In this edition of John and Kelly React!, we pull apart The Lion King trailer, comment on rumors of Tom Hanks playing Geppetto in a Pinocchio live action, and discuss the benefits and downside to all of these Disney live-action remakes!
Kelly: So about that Lion King trailer.
John: YUP. My first initial reaction was total surprise. Not at the trailer itself but the fact that it came out. I was literally eating a turkey leg as the triumphant chant went off. After dinner, I actually took an actual focused look at the trailer and I am of many minds on it. I am impressed with it on a technical level.
Kelly: Lots of thoughts, so bear with me. I was about to shove this into the “Underwhelmed” category until The Circle of Life kicked in. It sounds like they did the smart thing and kept most of the Lebo M. version as it’s one of the most iconic and epic movie songs of all time. I think they showed the scale of the movie extremely well to match the grandeur of the song, particularly with the images of Pride Rock and Simba’s footprint in Mufasa’s. You might give me flack for this, but I thought the James Earl Jones’ voiceover was kind of lame and extremely predictable, with the exception of the lines “Everything the light touches is our kingdom” and “Remember who you are.” I think they could have done right away with the first line, straight into the song, then the “Remember who you are.”
I get that doesn’t provide too much context of what the movie is about, but let’s remember that the first trailer for the animated version was literally JUST The Circle of Life and nothing else. If Lebo M. doesn’t give you chills and a good sense of what to expect, you have no heart. How did you like the look of it.
John: Disney pretty much is owning the monopoly on photorealistic animals. (Sorry Weta). But I have to say I am in the bitter animation twitter camp. If you look at the sides by sides it’s clear to me that they’re desire for “realism” is doesn’t include expressive color. I for one am not entirely impressed they did a shot for shot redo of the original, and I’m hoping that that is the only instant of it in the film. I get it, you want to pull on the people’s nostalgia, but its super cheap and creatively lackluster. That isn’t to say the animators and the rendering isn’t impressive. It really is. I just think if you’re going to redo classic movies, I’m not going to get excited over imitation.
However, I also acknowledge that this is a teaser and potentially there maybe twists in the finished film. I also think that I might give it more of a chance when I see the actual performances instead of a tech demo.
Kelly: I agree wholeheartedly with the lack of color. The little we saw of the characters faces, aside from Rafiki, is that they seemed to lack a lot of the expressiveness I was expecting. It’s very murky looking. Meanwhile, the shots of Pride Rock are incredibly attention grabbing and not just because of the landscape. It just bursts with a celebrative feeling, which is what the trailer really called for.
John: Despite everything, I really like the poster. It’s a great image. Granted I think it would have been just as/more effective to just have a shot of the paw by itself.
Kelly: Do you know of they are doing mocap?
John: I don’t believe so. Pretty sure they are using the same tech they did for The Jungle Book remake. The Jungle Book‘s character animation was pretty effective so I hope they keep it up with this one. It was photorealistic but also able to emote when needed.
Kelly: I still need to see that.
John: It is better than the original, which wasn’t that hard to pass honestly.
Kelly: The live action or the animated?
John: The Disney live action.
Kelly: I’m partial to that one, particularly because of Cary Elwes and Lena Headey.
John: It’s a bit on the nose for Favreau to go from Jungle Book to Lion King. Perchance we see Robin Hood next?
Kelly: We just had a Robin Hood and it was terrible. Not because it was lacking a fox but that actually might have helped. We need at least five years to cycle that out.
John: I am so fan casting that. But back to Lion King. I think I might give it a chance when I see how the actual performances are done in the film, not only from the actors but how it’s animated. Now, the thing this movie really has going for it is the cast.
Kelly: Anyone aside from Glover you are hyped about? I’d say Chiwetel Ejiofer since they put Be Prepared back in, as well as the three hyenas. Keegan Michael Key, especially.
John: Chiwetel was in my top 2 picks so I am excited to see how that’ll turn out. Also, John Oliver, even though this is the most typecast-typecasting I have ever seen.
Kelly: Yeah that was an obvious one. Wait, who did you have for Scar aside from Chiwetel?
John: David Oyelowo was my top pick, but Chiwetel is just as good. Also, our man Donald Glover- that has me all kinds of hype. He’s been breaking out in side roles but this is going to be his springboard into movie stardom. If he jumps into theatre next, I would not be the least bit surprised.
Kelly: Oh dude. I wish Daniel Pudi voiced a hyena. Now with the music and considering the talent they have, I wouldn’t be surprised if they grabbed some of the songs from the Broadway show. Specifically, Grassland Chants and I’d be pumped if He Lives in You made it in.
John: That’s a great song. Just as long as they keep out The Morning Report.
Kelly: But… but… John Oliver… Singing…
John: It’s such a time waster though. They cut it out for a reason.
Kelly: And they put it back in the show! And they can show off all the feathers!
John: It’s a filler song!
Kelly: Technically, so is Satisfied.
John: Boo. Regardless, some folks have addressed that they aren’t feeling Donald Glover’s singing. What do you think?
Kelly: Is there a sample? Any clips so far?
John: No but, he did a whole album that was just singing.
Kelly: Ah, yes, I like that one.
John: I personally like his voice but understand it has limited range.
Kelly: Oh. Yeah, well. I’m not worried. There’s no heavy lifting in the Lion King. Plus, that’s why they hired Beyoncé.
John: Pretty sure he just has a couple of lines in Can You Feel the Love Tonight? and that’s it.
Kelly: Exactly. Simba has a few lines in Hakuna Matata but it’s not Quasimodo quality. It’s barely John Smith quality.
John: I’m definitely predicting a Beyoncé rendition of that as a bonus track. Come to think of it, we’ll be graced by Seth Rogen’s voice.
Kelly: If we can sidetrack for a bit, speaking of Disney Live Action remakes and perfect castings- rumor has it Tom Hanks is going to play Gepetto in a Pinocchio remake. It makes so much sense that it’s absurd. I don’t think anyone else could get that twinkle in their eye, except Hanks or Kurt Russell. And Kurt Russell is too busy playing Santa. It would be confusing.
John: I am ok with this, as much as the abundance of these live-action remakes is getting tiresome. Tom Hanks is playing a man up in years with a heart of gold??? It’s almost typecasting! Honestly, it’s not surprising they want him for this. He was bound to show up in one of these remakes sooner or later. And Pinocchio is a concept that’s only worked a few times so it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with
Kelly: Would it be weird for Woody to be a human? You don’t think that’s too on the nose? I have questions and am looking forward to all the fan theories that pop up from this. W+B=P
John: What if the toys in Toy Story are the reincarnated souls of dead people? TO REDDIT!!!
Kelly: I feel like we should be high for this conversation.
John: “Yo. . . .what if . . . .we’re the universe’s toys?”
Kelly: What if Andy is Gepetto? Wait. This makes sense. Since Woody is Andy’s, it would make sense for Andy to have given all the toys, including Woody, their voices. Woody’s voice is Andy’s at an older age. And Andy is Gepetto. He could never get away from toys. Then in his old age, he had a “son” aka dementia. THERE I’VE SOLVED IT.
John: Yeah but Pinocchio takes place in like a European village in the 1800s maybe?
Kelly: No reason why they can’t change the timeframe. Or if that’s the case, Geppetto is an ancestor of Andy’s, at the very least.
John: Unless you want to throw in time travel. Which the Pixar theory accounts for
Kelly: Now what I’m curious about in hearing this Pinocchio remake is the mix of live action with the animation. Maybe something a la Alita: Battle Angel? I would hope at least a little more cartoony.
John: Pinocchio CG? I wonder if they are going to double down on the creep factor. Disney’s Pinocchio is genuinely terrifying. The part when one of the boys transforms into a donkey was pure nightmare fuel.
Kelly: I think it’s where they will try to stay away from that.
John: Del Toro has his coming out so he’ll give us the creep factor.
Kelly: His what?
John: Del Toro is making his own Pinocchio movie
Kelly: Oh really? Whaaat. Well. I guess it’s like that bootleg Little Mermaid, which I don’t think I remember anything about its release.
John: Del Toro’s will be more interesting if anything else.
Kelly: It’s a story that fits him, absolutely.
John: I can’t imagine that Disney is going to embrace some of the original film’s tone. Again. Legitimately terrifying. But it certainly is one of the most technically impressive 2D animated films ever made. Basically readers, before you see the remake, revisit these movies- most of them are great!
Kelly: I don’t think I’ve ever seen the whole thing. If I did, it was ages ago. I rarely went pre-1989 on those with the exception of the Princess ones. And The Fox and the Hound. And Oliver and Company.
John: It’s a bit of the more underappreciated works of the Disney canon. The iconography is everywhere but the movie doesn’t get a lot of hype. Probably cause of the nightmares.
Kelly: The current execs probably hated it when they were children. Do you think it deserves a remake?
John: Hmmm. I think I’m in the middle on this one. On the one hand remakes are just lazy when the movie is fine already. But also, Pinocchio is a property that isn’t super loved and a reinterpretation seems like an interesting idea. If these remakes NEED to happen, I’d rather them be on movies that either weren’t great or didn’t reach their full potential creatively. So, the prospect of a remake isn’t something I’m 100% against. It’s just that they are a complete cash grab on Disney’s part.
Kelly: Remakes of nonpopular works won’t get butts in seats. It’s not a profitable model.
John: Right. Honestly, it’s just the way of the business now.
Kelly: I think remakes are valuable if it’s providing something vastly different or improved.
John: Exactly. But usually that doesn’t happen. It’s rare for a remake to actually make that effort. The only example I can think of is King Kong by Peter Jackson. Sure, the man doesn’t know when some things need to be cut, but he expanded the movie to use Great Depression as a backdrop and make Anne a more developed character.
Kelly: I would put True Grit in there as well, plus I have hopes for West Side Story. But for technology and visual purposes, and not so much story improvements, say the 1998 version of The Mummy. You don’t think that remake of The Mummy was worth it?
John: Hmm. I can’t say for sure. Haven’t seen it in years. But it’s a damn good time.
Kelly: It was totally worth it! I’ve never seen the original though. I’m going based off time alone. The original was 1932. Even if the story wasn’t changed much (I’m not sure if it was), the CG was at least something that was great in 1998 and not available in the 30s. But I get what you’re saying. Remakes get tiring. I point at the Jurassic reboots for that. There is virtually no difference between the dilemmas in the first Park movie and the last 2 Worlds. And in this case, the technology and effects value are still GOOD in the first movie. Making it bigger and louder doesn’t mean better. I stand by that.
John: And you don’t think The Lion King remake is Disney making it bigger and louder?
Kelly: Well, case in point, The Lion King took from African culture without really studying it or making it relevant to the story and I think that’s something that can be blown wide open with the remake. What they did with B&B? Not so much. Cinderella, same. I just need that aspect that seems fresh or wholly creative/unique so it’s not like watching the source material again. Now visually for The Lion King, I don’t think Favreau will go shot for shot. He’s got a good eye to be innovative with it. That shot above the canyon just before the Stampede was similar, but not a carbon copy. I have a feeling The Jungle Book was just a test to see if The Lion King could happen.
John: True. Again, bitter animator in me thinks that The Lion King is some of Disney’s best work and it’s going to be hard not to compare. The Jungle Book animation was low tier Disney. The Lion King is in the big leagues.
Kelly: The shots of Rafiki breaking open the root and then spreading the powder across Simba’s head really got to me. It was very rich in texture. Pretty damn amazing stuff, even if it was a shot-for-shot ordeal. It makes me happy. Like conceptually, the original had a lot going for it that will only be enhanced with what they can provide in the CG. It’s a different from how I feel about or what I expected from Beauty and the Beast being shot for shot and I’m not sure why.
John: Except for colors apparently, but oh well.
Kelly: Those are also, from what I can tell, the night time scenes, which would be dark. Who knows what Hakuna Matata will look like… I Just Can’t Wait… From the Pride Rock shots, it looks colorful. I did notice- no shots of Scar! I think that’s a wise decision. Keep him a mystery.
John: Definitely. It’s best to save that for a more story driven trailer, even though we all know how the story plays out. Unless they like throw in the twist that Timon is the true heir or something.
Kelly: He’s a meerkat. How would that work?
John: They’ll make it work. Honestly, this movie bums me out. Like I can accept remakes as a concept. We are both fans of musical theatre and there are multiple versions and productions of certain shows, and remakes are sort of like that on a bigger scale. But at the end of the day, the Lion King was a miracle in itself that it even existed. Disney had no faith in it at all and pooled all of their main talent on Pocahontas. On top of that, a massive earthquake almost stopped production, but the animators kept working on the movie in their garages!
Kelly: Wait, what bums you out though?
John: I just feel like this remake can potentially overshadow a great film. It’s already happened with Beauty and the Beast. I have to explain to people that the Original is what I consider my favorite.
Kelly: Nah, I don’t think so. I think in these cases the original works are the standard and it’s just unfortunate they share the same name.
John: Even still. I would rather they re-release these movies than spend billions of dollars on remakes. But that’s just me. It would certainly be cheaper. Disney has always had a history of re-releasing their old movies. Last time I checked Snow White got 4 releases in theaters. Also, the idea of recycling 2D animated movies with a new coat of paint while 2D animation is pretty much dead as a mainstream art form is also a factor to me being bummed.
Kelly: Fair enough but you can’t blame technology for an evolved art form. That’s like holding CAD responsible for the shift or “downfall” of architecture.
John: That’s fair. Again, if it was a new concept Id have no problem. Moana is incredible, and so are other CG films. But it’s the idea of taking old properties you know?
Kelly: Well, I think everything is recycled to an extent. Even something as seemingly original as Moana– that’s not a new idea. It was something that was perfected overtime in multiple iterations- The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Mulan, even Enchanted. An original work- say the first Wreck It Ralph– would have been nothing if it didn’t draw upon inspiration. Everything has been influenced by something that stuck with the director or production team or whatever. Now in this case, it’s just a whole bunch more than usual.
John: There’s a huge difference between taking inspiration and remaking a property.
Kelly: But if they can remake A Star is Born 5 times, why not The Lion King? There’s virtually no difference.
John: Which, in all honesty could also be applied to the original Lion King. cough Kimba the White Lion cough
Kelly: Meh. The Seven Samurai was remade into The Magnificent 7 a bunch of times and they took all that and made A Bug’s Life so…
John: True. But it’s also the timing of it can also be a factor.
Kelly: What’s the timing in this case?
John: Like The Jungle Book remake isn’t that weird cause that animated movie came out in the 70s. Maybe it’s just my age showing but it feels too soon for The Lion King.
Kelly: Sure, but you kind of sound like a Star Wars fanboy.
John: Not even! But I concede.