It's the circle of life, and it moves us all — as much as it did back in 1994. Journalists and fans attending Disney's D23 fan convention last weekend caught the first footage from Jon Favreau's "live-action" Lion King remake — and it sounds utterly perfect.
According to reports, the footage mirrors the 1994 film's animated opening almost shot-for-shot, beginning with the sun rising over the photo-realistic African plains while Elton John's 'Circle of Life' kicks into gear with its iconic opening chant.
In a style similar to Favreau's previous live-action Disney remake The Jungle Book, we then see stunningly rendered representations of rhinos, giraffe, meerkats, elephants, zebra, etc answer the call — with birds and insects hitching a ride along the way. Pride Rock comes into view, which stands like something more out of Planet Earth II than an upcoming Disney movie.
Rafiki arrives — featuring the white beard and red and blue coloring of his cartoon counterpart — and we see tiny (adorable) baby Simba curled up in Sarabi's arms. He then cracks open the coconut and anoints Simba which elicits a little sneeze, before Rafiki throws him up in the air during the song's climax, introducing the animals below to their new king. The footage ends with the iconic title logo.
Unfortunately, Disney has decided to not release this footage online, meaning only those in the audience had the opportunity to catch it. The footage received the biggest applause from the D23 event, and those in attendance were overwhelmed by the cinematography and scale of the project:
Now the rest of us just need to wait and see if Disney will drop the footage online... any day now...
The director introduced the clip by saying that they know how important this film is to people who grew up with the original, reminding audiences that he showed off the first Jungle Book footage at D23 in 2015:
We know how important this is. People want to understand what our approach is, what we’re doing, and as soon as I found out we were going to be doing this film, my first question was, when’s D23?
While the introduction sounds like an impressive throwback to the 1994 cartoon, Favreau's re-telling can still add new things to the story, and we can expect brand new technology to bring these characters to life in a totally naturalistic way. In a panel following the footage, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn spoke fondly of Favreau's vision for the film:
I visit a lot of sets… this is the first time, I thought to myself, when I went to visit Jon making the film, I had a hard time understanding how you do this. And yet, they do. And I do know that Jon and his team will create something that is completely respectful and faithful to The Lion King you already know and love, just as he did with The Jungle Book.
The film stars Donald Glover as the voice of Simba with James Earl Jones once again reprising his role as Mufasa. John Oliver has signed on the voice Zazu, and Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner play Timon and Pumbaa. The movie is expected to arrive in 2019, and in the meantime we can all hammer Disney's Twitter page and try and persuade them to release this footage for the rest of us mere mortals to see.