Thursday, September 29, 2016

Disney's "Lion King" Next To Go To Live Action

Why are we posting about Disney's announcement of this on a fairy tale news site? Despite it's story roots being widely acknowledged as Hamlet, Disney's The Lion King was received as a fable in the general public, and one people responded to - personally and with their wallets. (Until Frozen, The Lion King held the title of biggest money spinner for the Mouse House in history.) While fable and folklore are obviously fairy tale related, there is a more compelling reason that this interests us.
Since the Broadway re-imagining by the amazing Julie Taymor, with actors and dancers playing the parts of animals as if they were coming alive from ancient stories, the folktale representation and resonances of this story got stronger. A lot of this was aided by the representation of the characters, both in their designs, the integration of puppetry and tribal designs, but also, very importantly, the live storytelling aspect that captured audiences everywhere, instilling a love of theater and story exploration in a way the Broadway hadn't seen for a long time.

While the film has always been a family favorite, it's the stage version and blending of human and animal (along with storytelling and song) that has inspired a generation to further explore story telling, folktales, folklore, fables and representation of "world peoples" in Western pop culture. While we've met many people who loved the film, for the majority it's their experience of the Broadway play that changed their world view and inspired them in different creative fields.

The clear success - even by Executive standards - of Favreau's approach to a live action re-imagining of The Jungle Book for Disney, has inspired confidence that the company can repeat, and hopefully eclipse, that success with one of it's hottest animal properties, The Lion King.

Here's the announcement:
We can officially confirm that The Walt Disney Studios and director Jon Favreau are putting a new reimagining of The Lion King on the fast track to production. The project follows the technologically groundbreaking smash hit The Jungle Book, directed by Favreau, which debuted in April and has earned $965.8 million worldwide. 
...Like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King will include songs from the animated film. Disney and Favreau are also in development on a sequel to The Jungle Book. No release date has been announced for either film. (Source)
With the word "reimagining" (a hot word in the media right now, if you hadn't noticed) being key to this announcement, you can be sure fable, folklore and fairy tale folk will be watching how this is done, and how it's received by the public. Will they have singing animals, similar to The Jungle Book approach? Or shall we be treated to a new blending of human and animal which has more in common with the play? While the likelihood is that they will follow the successful formula of The Jungle Book, storytellers around the world should be watching too, as rumors of using a(nother) 'unique approach' to the narrative are strongly hinted as, as well.

While this fan trailer HERE does a good job of recreating key animated scenes in live action, (with generous use of the Aslan animation from Disney's production  of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), we can expect something very different.

It's a risky step, with such a unique and beloved stage play, already so different from the animated film. It's hard to imagine that a way of telling the story so very differently from the film, as was used on Broadway, will evolve. Disney has a long history of live action films and talking animals and without the use of unique media to change the delivery method from storyteller to audience (such as live puppetry that immerses the audience and involves them in the story), it's easiest to imagine this just use similar techniques to The Jungle Book, minus humans this time, and rely on the audience wanting more.

But you never know. We've been happily surprised once - thrilled even - by how this story evolved when it moved to stage and live action is a different medium to animation, so perhaps we'll be pleasantly surprised again.

ALERT: Tomorrow we'll be posting as complete a list of fairy tale and fantasy movies in the works by Disney, both in live action and animation. Although it won't be a complete list of everything in the works (eg we won't be including Wreck It Ralph II since the fairy tale/folklore tie-ins are minimal-to-none as far as we can see), it's still a pretty long list, and deserving of it's own post. (Heck - you may want to bookmark it, just so you have the list handy!)

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