The Lion King is a 2019 American musical drama film directed and produced by Jon Favreau, with a screenplay written by Jeff Nathanson, and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. It is a photorealistic computer-animated remake of Disney’s traditionally animated 1994 film of the same name. The film stars the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, as well as James Earl Jones reprising his original role as Mufasa.
Plans for a remake of The Lion King were confirmed in September 2016 following the success of the studio’s The Jungle Book, also directed by Favreau. Much of the main cast signed in early 2017 and principal production began in mid-2017 on a blue screen stage in Los Angeles.
The film is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on July 19, 2019. It received mixed reviews, with praise for its visual effects, score, and vocal performances, while receiving criticism for being derivative of the original and the lack of physical emotion from the animated characters.
Beginning on June 24, 2019 (which marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the original film), in its first 24 hours of pre-sales, The Lion King became the second-best pre-seller of 2019 on Fandango in that frame (behind Avengers: Endgame), while Atom Tickets reported it gave their best-ever first-day sales for a family film. Three weeks prior to its release, industry tracking projected the film would gross $150–170 million in its domestic opening weekend. By the week of its release, estimates had the film debuting to as much as $180 million from 4,500 theaters.
The film is expected to gross around $450 million over its first 10 days of global release, including $160–170 million from its worldwide opening weekend. In China, where it released a week prior to the U.S., the film was projected to debut to $50–60 million. It ended up opening to $54.2 million, besting the debuts of The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast.
All images courtesy of Disney Pictures
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 59% based on 158 reviews, and an average rating of 6.37/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Though it can take pride in its visual achievements, this reimagined The Lion King is a by the numbers retelling that lacks the energy and heart that made the original so beloved – though for some fans that may just be enough.”
Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 56 out of 100 based on 40 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”.
Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter considered it to be inferior to the original, noting, “The film’s aesthetic caution and predictability begin to wear down on the entire enterprise in the second half.”
A. A. Dowd, writing for The A.V. Club, summarized the film as “Joyless, artless, and maybe soulless, it transforms one of the most striking titles from the Mouse House vault into a very expensive, star-studded Disneynature film.” Dowd bemoaned the film’s insistence on realism, commenting, “We’re watching a hollow bastardization of a blockbuster, at once completely reliant on the audience’s pre-established affection for its predecessor and strangely determined to jettison much of what made it special.”
Scott Mendelson at Forbes condemned the film as a “crushing disappointment”: “At almost every turn, this redo undercuts its own melodrama by downplaying its own emotions.”
David Ehrlich of IndieWire panned the film, writing, “Unfolding like the world’s longest and least convincing deepfake, Jon Favreau’s (almost) photorealistic remake of The Lion King is meant to represent the next step in Disney’s circle of life. Instead, this soulless chimera of a film comes off as little more than a glorified tech demo from a greedy conglomerate — a well-rendered but creatively bankrupt self-portrait of a movie studio eating its own tail.”