The Lion King

Year: 2019
Studio: Disney
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Jeff Nathanson
Cast: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Earl Jones, Alfre Woodward, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Amy Sedaris

If you know anything about my moviegoing tastes you might wonder what possessed me to watch a movie like this that contained the two genres I most dislike; kids films and musicals.

The only reason is because of an interest in the advances of VFX, and everything on screen indeed looks like stuff that wasn't possible even a few years ago. The remit by Disney and director Jon Favreau has obviously been to use animation to create talking and singing creatures, lighting and environments with a 100 percent photoreal look, and he and his creative engineers have achieved it in spades.

That's an achievement in itself, but it's not the end of the story. The subtler achievement has been in making talking animals look not just photographically real, but convince us that if animals really did talk, sing and dance, that this is what it would look like. The bigger challenge ahead of them – bigger than the photorealism, in a way – was to find the sweet spot between the way animals really move and vocalise and the way humans emote and express themselves through facial muscles and speech.

Human words being formed by human mouths and facial expressions aren't easily translatable to animal digital models, and if they'd got it wrong it would have been very jarring. I'll bet getting it right consumed a large amount of the resources and skills of the animators while other elements like foliage, weather, the environment, water and background creatures were comparatively easy on the software algorithms.

But there the interest (for me) ends. Everything else is the same story as the 1994 original, with the added torture of even more songs, most notably that I Just Can't Wait to be King one from the stageshow – proof Favreau, Disney and Co knew exactly what beats they had to hit to propel audience goodwill through the roof.

I on the other hand would have been happier with a much shorter sizzle reel, but it's worth seeing to witness the current bleeding edge of what moviemaking technology can do, and (particularly after hearing him talk about it on a recent podcast), Favreau might be among the vanguard of filmmakers to take us further into the future.

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