ROGER THOMAS FILM REVIEW: The lion roars again

Published 6:38 am Thursday, July 25, 2019

Way back in 1994, Disney presented children and fans of animation to a story based in Africa. The animated film was filled with beautiful settings, pictures and characters. The film also offered enchanting music and a powerful story.

Roger Thomas

So after 25 years, there is a new version of “The Lion King.”
Back in 1994, Elton John created the music and Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. When the Oscar nominations were tallied for the “Lion King,” the music had four nominations. Three original songs were nominated: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata.” “Can You Feel…” won the Oscar for best song and the film also won an Oscar for the “Musical Score.”

All the music, or at least versions of it, appears in the new film. All the characters, or most of them, take on the same roles. There is a lot familiar in this production, and that might be a negative aspect for the film.

Will those who saw the original film come back after 25 years? Or is this film just for those who have never seen the first film? Can you enjoy both?

I will answer that question in a few moments, but first allow me to offer a personal note about the original “The Lion King.”

As a child I loved animals. All kinds of animals charmed me. Seeing animals on television was fun. Seeing animals in zoos was even better.
The animals I liked the most were the ones that lived in Africa: elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, water buffalo and many more, including the lions.

In the winter of 1984, when I was 20, I was lucky enough to go to Kenya. Of all the experiences I have had in my life, that trip was one of the very best. I doubt I will do anything like it again in my remaining years, but I feel very blessed that I had the experience when I did.

So 20 years after I went to Africa, Disney made a fine animated film titled “The Lion King.”

When I went to see the animated film, I loved it. I loved the visuals of the film. I liked the songs so much that I bought the soundtrack.

Twenty-five years later I can still sing the songs, even though my children tell me I am singing in the wrong tune. At least I try.

Now, we have a new “The Lion King.” After hearing the announcement of the new film, my first thought was “Why?” The original film was grand.

Several of Disney films have been redone going from animation to live-action.

When I heard about the planned transition, again, I thought it was not a good idea. I stated to friends, “Why do we need another Lion King? The one we have had for 25 years is enough. There is no reason for another.”

But then I watched the new film. I did not think I would be satisfied by the new version. I thought Disney was trying to change something that was already perfect. That is where I was when I entered the theater.

But I was wrong.

As I watched the animals looking so real, I kept thinking, this is so much better. The original “Lion” was beautiful animation, but the new “King” is beautiful nature.

I know both films are animated, but one of them almost makes you forget that it is animated. When the animals are on the screen, it is film magic. And it should get an Oscar nomination for “Best Animated Feature.”

The bottom line of the films is this: If I could only take one copy of the two “Lion King” films, which one would I take?

This new 2019 version surpasses the 1994 in almost every way.

If you are wondering which way the first one excels — the 1994 is more colorful, I think.

Roger W. Thomas of Albemarle reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.