The Lion King (2019): An Emotionless Shell of the Original

Hannah Feltz
5 min readJul 19, 2019

Upon viewing the recent remake of The Lion King, I immediately returned home and watched the original version of the film from 1994 to get the bad taste of what I just experienced out of my system. Harsh? Maybe, but that is for you to decide.

There are many conflicting facets of the film that tug it back and forth from being a groundbreaking achievement and movie experience to another ploy by Disney to profit off nostalgia. As an avid fan of the original movie, it was painful to watch the characters and story I fell in love with as a child be portrayed by CGI animated animals that exude absolutely no emotion because of the decision to depict the story in a realistic world. There is no doubt that the visuals are remarkable, and Jon Favreau, director of Disney’s The Jungle Book remake, delivered in terms of stunning shots of a world that make you question if what you are watching is actually computer animated. The spectacular scenes and exceptional detail, however, do not make up for the missing emotion that was sacrificed to deliver the audience an authentic wildlife kingdom. Where are the tears rolling down Simba’s despondent face as he frantically tries to revive his deceased father? The bewilderment turned to excitement when Nala discovers her thought to be dead best friend is alive? The sly, deceiving, and conniving gestures and personality of Scar? Sadly, all of this is lost. As a result, the emotional scenes of Mufasa’s death and Simba’s triumphant victory and return to Pride Rock do not hit nearly as hard as opposed to the original which will leave most viewers in tears over a scene as simple as Simba and Mufasa chasing each other playfully under the stars.

The lack of emotion makes it a challenge for the star studded and powerful cast to shine in the film. Even talented musical individuals such as Donald Glover (Simba) and Beyoncé (Nala) could not offset the passionless facades of their characters. Not to say their musical performance of ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ was not exceptional, but the scene to accompany the classic love song falls flat and deprives the audience of any sort of connection. The performances of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan as Timon and Pumbaa are the standouts of the film and attempt to liven up its soulless nature. What is unique about their roles is that they did not mirror the beloved characters from the original, but instead offer a new take and wit. This is exactly what Glover and Beyoncé fail to do, to take risks. Their performances were by no means bad, but they ultimately fall short and into the shadow of the original.

A major part that made The Lion King an iconic film is the soundtrack, which earned the film an Oscar for Best Original Music Score. The remake does a fantastic job of reintroducing and revitalizing the classic score orchestrated by Hans Zimmer but what made the music so breathtaking in the first place was the coupling of the score and the films scenes. The score had the ability to replicate the emotion of a scene, such as when Simba solemnly approaches Mufasa and looks down to find his small paw print swallowed by that of his fathers, symbolizing the big “shoes” he will have to fill someday. With the remake, the score paired with featureless creatures does not evoke the same feeling.

The beloved songs in The Lion King are all present in the film and the cast does put their soul into every note sung. The musical performances are the salvageable assets of the movie and successfully do the original justice. Beyoncé debuts a new song ‘Spirit’ in the film that does not disappoint and is bound to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. Elton John, who was integral to the original, also provides us with a song that plays as the credits roll. What is frustrating is how there is phenomenal talent present in the project but that it is wasted through how the story is told.

Regarding the plot and script, it is an almost identical match to the original, apart from prolonged shots of different nature aspects, such as a beetle rolling a ball of dung. There is nothing unique to the film besides the fact that it now looks like a National Geographic animal documentary instead of a cartoon feature.

The Lion King (1994) is a film that has been cherished by many for a number of years. Remaking a movie that holds such importance in people’s lives is a difficult task, that some argue, should not be done in the first place. The remake is a true technological achievement that is strikingly beautiful but lacks any semblance of emotion, rendering it a shell of the original. It seems as if Favreau was too busy asking himself if he can remake the film, instead of asking if he should. It is disappointing to see a movie as adored as The Lion King be victim to a campaign to profit off nostalgia. The remake has been dubbed the most anticipated film of the summer, but this is because of the groundwork that the original first laid. You can recreate a movie, but not the magic that first brought it to life.



Hannah Feltz

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.