Disney's ongoing quest to remake every single one of their animated movies in live-action continues, with "The Lion King" set to join a lineup that has already included 2014's "Maleficent," 2015's "Cinderella," and April 2016's "The Jungle Book." "Jungle Book" director Jon Favreau is onboard to direct the new movie.
While we're excited for this latest remake, we also know that Disney's track record in this area has been spotty so far. Here are five things the "Lion King" remake needs to do if it's going to live up to the beloved original.
1. Make It a Musical
To date, most of Disney's live-action remakes have eschewed the iconic soundtracks of the original animated versions and gone the completely musical-free route. Even "Jungle Book" only borrowed two of the songs from the 1967 version. But based on early reports, it sounds like the "Lion King" remake will include several songs from the original.
As far as we're concerned, musicals are a case where filmmakers need to go all-in or not bother at all. We don't want to see another case like "The Jungle Book," where one really fun Christopher Walken-led musical number completely flips the tone of the movie for five minutes. We want to see all of our favorites from the original "Lion King," including "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," "Hakuna Matata" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight".
2. Find Great Voice Actors
The original "Lion King" stood out for many reasons, but the talented voice cast was a big factor. Between James Earl Jones' regal Mufasa, Jonathan Taylor Thomas' spunky Simba and Jeremy Irons' deliciously evil Scar, the film really does boast one of the best casts in Disney history.
The remake has a lot to live up to in that regard. Jon Favreau and his crew need to focus a lot of attention on finding voice actors who can bring these characters to life and bring depth and pathos to talking safari animals -- much he did with the cast of "Jungle Book." We almost wonder if Disney isn't better off bringing the original cast back, but ultimately, the remake needs to establish its own identity.
3. No Humans, Please
"Lion King" is fairly unique in that the movie features an entirely animal cast. There's no plucky young child hero teaming up with the lions or evil poacher trying to steal elephant ivory. The original had no need for humans in its story, and we see no reason why the remake would, either.
Consider the example of "Wall-E." While that film is undoubtedly one of the greatest additions to the Pixar canon, it's hard to deny that the film loses some of its luster when the human characters start intruding on the love story between Wall-E and EVE. We'd hate to see something similar happen for "Lion King."
4. Leave Room for Some Surprises
With the original "Lion King" ranking among the best entries in Disney's '90s renaissance, it goes without saying that this remake needs to honor its source material.
At the same time, we don't want to see a remake that simply recycles what came before with a fancy new coat of paint. The remake can re-purpose the old songs, but it can't just coast by using the same plot as before. It has to be able to surprise viewers who grew up watching and re-watching the VHS tape until it wore out.
Luckily, Favreau already set a strong example with "The Jungle Book." That remake is similar to the original in most respects, but it deviates in many ways as well. The ending is also completely different from the animated version. That's what we want to see from "Lion King."
5. Build a Shared Universe
Thanks to the "Avengers" movies, shared universes are all the rage these days. We're almost surprised that Disney hasn't leaned more heavily on its classic animated franchises to build a shared Disney universe. Outside of the "kingdom Hearts" video games, anyway.
But with Favreau helming "Jungle Book" and now "The Lion King," we wouldn't be surprised to see Disney start building some connections between these live-action remakes.
We don't necessarily need to see the Disney equivalent of Nick Fury assembling talking animal heroes to form the Disney Avengers, but it would be really neat to see actual continuity form between movies and for "The Lion king" to somehow reference the events of "The Jungle Book."