"KEEP BUSTIN'."

The Lion King (2019)

I honestly wanted to see the LION KING quasi-live-action remake in the theater, but never managed to. Turns out it did okay without my money. But by waiting until now to review it I missed out on timely discussions of related issues about a pioneering studio turned monolithic corporation treating their legacy of hand drawn animation as just a shitty licensing library to be resold (and possibly replaced in the imagination of new generations) with more realistic imagery. I guess I addressed it in my review of the (actually) live action ALADDIN. Basically, I’m open to to enjoying these remakes on their own terms, but the whole idea of them is a bummer.

Now let’s get to a more controversial topic: I have never thought the original LION KING was very good. I know it’s a beloved classic, one of the highest grossing animated movies of all time, etc. I watch it once every 5-10 years hoping to like it better this time, but I always strike out. I liked the dramatic stuff, like everything having to do with Mufasa’s death, but I always thought the musical numbers, in addition to not being really my jam, were more of a distraction than a story. And I was not really into the farting warthog.

That’s actually why I had higher hopes for this movie than most. I do like the original JUNGLE BOOK, but was really impressed how well director Jon Favreau’s live-action-Mowgli/computer-animated-everything-else remake captured its playful spirit while expanding on its story (in part using material from the source material by Rudyard Kipling). I thought if he could do this with THE LION KING it could win me over.

Unfortunately, this is (from what I can remember) a much more direct translation from one form of animation to another. If there are major departures or additions to the story I didn’t notice them. They kept most of the songs and didn’t even change up the musical styles that much, despite having Beyonce and Donald Glover on lead vocals.

So, I guess I should just climb up on the gallows as I say this but it is my sincere belief that the problem with remaking THE LION KING is that you’re stuck with the story of THE LION KING. Otherwise the movie is fine.

Let’s start with the animation. I wish as much as anybody that 2D/drawn animated features would come back. It’s especially crazy that Disney doesn’t make them. And certainly that medium has many qualities that are impossible to achieve in the photorealistic form of animation they’re using here. But, you know, let’s allow room for a vice versa. It’s not just astounding as a technical achievement that they can make fur and muscle and eyeballs and sun beams and grass and reflections and everything look this real. There’s also subtleties like the darting movements of a mouse, the animal personality in the way the cubs run and wrestle and pounce, the art of communicating emotion on the face of an animal without being able to make them full-on smile or have eyebrows or something. I’m not saying it’s a cheat that the original chose to put them on all fours but anthropomorphize their facial expressions and gestures – it’s just a different approach to telling a fantasy story within the animal world. But I think this is a legitimate approach too, and possibly a bigger acting challenge for the animators to get across the same thing while generally sticking closer to real animal behavior. So those side-by-side “see, the one where they’re drawn smiling looks so much more like a smile” comparisons are bullshit, in my opinion. You’d get those same results putting Fly from BABE next to ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN or something. I’m not convinced.

Of course this is no BABE or PIG IN THE CITY, but it does have some of that novelty of seeing “real” animals of different species interact and politic and what not. Of course, it’s most exciting when they manage to make animal characters who are visually distinct. The droopy, emaciated Scar looks genuinely scary in a way I can only compare to Koba, the memorable villain from DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

It’s fun to see a familiar story translated into this different look. In scenes like the opening, where they mimic the original’s sunsets and gathering of the animals for the presentation of baby Simba, it’s stunningly beautiful and unlike anything that could be staged in reality.

And there is so much detail to make you feel surrounded by the Pridelands. One thing I kept noticing is that there are always bugs flitting around in the background, light reflecting off them, not bothering anybody, just doing whatever they do. Circle of life and all that.

The voice casting is mostly spot on. J.D. McCrary (Young Michael Jackson on an episode of American Soul) and Shahadi Wright Joseph (Zora from US) are compelling as the young Simba (son of the lion who is considered king of the area) and his best friend Nala. James Earl Jones (THE EXORCIST II)’s voice is noticeably weakening as he plays the king Mufasa, making me wonder if Simba was really his grandcub, but it was smart to bring him back. And Chiwetel Ejiofor (REDBELT) was a perfect choice for Scar, Mufasa’s brother who is a total scheming asshole and tyrant even though technically he’s right to be pissed off that a dumb little kid could become king instead of him.

He of course schemes to change that, first by reverse psychology-ing the cub into sneaking off to the elephant graveyard to be ambushed by his associates the hyenas, then by engineering a wildebeest stampede and letting Mufasa fall off a cliff. The first one not having worked, he guilts Simba into blaming and exiling himself. That’s when he befriends and cohabitates with self indulgent meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner, WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS) and farting warthog Pumba (Seth Rogen, “Bob,” one episode of Dawson’s Creek), who he really is raised by more than his own parents.

To me this is the most improved section of the movie, just because Eichner’s humor is more appealing to me than Nathan Lane’s, and Rogen is very good at playing lovable oafs. They got actual laughs out of me, despite what I believe is an increase in fart humor. Also “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” with Timon’s goofy vocals backed by a variety of life forms, is probly the best musical number in this one.

There’s one big setpiece that I don’t think is from the original (standby for me to be corrected) when a tuft of hair falls off of Simba and travels all the way back to the Pridelands, where Rafiki (John Kani, THE WILD GEESE) finds it. I hope Favreau sent a nice letter to Robert Zemeckis – that scene is a little like the feather in FORREST GUMP and alot like the ticket that blows out the window in THE POLAR EXPRESS. But in this one it not only blows in the wind and gets picked up and stuck to things – it actually gets eaten and shitted out at one point. Innovation. This is not a complaint – I think more filmatists, especially working in motion capture and projecting in 3D, should be learning from Zemeckis’s innovations in those areas.

(Speaking of Zemeckis, I was dreading the possibility of a remake for my favorite Disney movie, PINOCCHIO, until they said he was doing it. Fingers crossed.)

Unfortunately, after Simba grows up (still in a dissolve while crossing a bridge) we discover the movie’s most unexpected weakness: I didn’t really like hearing Donald Glover and Beyonce as Simba and Nala.

Don’t get me wrong – I love both of these people. Glover’s FX show Atlanta and Beyonce’s longform video of Lemonade are easily among my favorite non-movie pieces of art this decade. And I don’ t think they’re selling out by doing a Disney movie. I thought it was a major coup when I heard they were cast. But then you hear it and you realize that these characters don’t give them much to work with. When Nala discovers Simba still alive living a life of fucking around while his people are starving under the tyranny of Scar, he sounds like a jackass raving to her about how cool the place he lives is. Then she convinces him of his responsibility and they spend the rest of the movie being Very Serious. Very Serious is the least appealing side of both of them.

And then the last act is so quick and simple it made me realize I dislike the story on levels I hadn’t even realized before. It seems like a moralistic story, so what are its morals? In BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Belle is strong for not limiting her lifestyle for a sexist like Gaston, and for choosing who to love, whatever society may think. In ALADDIN, Jasmine is strong because she fights against arranged marriage and for marrying who she wants to. And Aladdin is fighting an injustice by finding love outside of his caste. But in THE LION KING our hero is a kid who knows nothing, who naively “just can’t WAIT!” to inherit a completely unearned throne. Mufasa seems to be wise and all that, but it’s still a monarchy, his family chosen to rule for some unknown reason, but surely in part by being apex predators. Simba does not fulfill the role given to him by society, and finds great happiness, until he’s convinced that yeah, he has to be king. So I guess it’s a moral about responsibility – one that’s very relatable to so many of us who are kind of farting around being a slacker with our buddies when we should be asserting our status as the rightful heir to a monarchy to stop a humanitarian crisis.

And isn’t it weird that Simba as a cub is told that he’s expected to marry Nala and it’s kind of cute that he doesn’t believe it and then when they grow up it’s true and they do get married? Are we okay with this being the system in the Pridelands? Where is Princess Jasmine on this issue?

But if none of that bothers you, and you don’t have a problem with this style of animation, or with closely remaking a beloved family movie of the 1990s, then I would have to recommend this to you. Because I thought it was okay.

P.S. I noticed they gave Julie Taymor an executive producer credit! Presumably that has something to do with her directing the stage musical version. I always wanted to see that. They should’ve let her make a movie of it. This brings up an important question though: where the fuck is her e.p. credit on the SPIDER-MAN movies?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 6th, 2019 at 9:29 am and is filed under Cartoons and Shit, Family, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

67 Responses to “The Lion King (2019)”

  1. For some reason I missed the news of Zemeckis doing Pinocchio. If he fucks up Figaro, I will riot!

  2. -looks at the Kimba link.
    -Nods approvingly.

  3. You guys know I’m usually a pretty mellow dude. But I have a zero-tolerance policy for these Disney “Live Action” Remakes. Their very existence is like a slap in the face to everything I consider worthwhile. This isn’t just crass, shameless, pandering recycled garbage, it’s literally anti-art, the negative antithesis of art that destroys art on contact. The fact that a shot-for-shot animated (but photorealistic) remake of THE LION KING exists and was hugely popular retroactively erased 100 Stan Brakhage shorts from history.

    The original LION KING wasn’t exactly John Cassavettes, but at least there was a flicker of imagination and genuine artistic ambition in there. This, on the other hand, was not made by humans. It was made by algorithms.

  4. They need to do a photo realistic remake of Shakma.

    (Thats all I have to contribute)

  5. This is gonna sound random, but the inertia/limited relatability of the “will the prince stop fucking around” plot reminds me of My Own Private Idaho. That movie (like Lion King) is based in part on Shakespeare’s Henry IV, but (unlike Lion King) Gus Van Sant seems to have had the same bone to pick with having a prince as the main character that Vern does (and Disney does not). Van Sant’s way of dealing with it is to highlight how much of a fucking buffoon the prince is by casting a knowingly doofy young Keanu Reeves in the role opposite River Phoenix at the top of his naturalistic game— it’s awesome and hilarious and sad, and it kinda reminds me of how Van Sant used actors of wildly divergent talent to interesting effect in his 1999 version of Psycho. I know MOPI basically got instant classic status back when it came out, but these days it seems to have a niche reputation that emphasizes the fact of its existence rather than its actual content. Well worth revisiting.

  6. [rant continues… sorry, I need to get this out of my system]. You know what, the story of Disney is, broadly speaking, the story of the fall of Free Market Capitalism. When Disney started out, they were a company. A company composed of people, –people with problems, to be sure!– but nevertheless, a group of people who had ambitions to make something. These ambitions were not wholly artistic, for they certainly had financial ambition too, but there was a certain very human impulse to improve their craft, to push boundaries, to imagine bigger, in a way which was personal. Human. They were doing the work, of course they wanted to be good at it. Craft mattered, because that was the job.

    Now, Disney is not a company but a Corporate Entity. The people leading it are not artists, not makers. They are Owners. They are not interested in craft, they are interested in Brand Strategy. They are not interested in making things, they are interested in leveraging properties. The don’t imagine, they purchase the most popular ideas. They barely care about their audience and not at all about their employees, having eyes only for their shareholders, a nebulous consortium of obscenely wealthy plutocrats who don’t even see a Corporate Entity, but instead an endless spigot of free money whose flow must perpetually increase forever.

    Free Market Capitalism always had problems, but at least there was a time when it was, in practice, primarily about human beings making things. Today, it’s exclusively about people owning things. The people in charge are so far removed from the actual production that making things is an abstract afterthought, and certainly not something they have any personal interest in. Once you look at things that way, why not just keep endlessly churning out new versions of something which was already popular? Why take a risk on vision or imagination? I genuinely do not think these people would even understand that question. The result, in this case: lavishly expensive movies that literally no one actually has any innate desire to make, made for an audience with no innate desire to see anything new, made purely on the strength of marketing data. This is not an entirely new phenomenon, of course, but I feel like we’ve reached a Kafkaesque extreme here that everyone just accepts as natural and inevitable, and it makes me just want to scream NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL, PEOPLE!

  7. I agree with most of that, Subtlety, but just for the record this is not a shot-for-shot remake at all. It does have some of the famous shots. But I don’t think they expand, improve or divert from the original enough. (Otherwise I would’ve been the audience for it.)

    psychic_hits – Thank you for the MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO comparison. That is unexpected. I haven’t seen that since the theater.

  8. I get the feeling it’s a minority position, so I have to take a moment and appreciate any call-out for PINOCCHIO as the best Disney cartoon. Because it totally is. No lie.

  9. Vern — I haven’t seen it, for obvious reasons, but everything I have heard made it sound like it was functionally an identical movie. If not shot-for-shot, at least basically scene-for-scene. Is that not accurate?

  10. Vern- you bet! If you decide to check it out again I hope you enjoy it.

  11. I did not like this movie at all. When the animals are doing animal stuff, it looks great. Like, the scene where Simba and Nala are being chased by the hyenas it’s genuinely thrilling. But when the animals have to do human stuff, like singing or dancing or emoting (most of what people liked about the original), it fell completely flat for me. There’s a part in the original where Mufasa dies and the camera dramatically zooms in on Simba’s horrified expression. They replicate that shot here, but I laughed out loud at Simba’s dumb, expressionless CG animal face. Most of the songs were truncated versions of the originals and I don’t think I could say any of them are an improvement. Most of them read to me like very expensive dog food commercials. Be Prepared, one of the my favourite songs from the original, gets completely butchered on the altar of realism.

    This is what I think the point of the side-by-side comparisons are. Yes, using realistic CG animals is a valid approach, but the original was built from the ground up with cel animation in mind. You can’t replicate the same scenes in CG and get the same effect. I agree they should have have deviated more from the original, in ways that would take advantage of the very impressive technology. I thought the little vignette with the flying tuft of hair was kind of show-offy and pointless, but at least it was something. Also they should have shown the giraffe shitting out the tuft of hair, the cowards.

  12. Subtlety – I guess I’m not familiar with the original enough to know how close it is to being scene by scene. But it’s a half an hour longer with fewer songs, and doesn’t feel slow.

  13. There are different scenes with different shots and dialogue for some of the staples. Beauty and the Beast was more egregious in that regard If outright recreation. But it’s clearly a rip off of most of the original with less expressive creatures and it doesn’t work. Also Beyonce is a terrible voice actor in addition to being a bad actor.

  14. Apparently Julie Taymor did come in to pitch when word got out that Disney was going to be revisiting this one, and her idea was to take a similar approach to the stage show, where actors in costumes and puppets would have performed as the animals. Her contention was that the other, more obvious approach (what Favreau did) would face-plant into the Uncanny Valley and be essentially pointless, as you’re just trading one form of animation for another.

  15. Vern, I love the original. But you manage so succinctly and to the point explain why you did not like the original so I won’t be sending you any feaces in the mail.

  16. I do think the Hakuna Matata song is poignant, though. It is the one song that matters, as far as I am concerned. It tries to liftboth Simbas spirit and the audience after such a horrible event. I felt so incredibly conflicted about that song number so close to thedevastating event thefirsttime I saw the film , it really made me angry. But after thinking about it, it really is a thought provoking song. You cannotchange what happened and you need to move on, and I think the experience I had was that I was not ready to move on. I think in terms of handling grief the original works well. At least it did on me.

  17. Sign me up for Team I Never Liked THE LION KING. I saw it in the theater as a teenager and I was like “That’s it? Where’s the middle of the movie?” He just runs off, sings a dumb song I would gladly punch out a nun to never have to hear again, then it’s on to the climax. It’s not a movie. It’s barely a story. The only thing interesting about it is the animation, and now that’s gone so what does that leave? The farting?

    I do not fucking get this world at all.

  18. Luckliy, I did not ask your opinion at all. Asshole.

  19. That was uncalled for.Sorry.

  20. What the fuck? I wasn’t even talking to you. I was just agreeing with our host who never thought the original was hot shit to begin with.

    I thought we were cool with each other but you’ve called me an asshole enough lately that I’m pretty sure you’re not kidding.

  21. When did I call you an asshole last time? I should not have called you one and I appologized.

  22. It was a dumb thing to say. I don’t know why I reacted so harshly. I am reallly sorry.

  23. I mean, I am an asshole so I can’t blame you.

    I truly wasn’t trying to start shit. But Vern seemed sheepish about admitting he never cared for the original so I thought I’d back him up.

    But maybe he doesn’t want me on his side because, honestly, I don’t care for any of the Disney flicks from this era. I was a little too old for them when they came out so my nostalgia for them is basically zero. I mean, they’re basically Broadway musicals. I HATE Broadway musicals.

    As a peace offering, I will concede that LION KING is miles better than the sexist horseshit of LITTLE MERMAID and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and the try-hard buffoonery of ALADDIN. I have no major beef with it other than the story is a little undercooked.

  24. All I want to know is when I last called you an asshole. I honestly do not know. As you said we were cool with each other except this slip on my lip.

  25. And if it wasn’t you that called me asshole the other day, then I apologize as well.

  26. I don’t know what thread it happened on so let’s just call it a misunderstanding. I’m pretty sure that one was a joke anyway. No hard feelings. I know how I can be.

    Maybe Vern was right and THE LION KING is just too sensitive a topic to broach in polite company.

  27. No, I think this was the first time. It was someone else. Learn the difference.

  28. I do not like this.

  29. I…still can’t tell if you’re joking but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Tone is notoriously hard to parse in text.

  30. I am fucking pissed that you can not seperate people.. I can not remember last time I called you an asshole. If I did, I need some proof of quote. I might have said something drunkenly but I need some sort of proof

  31. What the fuck? Let bygones be bygones.

  32. I must have made a mistake. I apologize. I could have sworn you jokingly called me an asshole recently and that was totally fine and I took it in the intended spirit of ribbing, but then when I thought it happened a second time, I was like, “Wait a minute, is he really joking?” and it confused me. But that was clearly somebody else so I am admitting that I made a mistake and am no longer accusing you of anything except getting a little too heated about THE LION KING but who am I to judge anyone for that?

    I know Sternshein also “jokingly” called me an asshole (he totally meant it and I don’t have a problem with that) recently but I don’t think I am thinking of that incident. Or maybe I am and my memory is just going because I am old.

    Either way, if I was not an asshole before I clearly am one now so this whole argument is moot.

  33. You are not more of an asshole than me. I am an asshole, you are an asshole. Good enough for me.

  34. Wait, I know what it was. You said told me fuck you on the NEW NIGHTMARE thread, which I took as some good-natured give-and-take because I was giving you a hard time about your dislike of the word “wack.”

    But yes, bygones. Definitely bygones. I’ve already forgotten this whole mess.

  35. It was me. I was the one who jokingly called you an asshole but at least you admit it so I won’t ever have to even joke about it anymore.

  36. Let me make it simple Sternshein is not Swedish. I am.

  37. Now , wait a goddamn minute .! You created this mess so I could be psychologically scarred! Well…..shit
    ,

  38. But I do work for a Swedish company.

    I have nothing to add to the Lion King thing other than the Little Mermaid live action thing is going to be real annoying.

  39. What Swedish company?

  40. I take full respinaibility for this whole quagmire. I’m mostly French so being an asshole is part of my heritage.

  41. No, you are implicit alright. As much as I am. Being an asshole is international. It is how you are an asshole that matters

  42. I shall endeavor from this day forth to be the best asshole I can be.

  43. Me as well

  44. No one has called me an asshole (that I know about) and I have not called anyone else an asshole (recently) and I am very rarely an asshole in real life (at least I try not to be) but I also didn’t love the original. The only part that impressed me was the wildebeest animation. Everything else was boring.

  45. That sounds like asshole talk to me.

    JOIN US!

  46. We are all assholes!

  47. Oh shit, who is the asshole now? I just confused Swedan and Denmark. I work for a Danish company. Fuck me. Sorry :(

  48. As Dark Helmet once said- I knew it! I’m surrounded by assholes!

    I always liked the original LION KING, but I was pretty much the exact age it was targeting when it first came out. I can totally see and even agree with all the complaints about the story not being, uh, great, but the animation and music works so well for me that I don’t really care. I did always think Simba was a jerk though, especially young Simba having a whole song bragging about how great he is. I really didn’t have any interest in seeing this one, specifically because the animation seemed like such a downgrade from the hand-drawn stuff and why not just re-release the original for a new theatrical run? But the movie made a whole bunch of money so fuck me I guess.

  49. Okay, here’s something assholish. My boss just asked me if I’ve seen THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN and now I have to rethink my entire persona if what I’m putting out there says I’m the kind of person who would see that movie.

  50. (requisite “Keep firing, assholes!”)

    Since nobody asked me either, I’m on Team Subtlety- all these live action remakes make me want to set shit on fire because whatever might burn is probably already owned by Disney. It’s all just nostalgiabation. But I was too old for Disney movies by the time Little Mermaid came out, so I have been cranky about it since the first time I recognized the formula being exploited.

    And Robin Hood is the best Disney animated movie. I want to see them live-action that, except keep all the characters as extra-anthropomorphized furry type Dr Moreau creatures. To paraphrase a Mike Myers character- if Roger Miller isn’t writing and singing all the songs, IT’S CRAP.

  51. I did not grow up watching animated films, so I lack the strong emotional attachment or nostalgia to feel like my childhood is being pillaged or whatever. I wouldn’t care if it was a new Disney animated film or the sixth Disney vault-raiding extravaganza of the year. Whatever it is, I’m not watching it. Kind of same thing with TRANSFORMERS: the first one was a big expensive good-looking hollow piece of crap, so, I just got fooled once and learned not to watch them. Didn’t watch any after that one, and have no regrets and don’t give a shit if they keep making them forever. Same thing in milder form with TERMINATOR. I loved the first 2, third one was okay, and then they lost me after that. I probably will watch the new one on video, but I’m part of reason it’s underperforming at the box office: they’ve lost my goodwill and interest, absent epic reviews and word of mouth — meaning, they have to earn it back. If they want to keep face-planting, God bless. Honestly, I spend more time talking about them here than I do thinking about them outside of here.

    Coming back to this LION KING remake and all the others, do folks here really get actively worked up about this stuff, or is bashing these films just a way to pass time and blow off steam? I don’t really give a shit if they make Will Smith-version ALADDIN part 8 and reboot the Will Smith ALADDIN franchise in 20 years with 70-year-old Will Smith making a cameo. I mean, it does seem like a waste, but if that’s the path of creatively bankrupt bill-paying fan-servicery, whatevs, I guess. I just won’t watch it.

  52. That is not a raspberry at people bitching about these films — like I said, I love writing about these films, in some cases much more than I actually like watching them. I’m just saying, is it possible to oppose the on principle and not watch them on principle but also not be particularly upset about them emotionally. To just be like, whatever man, and ignore them.

  53. The best parts of this were when they changed things from the original. When Pumba finished his lyric, when he sang that song from that other Disney movie… if they’d spent the whole movie doing meta setup/betrayal they could’ve had something.

    Also, to those of you who never liked it, at least trust that for those for whom The Lion King worked at 90 minutes, it DOES NOT at 100-105. Totally shoots the pacing in the face to extend all those shots to show off the realistic animation.

  54. I liked long Beauty and the Beast and Big Willie Genie though.

  55. I just think it’s bad that Disney seemed to have gone from “We basically use the names and characters, but try to make movies that can stand on its own” (JUNGLE BOOK, PETE’S DRAGON, even Kenneth Branagh’s LISTEN UP MOTHERFUCKERS, THIS IS CINDERELLA WITHOUT ANY POST MODERN BULLSHIT Y’ALL AND YOU GONNA BE VERY CHARMED BY IT, YOU HEAR ME) to really just adapting the cartoons with very few additions and autheur influence.

  56. grimgrinningchris

    November 8th, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Ebonic

    Not sure what planet Robin Hood is the best animated Disney movie on, but I am not sure we’ll land there in our lifetime.
    There is a lot to like about it (as in any Disney movie animated movie) but while it was a step up from The Aristocats, which directly preceded it, it was a major step back down from The Jungle Book (which was itself a huge step up from Sword In The Stone before IT)… It really was a back and forth time for their output. Good movie, ehhh movie, good movie, ehhh movie… And that was the cycle for a good while there an continued up through Great Mouse Detective and Oliver & Company (one GREAT and one ehhhh…) and their footing wasn’t really regained until Menken & Schwartzed hopped on the train and they had the looooooong string of good to great to incredible movies that lasted nearly a decade.
    I don’t want to be a dick, cuz I get that with Disney movies sometimes the moment of exposure to a certain move or movies paints our colors of them, but yeah… for ME Robin Hood was a weak spot in a cycle that was already starting to tread water.

    I will agree with whoever above was saying Pinocchio is the best. It is the most artful, the most ambitious. The best mix of funny, sweet and scary and even surreal… It was everything. And its music has remained as or more memorable and important as anything else from the era.

    That said, Aladdin is still my favorite. Despite what the breakout casting of Williams did to the voice casting of animated movies forever after… (something that ACTUALLY began with Louis Prima as King Louie in The Jungle Book… the first actual casting of someone because of who they were and building the whole character around their voice and persona as opposed to just bringing in seasoned radio and voice people with no general public name recognition… but yeah, that whole thing definitely crystalized for better- and mostly for worse0 with Genie…. still love that fucking movie though)

  57. The next Disney remake is MULAN, which has a strong cast and director, and comes from a movie I’m not a fan of, but I actually think it’s kind of crazy they don’t seem to be basing it specifically on the animated version (at least I’m assuming that because there doesn’t seem to be a dragon pal) since there have been multiple Chinese versions of the Mulan story.

    I guess maybe it’s still a musical though?

  58. I heard there won’t be any songs in this one.

  59. “Not sure what planet Robin Hood is the best animated Disney movie on”

    My planet, for one. Many other people’s too. ROBIN HOOD is the Disney movie for people who don’t generally like Disney movies. It’s got great action and adventure, badass characters fighting for the common man, zero racism or sexism, no maudlin bullshit except for that one part you can just fast-forward through, and instead of fucking showtunes about princesses you get multiple original jams by Roger Miller, one of the greatest country songwriters who ever lived. I’ll watch it a thousand times before I sit through ALADDIN again.

    DUMBO is also pretty great but it has a noted lack of archery.

  60. Dumbo: Lack of archery, plenty of racism.

    Vern, it’s not a musical which is actually upsetting people.

  61. Perhaps I am being overly dramatic, but knowing that “This redundant live-action retread isn’t redundant enough!” is the hill some people want to die on makes me want to curl up in a ball and wait out the (mercifully short) remainder of human civilization.

  62. So, I just found out they’re cutting the crow scene from the version of DUMBO that will stream on Disney+, which is wild to me. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think the racism of the sequence is kind of overstated, though not to say it’s absent entirely- having one of the crows be voiced by a white dude doing blackface-voice and being named “Jim Crow” is the definition of Not Great! But at the same time, they’re smart, funny, distinct in character and design, have a great song, and actually sympathize with Dumbo and give him help and support. They’re the ones who teach him to fly!

    Like, I can understand not putting SONG OF THE SOUTH up there, sure. But I think that DUMBO’s Roustabout Song is way more explicitly racist (“We never learned to read or write…We slave until we’re almost dead/We’re happy-hearted roustabouts…We don’t know when we get our pay/And when we do, we throw our pay away…”) and they don’t appear to be cutting that. And as far as I can tell, PETER PAN will still have the “What Makes The Red Man Red” song on Disney+ and that’s both a *wildly* more racist song and way less important to the actual narrative of the film than “When I See An Elephant Fly”. I’m curious how they decided this.

  63. It’s also very similar to the plot of Hamlet and even has the ghost dad revelation.

    I never liked the original. Lil’ renfield liked ALADDIN quite a bit, which has some homeless kid as its hero. LION KING’s protagonist is so damn anointed that the first scene has all these animals kneeling and worshiping him as a baby, so I couldn’t really get on board because I was a young leftist and I had class solidarity.

  64. Setting aside any particular examples (partly because Disney has already censored some of their movies during the DVD era), this is going to be another drawback to the world of streaming – an impermanence to art that’s going to be hard to wrap our heads around as old timers. When the studios eventually abandon physical media are we going to need bootleggers burning every movie that comes out in case of future Special Editioning? Or even movies and shows disappearing, whether as censorship or just corporate indifference? No longer bothering to keep something streaming is more of a death sentence to a piece of art than going out of print. And while I have myself stopped watching things I previously liked because their creator turned out to be a creep (Louis CK for example) I don’t like the thought that soon taking their shows (made in collaboration with non-creeps) down will mean completely removing any possibility of anyone seeing them.

    I read that Kanye West (who I stopped listening to for different reasons) changed some things on his new album after it had been out for a week. It’s an interesting (and maybe crippling!) possibility for perfectionists, but I think I’m too old to enlighten myself out of the idea that an album is the specific recording that was released first and not a thing that can continue to evolve.

  65. Nah, you have the right idea, Vern. Every artist in every discipline throughout history has had to face the fact that they could fiddle around with any given project indefinitely, but eventually you have to have the maturity to let the thing be the thing it is and allow it to find its own way in the world, imperfections and all. Obviously, Kanye thinks he’s the exception, and, like everything he does, it’s going to set a bad precedent.

    Yet another reason why his entire existence is a cancer on the dick of the creative impulse.

  66. In movies reworking is usually derided—think George Lucas. But sometimes the reworked versions are more acclaimed—Ridley Scott comes to mind or Terrence Malick. Michael Mann has also tinkered with some of his classics in a way that usually works, same with Coppola.

    Personally, I think of the theatrical version is the central text. But with streaming and home viewing now perhaps becoming the dominant place of viewership and many movies seemingly being made for various platforms, I wonder if I’m wrong for looking at them that way.

  67. I think the only time I think director’s cuts are really superior to the theatrical version are in cases where studio/producer mandate removed a bunch of actually-crucial stuff, like Scott’s KINGDOM OF HEAVEN or PAYBACK.

    But like for example, I think the director’s cut of ALIENS is way worse than the theatrical cut- like, we don’t need to spend ten minutes hanging out with the colonists before they die, it just makes time drag while we wait for interesting characters to show up again.

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