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The King Lives

Disney, for reasons best known to itself, has been busily remaking its 1990s animated features as live action/CGI movies. I haven't been particularly interested in any of these, but their latest offering is The Lion King, which I wanted to see because it looked so adorable.

I saw the original with my parents; even though I was 16 or 17 at the time, none of us was too old for Disney. Years later I saw the musical, which led me to discover the furry fandom and all the wonderful things and people that have come with that. So TLK is Kind Of A Thing for me.

I went with fairly low expectations, as initial reports suggested the tale had lost much of its soul and story in pursuit of technical excellence. Luckily, I loved it. It was like seeing a beloved play in a new translation: you knew what was coming but not how it was going to be done.

I thought going to an 8pm showing would mean no kids in the cinema, but there was a baby - who was very well-behaved, although it did decide to join in when Simba was practising his roar.

There were a few minor changes to the script and plot, which on the whole made it work better. The language had been brought up to date with lines like "You do you, Simba."

MUFASA came across as something of a weak leader, ignoring advice to kick Scar out of the Pridelands and repeatedly letting Shenzi off with a warning.

SCAR was genuinely creepy, evil and scary; in the animated version he’s a rather camp and comical sexy bastard (it's partly the way he's drawn, mostly Jeremy Irons's voice).

THE HYENAS, on the other hand, clearly just need somebody to give them a big cuddle.

TIMON AND PUMBAA were the pleasantest surprise. I was already a big meerkat fan in 1994, and I was disappointed that Timon's character design was so ugly. In this version he's cute as a button, Pumbaa has been toned down to be less annoying, and they're given a whole crew of misfit animal pals to hang around with. (I missed Pumbaa's "They call me MISTER Pig!" line though.)

Minus points:

  • I didn’t think the voice talent was as strong. It was good, but it wasn’t Rowan Atkinson/Whoopi Goldberg/Cheech Marin good. (I suspect it’s impossible to play Zazu without sounding as if you’re trying to be Rowan Atkinson.)

  • 'Be Prepared' felt a bit flat, with no goose-stepping hyenas.

Plus points:

  • Timon & Pumbaa & Timon & Pumbaa & Timon & Pumbaa.

  • The score was just amazing.

(...I might have liked it better than the original, but don’t tell anyone.)
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Sounds pretty good, all in all! Can you believe I've never watched the original? I've kept meaning to, but never got around, and what I've heard of how it portrays hyenas … well, let's just say it's not exactly fair. (And hyenas already have highly undeserved bad rep.)

I do like Timon and Pumbaa too, to the extent you can like characters from a movie you've not watched. :)

The language had been brought up to date with lines like "You do you, Simba."

Maybe I'm getting old, but I don't even know what that means. o.o
I see "You do you" a lot on Twitter; it's just "be yourself, do your thing". I approve!

I'm not sure I've seen the animated Lion King since its original release, but I watched TLK2 a lot. Kovu had a lot to do with this. I've not seen the 'Lion King 1.5', which retells the original from Timon and Pumbaa's perspective, because I suspect it takes the mickey out of a beautiful classic and would make me cross.

I will admit I thought of hyenas as savage buggers for years after The Lion King, but then I felt the same about dholes after reading the Second Jungle Book. It took furry to educate me!