The Lion King recently joined the exclusive billion-dollar movie club, where it will mingle with Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, and Aladdin and laugh at all the other non-Disney titles, possibly from on top of a large rock. The remake has also surpassed the 1994 animated film in terms of gross, but not when adjusted for inflation. Or quality. The animators, including David Stephan, who worked on the 1994 Lion King are “kind of hurt” that “the stockholder is now in the room deciding what movies get made,” he said. “Disney’s now taken the cover off, and it’s now in your face: ‘Yeah, we just want to make money.’ That’s disappointing as an artist, from a studio that was founded on originality and art.”
The 2019 Lion King isn’t a complete shot-for-shot remake, though: it removed an iconic moment from the original, when Mufasa appears in the sky (“Remember who you are”). If you can squint, you can maybe make out Simba’s departed dad, but his face is largely obscured by clouds. Why was the scene changed when everything else in the movie is nearly the same?
“A lot of that had to do with the style of the movie,” VFX supervisor Elliot Newman told Yahoo! Entertainment. “It would have been jarring if Mufasa was suddenly standing up there in the sky, because everything else is so hyper-real. Jon [Favreau] was always saying that he didn’t want it to be a literal thing… and draw the perfect outline of Mufasa in the clouds. He wanted it to have some build-up and drama, so it would feel really epic.” The sequence was complicated to animate due to the complexities of the clouds, Newman explained, and the “scene was fluid right up until close to the end.”
I’m not the first person to point this out, and I won’t be the last as long as it keeps making money, but: does the talking animals movie need to be “hyper-real”? (I don’t blame the special effects team for this decision; they did a great job). Anyway, for no reason, here’s the Mufasa scene from the original.