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Jon Favreau Sings on to Direct a Live-Action LION KING

Posted on September 28, 2016 at 11:00 am by David "Snackbar" Edmundson

the-lion-king-slice-600x200Well I suppose this was inevitable. Disney is now firmly moving forward with a live-action adaptation of The Lion King, and they’re turning to director Jon Favreau to spearhead the project. Walt Disney Studios announced today that it is joining forces with its The Jungle Book helmer on “a new reimagining” of The Lion King, which is on the fast track to production. The film will feature songs from the iconic 1994 film, but beyond that no other specifics are given.

The move comes as Disney has found immense success in mining its prior animated features for new films. Maleficent was the soft-opening, but things truly flourished with Kenneth Branagh’s sumptuous Cinderella and continued with Favreau’s CG/live-action hybrid The Jungle Book, which is one of the year’s biggest hits as it has amassed $965 million at the worldwide box office. Filmmaker David Lowery’s lovely, earnest Pete’s Dragon failed to reach the same box office heights in August but garnered critical praise, and Disney is poised to dive into millennial nostalgia territory for the first time with next March’s Beauty and the Beast, which sounds like it’s serving as a bit of a template for The Lion King.

Directed by Dreamgirls director Bill Condon, Beast features both classic and new songs and is maintaining the musical aspect of the animated film. It sounds like that’ll be the case with The Lion King, which should come as good news to fans who were disappointed by the lack of full musical numbers in The Jungle Book.

the-lion-king-image1-600x338With The Jungle Book, Favreau did a tremendous job of blending CG characters and environments with his live-action Mowgli, pushing technology to its limits, and Disney was so happy with the results that they quickly set Favreau to helm a sequel. While he’s attached to both The Jungle Book 2 and The Lion King, it appears that the latter is his next film, as Favreau tweeted today he’s excited for his “next project” with appropriate Lion King emojis.

The liveliness of the CG animals in The Jungle Book was truly stunning, so I have no doubts that Simba, Mufasa, and Nala will come to vivid life in Favreau’s new version of The Lion King. The original film is one of Disney’s best, garnering immense critical praise and spawning a hit Broadway musical. It was only a matter of time before Disney dove into the Lion King well, but given that we now know the technology to bring “live-action” animal characters to life is sound, there’s little reason to fret. Moreover, Disney has shown a willingness to allow its filmmakers plenty of creative freedom on these live-action updates, so while this is absolutely a smart business decision, there’s also reason to be hopeful for the quality of a new Lion King movie.

Release dates for The Lion King or The Jungle Book 2 have not yet been announced, but this past April Disney staked out release dates for two “Untitled Disney Live Action” films for August 3, 2018 and December 25, 2018. If I were a betting man, I’d say that Christmas 2018 date is prime real estate for a big Lion King redo.

Disney also has in development live-action redos of Dumbo (which has Tim Burton directing), Mulan, Tinker Bell, Aladdin, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, The Sword in the Stone, and Cruella. It’s probably only a matter of time before we see Pocahontas or Hercules live-action reboots announced.

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