Friday, August 9, 2019

The Lion King Fails Because of Fake ‘Animal Actors’

The death of Mufasa scene, leaked online, has to be one of the most cringe-inducing scenes

Is the new 2019 version of The Lion King live action or animation?

For some reason, people keep endlessly debating this, and even the film’s director Jon Favreau doesn’t seem to be sure.

“It’s difficult, because it’s neither, really.

There’s no real animals and there’s no real cameras and there’s not even any performance that’s being captured,” Favreau acknowledged. “There’s underlying [performance] data that’s real, but everything is coming through the hands of artists.”

 Favreau, however, thinks his film shouldn’t be considered an animated film simply because the characters aren’t stylized; instead, he wanted it to come off as “a BBC documentary, albeit one where the lions talk and sing.”

Which is actually pretty stupid.

The 2019 Lion King has, for the most part, opened up to mostly negative reviews from critics. As of right now it stands at a 53% negative rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 372 reviews, making it more poorly reviewed than Disney’s earlier ‘updated’ release  of Aladdin, and it is facing much ridicule by every Youtube review I’ve come across.
Of course, die hard Lion King fans are more forgiving, and the audience rating for the film on Rotten Tomatoes sits at a current 88%, which isn’t much of a shock. The film is also dominating at the box office and has already crossed the billion dollar mark worldwide, a feat it seemed destined for, reviews by darned.

From all of the reviews that I’ve read and watched, there seems to be 2 consistent complaints—the main one being that this film is a ‘shot-for-shot’ re-make that is unnecessary and artistically hollow, while the other is that the animal characters lack emotion.

I have not yet seen the film, however from the clips available online I can make a pretty safe guess that this re-make is awful.

 I was initially excited about the idea of a ‘live action’ film with only animals because it sounded unique. My thoughts were that this film would be live action only in the sense that it utilized CGI only when necessary, such as with Disney’s well-received re-make of The Jungle Book (also directed by Favreau), but since CGI is necessary for all of the characters, it would be more akin to Disney’s Dinosaur, which utilized real backgrounds. No one contests that Dinosaur is animated.
However, to my surprise, The Lion King was 100% CGI, except for one measly shot, the iconic sun rising over the savannah in the beginning, which was really done for Favreau’s amusement rather than for any artistic intentions. I expected at least the backgrounds to be real, and there was a missed opportunity to put real footage of African wildlife. Instead, the non-speaking background animals had the pixel-induced, streamlined fakeness of the main characters.

I wondered why. I know Disney has stopped using real ‘exotic’ animal actors in its productions to adapt to the entrenched animal rights ideology of today's society. They could however have filmed live animals without disturbing them in any way. Perhaps this was done because the presence of real animals would make the CGI stand out like a sore thumb. 

Despite the advances in technology, side by side, the differences between CGI and real animals will be apparent.

Ironically, I think many of the reviewers complaining of The Lion King’s non-originality are missing the point. This likely terrible film is original. I can see that the creators have really committed to making these animals not only look realistic, but also act like real animals. 

Observe the changes in The Circle Of Life. 

  • Sarabi, Mufasa, and Rafiki's happy faces are gone. 
  • Rafiki doesn't hold a stick like a human.
  • Mufasa and Rafiki don't hug.
  • Rafiki sits when he presents Simba, instead of standing like a human. As a result, Simba is just 'thrown' up and the great zoom in and edit to Simba rising from the animated version is gone.

Viewers have noted that the popular ‘Be Prepared’ sequence has been watered down (no goose-stepping hyenas), Timon doesn’t dance the hula (he literally just stands there, signing a different Disney-inspired song), and in the ‘Hakuna Matata’ sequence, Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa just walk throughout the whole thing. All of the 'cartoon action' is absent.

It’s clear to me that the creators wanted a real animal interpretation of The Lion King, and while they have succeeded with their commitment, it really was an abysmal failure of an idea. Real animal behavior adds nothing of value to this very human-esque, Hamlet-inspired musical. 

Many of the most important scenes that are supposed to be the most dramatic and emotionally devastating come off as looking silly as a result. The realism amounts to an expensive gimmick.

There may also be a hidden agenda to this awful decision to remove the anthropomorphic qualities of these characters.

The film’s director has been lauded by PETA for using no animal actors in The Jungle Book and has now been praised for doing the same with The Lion King, even having a ‘rescued’ lion named after him. Favreau had apparently said:

"The fact that technology can make it look so photo-real, it becomes harder and harder to make a case that you need to actually put animals in danger when making movies."

I’m guessing Favreau was only referring to movie studios that have gargantuan budgets to play with.
Regardless, the new Lion King film is definitely animated, although it is pretending to be otherwise. I find it interesting that while real animals certainly lack expression, I find real animal actors to be more effective for some reason, such as in this scene from Homeward Bound, a great 90’s film.

Disney’s movies are changing with the times. Another ‘improvement' made to The Lion King was an obvious pandering attempt to make the cast predominately black, as though black Americans are needed to represent African animals, something everyone in the black community should be insulted by, but I digress.

Unfortunately, along with screwy social cajoling, animal rights appear to be the new ‘standard’ of morality for films, as the thankfully critically-reviled, flopped Dumbo remake has shown us.

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