It’s always weird seeing an animated movie — or, really, any of your favorite films — taken apart and reimagined in live action, or with new actors, or with a visual style unlike the original.
I expected to feel this way about the 2019 version of The Lion King, an upcoming CGI redux of Disney’s animated classic from director Jon Favreau. I grew up watching that movie on a loop daily, until the VHS (and later, the DVD) started to skip from wear. But lo and behold, the first full-length trailer for the movie is surprisingly captivating, a faithful adaptation of the traditionally animated 1994 original.
There’s Simba (Donald Glover), Timon (Billy Eichner), and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) bopping along through the wilderness as we see the young lion prince reach adulthood against the moonlight; Simba locking eyes with his childhood friend Nala (Beyoncé!) for the first time in years; and good ol’ Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) commanding Simba to abandon the kingdom that he is meant to inherit by rights. These snippets are instantly familiar to a Lion King stan like me and the rest of my Disney-obsessed generation.
Favreau, an actor-director most famously attached to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first flexed his Disney-remake muscles with 2016’s The Jungle Book. That film is certainly visually impressive, but as Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff wrote in his review, it “sometimes feels trapped between embodying a vision that hews closer to [Rudyard Kipling’s] original book and sating those who love the animated film.” That shouldn’t be the case for The Lion King, an original film in the Disney canon (heavily inspired by Hamlet, but unique nonetheless).
Although my love for The Lion King runs deep, I found myself pledging my loyalty to Favreau’s vision as soon as I saw mystical baboon Rafiki (John Kani) smudge his special red ink on Simba, a symbolic gesture that is one of the animated movie’s most powerful images. I am on board, folks — and maybe tearing up a little bit.
The Lion King is in theaters July 19.