Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Disney The Lion King Kids Movie Review


MBE partnered with Disney for this post

Content by Neima Pollak
MBE Staff Writer 

Photography by Janis Brett Elspas

Opening Nationwide July 19

More than 25 years ago the original animated kids blockbuster movie Disney The Lion King (1994) played in theaters around the world. 

Lion Sabi Sands Private Reserve South Africa
Lion at Sabi Sands Private Reserve, South Africa

Following in the footsteps of other animated Disney classics recently remade into live action pictures such as CinderellaAlice Through the Looking Glassand DumboDisney is back with the The Lion King (2019). The new feature film roars onto big screens nationwide this Friday, July 19. This  motion picture actually falls into the new photoreal category, rather than live action, because it is so realistic yet completely animated.

Mommy Blog Expert attended an all-press screening of The Lion King this past week at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. You can, of course, see this in theaters nationwide starting this weekend, but if you are lucky enough to be in the Los Angeles area, consider seeing this at the El Capitan where you'll be treated to an augmented experience similar to what we had. 

The El Capitan Viewer Experience

Before the movie began, the audience was treated to a live performance by the El Capitan House Organist, Rob Richards, who played a series of Disney show tunes from movies ranging from The Lion King and The Little Mermaid to many others. After he finished playing, both musician and the massive antique Wurlitzer gilted 2500 pipe organ (built in 1928) were lowered below the stage. 

The Lion King at El Capitan Theater Hollywood
Me and Janis at El Capitan Theater, Hollywood

Then the curtains rose, augmented by a light show and lots of glitz to reveal a majestic backdrop echoing the vibe of the movie's Pride Lands setting. Other audience perks unique to El Capitan showings of The Lion King include an immersive mural wall, a gigantic Pride Rock photo op on stage and other photo opps with Pumbaa and Timon. 

The Lion King Dad Musafa Son Simba
Images Courtesy of Disney

Memorable, Engaging Characters 

No matter where you see this new Disney action adventure drama, whether in 3D like we did or in standard format, you will be enchanted by all the beloved characters. 

Returning from the 1994 original movie are all the talking African savanna animals, from regal dad King Mufasa (James Earl Jones), plucky Simba (Donald Glover), lion love interest Nala (Beyonce Knowles-Carter), adult male hyena Kamari (Keegan-Michael Key), and the eccentric, Zazu (John Oliver), to my own personal favorite: the hilarious duo of Timon and Pumbaa who are introduced to the audience through a particularly comical scene. 

No spoilers in this review, you’ll have to see the movie for yourself to see what happens. As is typical in many Disney family movies, this one has different sets of elements  -- visuals, dialogue, music, and some of the most magnificent and beautiful CGI effects -- meant to appeal toward grownups and children. Adults will laugh like hyenas at the sophisticated humor while kids will love all the fun songs and giggle at the human-like animal interactions. 

Disney The Lion King Movie Poster
Image Courtesy of Disney

The Storyline

Even if you're familiar with the original animated movie storyline, which the new film follows fairly closely, you will be in suspense and on the edge of your seat the whole time. Filled with dramatic scenes one after the other, from to evil hyenas chasing down the young Simba and Nala, to the infamous stampede in the gorge, the action, drama and excitement keeps the story moving forward at a brisk pace.

Parental Discretion for Very Young Children

Keep in mind that unlike the G-rated 1994 The Lion King which you may remember from your childhood, the 2019 Lion King remake is rated PG and is directed by Jon Favreau who also directed Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2010). Though there is no profanity in the new version, there are some quite frightening, intense and violent scenes. So parents may want to consult the IMDB Parents Guide to evaluate how appropriate this is for the young cubs in your own pride.

Simbavati Private Reserve Savanna Baby Lion South Africa
Savanna and Lion Cub, Simbavati Private Reserve, South Africa

CGI and Production

Part of what makes this such an outstanding work of art to watch on the big screen is largely thanks to the incredible attention to CGI animation details throughout the project. One of the most astonishing scenes that stands out in my mind is when Mufasa and Scar are talking and you can see them visibly breathing just as real lions do. 

It's also worth noting that whenever any of the characters spoke, without fail, the animals’ lip movements were perfectly aligned with the dialogue. At times I found myself questioning if the herd of zebras was footage of actual zebras or whether it was computer generated. The visual effects in this movie are so realistic, making the animals and the various savanna environments absolutely breathtaking. 

Zebra Preservation Kruger National Park South Africa
Zebra at Simbavati Private Reserve, South Africa

The sound recording setup for this film was unlike the traditional approach often taken in earlier animated films. Rather than have the actors just stand behind music stands and read their lines into microphones, filmmakers constructed what they refer to as a “black box theater.” 

The idea behind the black box theater was to allow the actors more creative license to act, rather than just read from the script on specially-built stage for recording the film while also being photographed with multiple cameras as they spoke. The photos taken were then shared with the creative team to help guide characters’ minute movements during the animation process.

Go Behind the Scenes: Watch Disney's The Wild Cat Featurette now

About The Lion King

You can catch Simba and the rest of the gang on the big screen nationwide at theaters near you, starting July 19, 2019. Special showings with photo opps and more fun at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood run from July 18 through September 2. Learn more about The Lion King on the official movie site or by following the movie on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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