You have definitely seen The Lion King before. That sentence applies to both the 1994 Disney classic and next week’s CGI-filled remake. This new version, premiering worldwide on Friday, July 19, has been remade in such a stark, scene-by-scene manner that there’s no point in slapping a spoiler warning on this article. Every character from the box-office-dominating Disney classic has returned to retread every plot point and sing every familiar, chart-topping song.
But Disney wants very badly to convince you that you have not seen The Lion King like this, and in some ways, that sales pitch is accurate. I can confirm that the latest film from director Jon Favreau is enough of a technical masterpiece to usher in a new level of the question, “is that CGI?” Photorealistic flora and fauna pack each frame of this film, which Favreau directed, in part, by putting on VR headsets and aiming his virtual camera at raw digital assets.
But while Favreau clearly has the right technology—and the right attitude over how to render his star characters—his efforts are hobbled by the baggage that is a beloved, bubbly Disney film.