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Why The Lion King will blow everyone away this summer

The world will return to Pride Rock when The Lion King storms into theaters this summer — but how will it be received? One of the brightest stars of the storied Disney Renaissance, the original 1994 animated classic is as beloved as a film can be. Everyone knows the songs. Everyone knows the jokes. Everyone cries when Simba nudges his father's body, laughs as he lives the bachelor life with Timon and Pumbaa, and finally, rejoices when he accepts his duty as king and dispatches his usurping uncle.

How can any remake possibly measure up? By accepting the necessity of change, deploying some fabulous new animation technology, and assembling a team of stars so incomparably talented, audiences would probably line up just to see them indulge in some Lion King karaoke. Here are ten reasons why 2019's The Lion King will absolutely dominate the summer movie season... because, after all, we just can't wait for Simba to be king.

Every cast member is a superstar in their own right

The 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast was always going to do well. Disney's 1991 animated version is a beloved family classic, a generational icon, and a timeless fairy tale. But it didn't hurt that luminaries like Emma Watson, Audra McDonald, and Ewan MacGregor were involved. Talent makes a movie, casting determines talent, and in our switched-on age, famous faces accompany us from dawn til dusk. Who didn't feel a thrill of excitement when they realized Hermione would be playing Belle? The golden ball gown! The iconic songs! Fans devotedly followed the film's development, and catapulted it to a worldwide gross in the billions.

We're seeing the same thing play out as Aladdin enchants audiences all over the world — Will Smith incited interest from the day his casting was announced. But where previous live-action Disney remakes have had only a few noteworthy names, The Lion King has nothing but absolute superstars. They span genre and medium, from the megawatt phenomenon that is Beyoncé to the TV, movie, and music-conquering power of Donald Glover. 

But it's not just them. This is a film that also includes the likes of Keegan-Michael Key, Alfre Woodard, and John Kani. The Lion King will include celebrated playwrights, pop sensations, and comedians with obsessive followings. There is no one involved without a fanbase to call their own, in fact, and they're bringing them all to bear on one of the most beloved stories of the past few decades.

It will take computer animation to astonishing new heights

Trailblazing feats of animation aren't anything new for Disney. From Snow White's frenzied flight through the dark forest to Moana's breathtaking voyage across the sea, no one brings the world to joyous, terrifying, vibrant life like the House of Mouse. Computer imaging has taken their artistry to new heights, especially with regards to the recent run of live-action remakes. Maleficent's phosphorescent moors and Beauty and the Beast's dancing heirloom china blurred the line between the real world and imagination magnificently.

The Lion King will take this technology to truly unforeseen heights, however. Unlike Maleficent, Aladdin, The Jungle Book, or Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King is set in a world without human actors taking up the screen. Every character will be a photo-realistic animal, their world a wonderland rooted in the actual African savanna. This is an enormous challenge for the studio to take on, as a human face is a reliable way to give the audience some emotional footing in a film, especially when they are denying themselves the outsize expressive capabilities of traditional animation. The Lion King will be something new, taking risks we've not yet seen. What will this amount to? No one quite knows, but it's bound to be spectacular.

It will take its cues from The Jungle Book

Despite their blockbuster success, the Disney live action remakes have been met with critical confusion. Aladdin, currently sweeping audiences up in a whirl of Arabian splendor and Will Smith's patented patter, has garnered middling reviews. Same goes for Maleficent, and even the ballyhooed Beauty and the Beast. They're not ever really, truly, stinkers, but it's hard to deny that they haven't exactly reached the artistic peaks of their predecessors. They are, by nature, retreads, and that tends to show underneath the polished animation and exclusive new songs.

The Jungle Book bucked this trend in a big, unprecedented way. Heralded as a charming and soulful revisit to a classic story, it showed off its CG muscles while remaining rooted in the wonder of nature, boyhood, and old-fashioned adventure. The Jungle Book reminded critics and audiences of why we do remakes at all: because some stories manage to remain timeless and malleable, combining the best of the old and the new in one cinematic experience. The Lion King was greenlit after The Jungle Book's triumph, and is looking to it as an explicit inspiration. With that film acting as its guiding light, it could manage to chart a course to untold success.

Jon Favreau has a wealth of directorial experience

Some directors devote themselves to actualizing one very particular vision. Would it really be a Wes Anderson movie without beautifully composed symmetry and muted pastels? Some have a style, like Stanley Kubrick, that can be refracted in everything from tense thrillers like The Shining to wondrous meditations like 2001: A Space Odyssey. And then there are filmmakers like Jon Favreau, with skills so durable that his filmography feels more like it's posing a question than making a statement: what can't he do? We've got tear-jerkers like Rudy. We've got Iron Man, that which begat the MCU. We've got Elf, well on its way to holiday-classic status. And he can act, portraying Happy Hogan, long-suffering assistant to Tony Stark and devoted Downton Abbey fan. He's not just talented — he's multifaceted.

What makes itself clear, when viewing his filmography, is his confidence in balancing comedy and action. And comedy and action, mounted on the steel skeleton of betrayal and coming-of-age heroism, is exactly what makes up The Lion King. Who else can we trust to depict the fateful wildebeest stampede with the correct amount of terror and verve while also breathing lighthearted zest into every scene starring Timon and Pumbaa? What is the man who brought quip-machine Tony Stark to the screen going to do with Zazu and Rafiki? The Lion King's a classic, but Favreau is more than experienced when it comes to handling that kind of precious cargo.

Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen will bring something new to Timon and Pumbaa

The nostalgic appeal of the Disney remakes is also its curse. They are, inherently, movies that have to stand against a backdrop of precious memories. Witness the kerfuffle over Will Smith's casting as the Genie. Now that it's in theaters, audiences and critics alike have found his performance to be one of the strongest parts of the movie — but a scant few months ago, no one had anything good to say about his take.

Smith succeeded by bringing something totally new to his character, and The Lion King is set to do this too — especially when it comes to Timon and Pumbaa. Brought to immortal life by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, they were an all-star comedic duo from the start. Now we've got Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen on deck to play the meerkat and the warthog respectively, and though their repertoires do riff off the broad themes of the characters, so too do they bring a lot that's new. What will Billy Eichner do with Timon's unforgettable hula dance? Will we hear Seth Rogen bust out the high notes for Pumbaa's memories of being a friendless young warthog? Will Smith has paved the way for them — they have only to amble across it with a hearty Hakuna Matata.

An incredible trio of actors will be playing the hyenas

The hyenas have one of the most important arcs in The Lion King. They begin as truly loathsome creatures, scavengers and borderline lunatics who do Scar's villainous bidding out of greed. But in their humor, camaraderie, and growing understanding of the way in which they are being used, the hyenas become more than henchmen. When they finally take down Scar, immune to his pleas for help and promises of riches still to come, you cheer them on.

The filmmakers behind the remake clearly agree, because they cast three powerhouse actors as the hyenas: Florence Kasumba, Eric Andre, and Keegan-Michael Key. Individually, they shine as some of the brightest stars in the firmament. Andre's surrealist humor has made him the subject of multiple memes, Key's comedy is so potent that even President Obama got in on it, and Florence Kasumba introduced to the world to the Dora Milaje in high style as Ayo in Captain America: Civil War and the subsequent Black Panther. With all that in mind, imagine what kind of magic they'll make together. These are actors of unique flexibility, with experience as part of ensembles large and small. All that power corralled into three explosive characters? Now we're talking Disney magic.

The royal family will be played entirely by absolute legends

The hyenas aren't the only character group to be stacked with stars, however. The heaviest hitters are those depicting the royal family... and oh, how royal a family it promises to be. We've got the old guard, which is, quite frankly, a pantheon of actual Hollywood royalty. James Earl Jones, a man who truly could not be replaced, reprises his role as Mufasa. Alfre Woodard will play Sarabi, Mufasa's mate and Simba's mother, bringing the natural regality that has garnered her decades of critical acclaim to the fore. Chiwetel Ejiofor will bring the acumen that netted him an appointment by Queen Elizabeth II as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire to the sinister Scar.

But the youngsters dazzle as well. Donald Glover, conqueror of music, television, and movies alike, will bring his charm and tenderness to the young prince with the same skill he brought to the Grammy-winning "This is America." Nala will be played by Beyoncé, who is, well, Beyoncé. Despite the fact that she is one of the most respected and game-changing artists of this generation, she and Glover share the same greenhorn acting status when stood against Jones, Woodard, and Ejiofor. This will be the energy the film feeds on: the tension of youth versus experience, the pressures of leadership, and the endurance of family. This cast is so stacked, they might make that balancing act look easy.

It will premiere "a new form of filmmaking"

We're all going to be heading into The Lion King with high expectations of visual splendor. We want to see Mufasa's mane ripple in the wind before he plummets to his doom. We want to see the hyenas' eyes bulge with crazed mirth as they fall into Scar's loathsome line. We want to see how Timon and Pumbaa's antics shake out against a very real backdrop. We want, in short, that good ol' Disney magic.

But even those expectations might be pegged too low. Sean Bailey, Disney's President of Production, told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that what we'll see in The Lion King constitutes "a new form of filmmaking." He elaborated, "Historical definitions don't work. It uses some techniques that would traditionally be called animation, and other techniques that would traditionally be called live action. It is an evolution of the technology Jon used in Jungle Book." This won't be something we've seen before, nor will it be entirely divorced from the legacy of Disney animation. It will exceed our hopes, because our hopes have been determined by concepts of animation that do not apply. Now that's something to get hyped for.

The music will bring Elton John, Hans Zimmer, and Beyoncé together

Collaboration will be key to much of The Lion King's success, as we've established. A blend of actors, generations, and genres will make it the dominant force it is likely to become. But there's one area left that deserves its own spotlight. It's not a classic Disney film without an unforgettable soundtrack, and The Lion King has one of the most iconic. Even the classic Beach Boys hit "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is now forever liked to Timon and Pumbaa — all you need to do is start chanting "a-weema-wey, a-weema-wey," in a crowded room, and someone, from virtually any walk of life, will burst in with "in the jungle, the mighty jungle ..." And that's before you even get to the unforgettable original songs. From the sunshiny boasts of "I Just Can't Wait to be King" to the terrifying call-to-arms that is "Be Prepared," its soundtrack remains unparalleled.

Luckily, Disney has assembled a team that can equal the original in talent, creativity, and sheer zeal. Elton John will be returning, fresh off the success of his already highly feted biopic Rocketman. Hans Zimmer, initially skeptical of "ruining things through improvement," was ultimately persuaded to return to the score in the interest of expanding upon his 1994 work. And then, of course, there is Beyoncé. Not only will she voice Nala, she will be collaborating with John on the reworking of the soundtrack, creating a new song alongside him and lyricist Tim Rice for the ending credits. This isn't gilding the lily — it's growing an entirely new and glorious flower.

It won't be a shot-for-shot remake

The first trailer had many viewers concerned over this iteration of The Lion King being a shot-for-shot remake. Jon Favreau quickly set the record straight, noting that certain shots are "so iconic" that they will be remade faithfully, but that these encompass only a fraction of the movie. Part of the point of the remake, he went on to say, is to expand upon what made the original film great, maintaining a balance between old and new.

The low points of the remade Disney films have largely come from the sort of mindless fealty found in shot-for-shot revamps — we remember Prince Charming's updated personality and Maleficent's varied wardrobe far more than what we'd already seen before. That Favreau knows this is welcome news to stalwart fans and indicates good things about the movie's future. Nobody wants something totally different, nor entirely the same — we want balance. And balance is what this team aims to deliver.