Disney unveiled the stunning first footage from their anticipated live-action remake of The Lion King on Saturday (July 15) at D23, the studio's fan expo, in Anaheim, California. Over 7,000 fans in Hall D23 were treated to a scene from director Jon Favreau’s new take on Disney’s 1994 animated classic.
The sequence, a visual feast, was basically a shot-for-shot remake of the original opening set to "Circle of Life," but it still brought the euphoric crowd to its feet. Last year, Favreau brought the animated characters of The Jungle Book to life, and in many ways, the animals of The Lion King looked similar in the footage we saw at D23 — incredibly life-like, though distinctively anamorphic. Rafiki still has that knowing glint in his eyes.
The scene opens with the sun rising over a photo-realistic African landscape, as "Circle of Life," the iconic song from Elton John and Tim Rice, kicks in. The animals of the Pride Lands gather together to meet their young prince for the first time. It follows all of the familiar beats — Rafiki cracks open the coconut and places a marking on baby Simba's head to symbolize his noble birth, Simba sneezes, and finally, Simba is lifted into the air and introduced to his future kingdom on Pride Rock.
However, that doesn’t mean Favreau doesn’t have anything new to add to Simba’s story. This was just a small taste of what’s to come, as the film is still in production. As of yet it’s also unclear how Favreau plans to balance the CGI animation with the live-action elements. But one thing is certain: The technology team behind the movie are introducing all-new filmmaking techniques that promise to bring these celebrated characters to life in a whole new way. So be prepared.
"This is a story that belongs to everyone who grew up with the original film," Favreau told the crowd at D23. "I wanted to demonstrate that we could be respectful of the source material while bringing it to life using new techniques and technologies."
Starring Donald Glover as Simba, James Earl Jones reprising the role of Mufasa, and Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as "Hakuna Matata" masters Timon and Pumbaa, Favreau's live-action version of The Lion King is slated for release on July 19, 2019.