If there’s any Disney live action remake I’ve been equal parts excited and terrified for it’s The Lion King. The 1994 version is my absolute favorite movie of all time. I just need to get that out there before I dive into this spoiler-free review because yes, it does affect my opinion of the remake. You also may be wondering if the new version of The Lion King is scary.
It’s important I tell parents how to be prepared (see what I did there?) to take their kids to see this movie, because as you can probably expect, this movie is a bit intense. More on that ahead. But first, my completely biased thoughts with no spoilers if you’ve seen the original. If you haven’t seen the original (first of all who are you?) I would proceed with caution but I’ll mark any of those plot points before mentioning it. I’m including a little review from my 6-year-old as well. His kids opinion is entirely different than my own.
2019 Lion King Review
See, I’ve been so confused at what to call this remake. “Live action” doesn’t feel right because there aren’t any people or real animals in the movie. But there are a couple of non-CGI shots that I guess make it qualify. But really, it’s just another animated movie with a different kind of animation. That animation? STUNNING. We watched in IMAX, and if you have the opportunity to do so I highly recommend it. I also went back to re-watch Aladdin in IMAX and it didn’t fill the whole screen. The Lion King filled the whole dang screen. It was an incredible way to take it all in. I even teared up watching some of the imagery.
I loved the new visuals during the songs. Especially I Just Can’t Wait to Be King. I was really excited to see how they’d do that since I could’t imagine them doing a pyramid of animals again.
The hyenas and Timon and Pumba–Especially the latter, really made the entire movie for me.
Of course the story isn’t surprising if you’ve seen the 1994 version. (Spoiler if you haven’t:) My sweet son said he hoped the dad wouldn’t die in this one. Even though you know what’s coming, seeing it this way just breaks your heart all over again. But that is one of my major gripes with the film is that it’s SO much like the first one.
Too Many Similarities
The opening sequence (and a few other parts of the movie) are nearly shot for shot of the original. I tried my best not to watch any trailers so I could be as surprised a possible but I did see a couple play before other movies in theaters and thought “oh they’re just showing us parts we’ve seen before from the other movie.” But there was actually a lot from the original. And friends, I have the original memorized. So there were several parts in the movie where I was quoting along, or 100% knew what line or imagery was coming next. Even my son who had just re-watched the original with me the night before kept saying “he said that in the other one,” and “I know what’s going to happen!”
Where in Aladdin I thought they did a great job of taking the story and re-working the script, keeping just a few token lines we loved from the original, I feel like in this movie they kept a majority of the same script. I even wondered at parts if James Earl Jones re-recorded some of the lines or if they stuck in some of the old ones or outtakes. The soundtrack was similar (though there was a new spin on Be Prepared and I digged it), score music. It was all extremely similar and in my opinion, a little disappointing.
Don’t Re-watch the original first… Or maybe do
After we meet Timon and Pumba the script starts to change up a bit more and there were a few surprises that made me jump, and had me belly laughing. Those moments won me over. Worth the remake after 25 years? Ugh, friends I think that’s debatable. That said, I want to say that maybe if you don’t re-watch the original right before you see this one. Then maybe it won’t bother you as much and you’ll feel more surprised. But I also think that if you have a squirmy kid, or a kid who gets scared at intense movies, it’s better to watch the 1994 version first so they know what to expect.
My son had a lot of questions while we watched the animated version the first time. Mostly “Why did Scar do that? Why is he so bad?” “Where did Mufasa’s dad go?” (granted he always asks a lot of questions). After seeing it a couple of times and then watching the new version he was able to just take the movie in and not be as scared during parts that may have frightened him. I’m so back and forth now on whether or not we should have re-watched the animated version right before seeing this one. Ultimately I think for my son it was a good choice. I love that he was really able to follow along and understand the story. With a two hour runtime I think that’s important. And he didn’t seem the least bit disappointed. And for me, honestly I had the entire movie drilled in my head since childhood so I don’t think it made a difference.
I think if you haven’t watched the animated version in 25 years and are going by yourself, keep it that way to really enjoy it and not notice all of the similarities. If you have a young child who has never seen it, maybe introduce them to that version first if you’re worried he or she may be scared. Which brings me to my next big point.
Is The Lion King Scary for Kids?
Yes. Well, yes depending on your kid. I mean these looks like real lions going at it. At one point Scar is chowing down on a dead animal (it’s not graphic at all though but there is a little blood on his chin).
There was one scene that wasn’t in the original that had everyone on the edge of their seat. I was thrilled because this was new material. I looked over at my son who was bracing himself and asked if he was scared. “Yes!” he replied with a big grin on his face. We jumped, and there may have been a couple of little screams or gasps but no tears in our theater, and there were little ones there.
I won’t give anything away but if you want more specifics of timing message me or comment and I’ll let you know if you want to warn your kiddos. It’s pretty obvious right away though because the scene is NOT in the original.
There’s one other part with a startling surprise that wound up literally being my favorite part in the entire movie so I will let you have that experience too. Maybe I’ll write another blog post full of spoilers for people wanting to know specific scary parts beforehand, but I’m sure you can find stuff out there.
Overall, I’d say this is probably up there with Jungle Book on fear factor. The tiger in that movie seemed more scary to me. I asked my son last night if The Lion King was scary and he adamantly said it was not scary. I think for little kids who are unfamiliar with the story it’ll definitely feel intense. Especially in a loud theater on a big screen. Plus the story, I mean come on, we know what happens to Mufasa. But hey, our parents put us through that as kids, maybe we’re better for it. I’ll leave that choice up to you.
If you’re worried I’d suggest you go with a group of friends or date night and have a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Enjoy a movie from your childhood then make a decision about taking your kids. If your kids don’t startle easily, and/or love the original movie I personally don’t think you’ll have any issues.
Important moral lessons
One thing I thought this movie did really well was elaborate during some of the scenes that were a little vague or unclear. For instance, creators addressed Hakuna Matata, and the whole idea of “no worries” and being complacent more in this version. As well as the idea of knowing who you are and your responsibilities. I felt like this version was a little more inspiring and can really kick off some cool conversations with our kids.
I don’t even know what else to title this header. Here’s the thing. I love her but I couldn’t un-see her face while watching Nala. Yes, it was a lion on the screen but still. Can You Feel the Love Tonight was incredible but lawd they might has well have made it a solo. I loved Donald Glovers voice though. And there’s a new single in the movie called “Sprit” that gave me chills. Jon Favreau (love him!) put in the perfect spot and I’ll let you be surprised and enjoy that as I did!
A 6-year-old’s Lion King Review
Though I had a few gripes about the remake my son LOVES it. There were several times during the movie where he laughed out loud and that is a big indication to me how great a movie is. He said he likes it more than Aladdin (previously his 2nd favorite movie). And tied with Toy Story 4 as his favorite.
Q:What was your favorite part?
A: The fighting! The sad part was when his dad died.
Q: Did you think it was funny?
A: Yes! Like when… [spoiler redacted]
Q:Why did you like the movie so much?
A: Because Mufasa.
Q: Was he your favorite character?
A: Yes! And then Simba was, when he grew up.
Q: Was it scary?
A: A little. Was it different?
Q: Did you think it was different?
A: It was a little different.
Q: Did you like this Lion King more or the other one?
A: This one more! Because they looked real.
Q:Do you think your sisters will like the movie?
A: I don’t know.
Q:Do you want to see it again?
As I walked out of my screening I overheard some people saying it was “Better than Dumbo.” I haven’t published that review yet friends but that’s not saying much. That said, I’m buying my tickets to see it opening night with the whole family. I honestly believe now that I know how similar it is to the original I will be able to sit back and enjoy it for what it is and take in the animation and slight differences more.
There were a few times where the crowd laughed and I’d missed a line because I was taking a note or answering a question from my son. Keep your ears perked during all of the scenes with Timon and Pumba because they definitely have the most new material. Go watch it in IMAX if you can because WOW.
Overall I did enjoy the movie but I wasn’t blown away. I know part of that is because my expectations were higher since it’s my favorite movie, plus it’s hard to follow after Aladdin. In my opinion that is the best live action remake they’ve done so far, and still the one to beat. But we will see Lion King again. I’m buying my tickets for opening night, July 18th (out everywhere on the 19th).
Go into it knowing that it’s pretty much the same movie with updated animation and you’ll love it.
When are you going to see it? Let us know what you think!!
Wondering if we have similar taste in movies? Here are some of our other Disney movie reviews: