changed, and most agree its for the worst. In the original film, Simba clearly loved his uncle, playing around with him and having a good time even though it was clear to the audience Scar didn't like it. It made Scar's betrayal sting because we saw that Simba was not only betrayed by family, but by someone he clearly looked up to. Plus the fact Scar acted playful and loving added a certain amount of charm to his character while also making him even more vile, since his willingness to do so, again, was a low blow. The remake removes that playful relationship and made Scar out to very clearly not like Simba, which would be fine, but the fact Simba still follows the story the same way means it becomes harder to believe Simba would ever trust Scar. It makes the betrayal loose its impact.
Shenzi being an Adaptational Badass and the hyenas' leader starts out quite intriguing, but ultimately little is done with it beyond giving Nala a Designated Girl Fight which doesn't even get a real conclusion.
Kamari and Azizi, though mostly for who they're played by rather than their potential as actual characters. In addition to fans of the original's complaints about the hyenas being Darker and Edgier, some fans of Keegan-Michael Key and Eric Andre have complained that the movie doesn't give them much to do, thereby wasting their comedic talents. It doesn't help that, aside from a running gag where Azizi constantly keeps getting too close to Kamari, the two are hardly in the movie and don't get much to do except act as Scar and Shenzi's lackeys.
Adult Simba is weirdly this. Because many of the plot heavy scenes in the third half have been shortened (the argument scene and Mufasa's Ghost come to mind), it feels like the movie barely gives the audience a chance to know its own main character and Simba's development feels more rushed compared to the original, to the point where it's hard to even understand WHY he comes back to challenge Scar.
Timon and Pumbaa's friends. A common criticism of the original was that the movie didn't give a good reason as to why Simba should be king because many felt he didn't do anything to show he had any skills to rule an entire kingdom. Timon and Pumbaa's friends could've been used as a way to show that, by living with Timon and Pumbaa, Simba had developed some empathy for living with his fellow animals by seeing their problems first hand. This could have helped him to develop as a ruler, which could've made him a clear contrast with Scar's selfish ideology as a ruler. The movie doesn't really do that though, instead it uses them for only a short bit of time before they are given token appearances like Lion Sleeps Tonight sequence and the very end, when they're seen at the presentation of Simba and Nala's daughter.
Nala and Sarabi. A common criticism of the original, even amongst fans, was that they weren't given enough screentime in the original. What probably didn't help is that the movie had a mostly male-dominated cast. The remake tries to give them more to do than its predecessor did but, because the movie follows the structure and plot of the original so closely, they're only given a few more lines and one more scene. However, to some, the added screentime they did get (as well as the sub-plot Sarabi was given) is enough to count as an Author's Saving Throw.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: While Adult Simba is given a clear Adaptational Angst Upgrade in having worse self esteem and self loathing issues, the scene where Nala escapes, the scene where Simba's fur flies all over Africa, and the Lion Sleeps Tonight scenes go on for so long that the movie ends up not having much time to focus on the pathos and drama surrounding Simba as he deals with the trauma of not only losing his father but thinking he was responsible for his death.
Some expressed concern that the character designs are too realistic, and argue that the characters look lifeless in comparison to the animated version and that the film looks more like a nature documentary than an epic movie. Pumbaa's design, in particular, was called horrifying, as many people used to the cute cartoony version of him did not realize how ugly real-life warthogs are.
Possibly even worse than the actual film is this Sing-a-Long set made ahead of the time for the movie, which looks extremely awkward and not out of place compared to packaging seen on bootleg products. All of the characters look way off, even compared to their official art, with Pumbaa being so awkwardly designed to the point where he has been compared to a scrotum. Even minus that, his coloring is way off, being much blacker in the actual movie and not the bluish depiction on the product.
Reviews listed this as a major shortcoming of the film. The 2D animated version allowed the characters a full range of expressions to convey emotion, but this version sacrifices them to be more photo-realistic. The expressions look stilted, with only the characters' tones and body language to really go by. Even several of the reviews listed as positive state that the film has the gorgeous photo-realism and nostalgia going for itand not much else.
Unfortunate Implications: Many felt that the justification used to keep the hyenas out of the Pridelands, that they can't control their appetite, only underscores the segregationist undertones of the whole thing, something that Big Joel and LindsayEllis among others have called the film out on.
The film is being brought to life using the same photo-realistic, Academy Award-winning CGI that Favreau used for The Jungle Book. According to reports from the D23 Expo, which took place an entire two years before the film's release, the CGI was already just as astonishing as that seen in The Jungle Book. Indeed, early reviews cite it as one more admirable traits of the film.
The teaser trailer alone is nothing short of breathtaking. The Academy Awards spot is also quite impressive with tuned-up colors and lighting in shots from the teaser trailer.
While the animals may not be as expressive as the original animated film, they are far more expressive than the trailers and clips released have suggested - with a winning combination of facial expressions and body language on all the animals. The lions and hyenas are particularly emotive.
Regarding the 3D: while the 1994 film is considered one of the best post-conversion efforts of all time, the shot of Zazu flying to Pride Rock during the opening number isn't a reverse Paddleball Shot (i.e. Zazu flying away from the camera while still appearing to soar directly above the audience) here like it was in the original film. No, like Avatar this film focuses more on the depth side of things, and it's still just as spectacular.
Vocal Minority: While the movie has received some of the most outspoken disdain out of any of Disney's remakes — even by the standards of said remakes — the film is also unquestionably the most successful out of any of them, with a global box office total bigger than The Avengers (2012).
What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: It's only rated PG, but has an incredibly gritty looking art style that while bloodless, has very intense and violent action scenes. Scar tries aggressively to force Sarabi to be his queen, with all the rape implications that carries given he's a dictator and is shown to be physically abusive towards her, when he violently attacks her before Simba arrives. He also punishes her and the other lionesses by giving the hyenas the right to eat before them, so there's little left for them to eat but scraps and what little they can pick off the bones. Scar and the hyenas are also actually shown eating from the carcass, with the camera angles and his and the hyena's bodies being the only thing keeping us from seeing the blood and gore. Nala's escape scene is over quickly, but also quite intense for a child.
James Earl Jones reprises his role of Mufasa. Of all the actors fans wanted to see back, Jones was one of the chief players because he's so damn iconic and irreplaceable, and his casting was warmly received.
The first teaser trailer was shown at the D23 Expo, which was a frame-for-frame recreation of the iconic "Circle of Life" scene. Needless to say, many people were brought to tears at how amazing the film looked.
Elton Johnand Tim Rice returning to rework their original contributions to the film has won a lot of praise from fans of the original film. Even better, John is also working with Beyoncé on a new song, plus Mark Mancina and Lebo M. returned to help with arrangements to ensure the film's authentically African musical tapestry.
Julie Taymor being tapped as executive producer was a pleasant surprise and can be seen as a welcome attempt to bring in proper oversight to make sure the film is true to the original.
In addition to Scar sending in the hyenas to kill Simba (which was already a What an Idiot! moment in the 1994 film), this also throws a huge one to Shenzi, a character who's supposed to be a No-Nonsense Nemesis in this one. After Scar tasks them into killing Simba, Simba falls down a cliff and even though Simba could have died, Shenzi isn't convinced that Simba is dead. You'd Expect: Shenzi to actually go down the cliff or go with a pack of hyenas to make sure that the deed is done and Scar's rule remains unopposed. Instead: Shenzi instead asks Kamari and Azizi to check if Simba's dead or not. She doesn't even decide to check herself either or even watch the two hyenas, just leaving the task to these two alone. What Ends Up Happening: This leads to the events of Simba somehow surviving thanks to Timon and Pumbaa, and along with Nala leaving the Pridelands to find help (thanks to some intervention from Zazu), we know what ends up happening from here.
Unlike in the original film, Scar is quite easily baited into publicly ranting about how he watched Mufasa die. While he's savvy enough to still whisper to Simba that he actually did the deed, Sarabi quickly picks up on the contradiction that he'd been claiming all this time to have arrived too late to save Mufasa.
Seth Rogen's casting as Pumbaa drew some raised eyebrows as Rogen generally plays more sarcastic, snarky characters as opposed to the sweeter natured Pumbaa. Particularly after an interview where Rogen revealed that he couldn't sing and Disney had to bring in Pharrell as a vocal coach. By the film's release, however, many critics who otherwise disliked the film had praise for Rogen's performance (except for his singing skills, which Rogen has candidly admitted are nonexistent).
The casting of Eric Andre has raised a few eyebrows given his unique brand of comedy shown on The Eric Andre Show, with some going so far as to wonder how the hell he was even considered by the scrupulously squeaky-clean Disney for one of their most iconic films.
Casting Beyoncé as adult Nala, who has been for a long while criticized for her acting and now voice acting especially post-movie release due to her line reading. While general consensus says that she was an amazing choice for the soundtrack, her voice work as the character is often seen as a point of contention, especially when it seems the only reason she was brought on was because she's a big name singer moreso because she's a talented actress.
The casting of John Oliver. While John Oliver is a comedic person, he isn't really an actor the same way Rowan Atkinson was for Zazu in the original film, which makes his performance sound a bit awkward by comparison. Ignoring even that, some wondered why Trevor Noah, who has Oliver's exact job of parody-news anchor and is actually South African and would therefore fit in better with the mostly-black cast of the film, was not picked. Noah himself jokingly questioned the decision when the cast list was first released.
In the Norwegian dub, Håvard Bakke, who had voiced adult Simba in the 1994 film, was brought back for the remake to this time voice Scar. This was not received well by the Norwegian fanbase as, even 25 years later, Bakke's voice is too familiar as Simba's and hearing it suddenly come from Scar instead is jarring, to say the least. For reference, it's basically as weird as if Matthew Broderick suddenly voiced Scar 25 years later. The voice is older, yes, but still all too recognizable.