Twenty-five years after the original, Disney’s The Lion King is making big roars as it comes out in cinemas across China today (Fri 12) a week ahead of the rest of the world. Earlier this week, a few of us at Time Out Shanghai attended the film’s premiere at Shanghai Disney. Here’s an account of what went down and a few hot takes on the reboot.
Before the film kicked off, world-famous pianist Lang Lang, accompanied by fellow accomplished pianist and wife Gina Alice Redlinger, did live performances of ‘Circle of Life’ and ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ to (cue the Disney theatrics) a fireworks show in front of the park’s castle.
Just like the original, the film starts out with a baby Simba being presented to every animal and creature in the Pride Lands. In fact, the storyline of the new Lion King is incredibly similar to its animated counterpart from '94, save for a few artistic flairs.
We're talking about the photorealism in the CGI version, which is seriously impressive (animal babies have never been this cute), and Donald Glover and Beyoncé’s rendition of ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’.
In this version, we get more of a glimpse into Simba's home outside the Pride Lands with Timon and Pumbaa (voiced by comedic duo Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner), who we were hoping to see more of on screen. Nala (Beyoncé) has a bigger role in 2019’s version, her fight for Pride Rock more obvious and significant. Simba's mum Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), takes more of the spotlight in this version, too, being a general badass in her defiance against Scar, voiced by the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Overall, most things are the same as the original except with 3D and CGI that make everything seem more alive. If you felt the characters were relatable and anthropomorphic before, it’s amazing how the tech in this film magnifies that effect. Because although the animals look more animal-like than ever, they also inexplicably seem more human, which means every emotion we feel is all the more vivid. The tragic stuff is devastating, but the joyful moments – and there are many – are pretty incandescent. So take a leaf out of Timon and Pumbaa's book and treat yourself to a rich helping of nostalgia and hakuna matata.
By Serena Zhang and Yu Zhiming