The fine folks at Disney just gave us a last-minute holiday surprise by releasing the first trailer for its hotly anticipated live-action remake of the 1994 animated classic, The Lion King. The Mouse House sneakily didn't give any hint they were planning to debut the trailer. The only giveaway was a Thanksgiving Day Instagram post by actor J.D. McCrary, who voices Simba in the film.
(Spoilers for original film—and probably the remake—below.)
The original animated The Lion King was a smashing success, raking in $766 million worldwide at the box office to become the highest-grossing animated feature of all time. It won two Oscars for its music (by Hans Zimmer), spawned an equally successful long-running Broadway musical, plus a number of smaller spinoffs. In short, it's been nothing but a money-making machine for Disney over the last 24 years.
The plot likely remains unchanged. A baby lion cub named Simba is born to King Mufasa and Queen Sarabi, who rule over the Pride Lands of Africa from Pride Rock. Simba is being trained to take over his father's kingship when Mufasa passes, and is betrothed to a lioness named Nala. But his jealous uncle, Scar, covets the kingdom for himself. He sets a trap for the father and son, and Mufasa is killed. Scar convinces young Simba he is to blame for his father's death and urges him to flee. Simba does so, and Scar becomes king, with three obnoxious hyenas as his henchmen.
An iconic scene
Simba ends up bonding with a meerkat named Timon and a warthog named Pumbaa, who live by the motto "Hakuna Matata" ("no worries" in Swahili)—one of the film's many memorable tunes. And of course, he eventually realizes he must take on Scar and reclaim his throne.
The new trailer is basically a live-action re-enactment of the iconic opening scene, when baby Simba is christened and presented to his future subjects. With that soaring Zimmer score and sonorous narration by James Earl Jones (who reprises his role as Mufasa), it's designed to flood you with warm, fuzzy memories of the first time you saw the original.
Creating CGI live-action versions of its most popular animated films seems to be a trend for Disney of late (a live-action Aladdin is also in the works). Honestly, I'm not sure why it's necessary, given how terrific the original Lion King was. But you can't go wrong with such a stellar cast, including Donald Glover, Beyonce, John Oliver, Alfre Woodard, Seth Rogen, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
The Lion King hits theaters July 19, 2019, 25 years after the original animated feature's release.