The Lion King Parent Guide
A jaw-dropping technical achievement with a gifted voice cast, this remake is scarier than the original and possessed of less charm.
Parent Movie Review
It was 1994 and I went to the theater to see The Lion King for no other reason than I was pregnant and desperately wanted two hours of air conditioned comfort. As the gloriously colored Serengeti burst onto the screen and the music for The Circle of Life filled the theater, I felt chills go up my spine. Now it’s 2019 and The Lion King is back in theaters. But the Circle of Life has been replaced by the Circle of the Disney Vault: classic animated features go into the vault only to emerge several years later as live action films. Sadly, this new circle doesn’t inspire creativity or originality (but it definitely boosts corporate profits). Ah, well…hakuna matata. No point worrying about what we can’t change…
It’s not that the new Lion King is a bad movie. In fact, it’s an astounding technical achievement - a photorealistic computer animated production so stunning it will be the frontrunner for this year’s Oscar. To watch the movie is to marvel at the skill of the animators and the power of their computers. From the sweeping vistas of the African savanna to the details of the lions’ manes and fur; from the wrinkles of the elephants’ hides to the veins under Mufasa’s skin; from the jeweled wings of the tiny insects to the dust motes in the air, Disney’s animators have painstakingly perfected every little detail and have cemented the Mouse House’s position atop the field of computer animation.
The brilliance of the computer animation does have one big downside: the lions have been meticulously crafted, with accurate facial musculature, making it impossible for them to display human emotions. While animators can anthropomorphize hand-drawn lions to express feelings, a realistic lion doesn’t look envious, sad, joyful, or any of the other emotions integral to this film’s plot. The stiff looking animal faces in this movie make the human touch particularly critical and that’s where the movie’s stellar voice cast comes to the fore. John Oliver, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner bring comic brilliance to their roles as Zazu the bird, Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the farting warthog. James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mufasa with his usual gravitas. But the real star here is Chiwetel Ejiofor whose villainous Scar drips with envy, hatred, and barely contained menace. He jacks up the fear factor in a movie that will easily frighten small children with its multiple scenes of animals attacking one another with tooth and claw. Parents of sensitive children should note that there are multiple violent episodes in this movie, including one murder and one attempted murder and these scenes, although bloodless, are much more frightening in this CGI format than in the hand-drawn animated version.
The Lion King also comes with other negatives. The plot remains Hamlet-with-a-mane: a young prince is exiled when his scheming uncle murders the king and usurps the throne; the prince has to work through his own issues and fight for justice. But the 1994 film had charm and originality. This remake obviously can’t aim for originality – it’s a do over, after all. As for charm…I didn’t feel it. And I can’t precisely put my finger on the reason for its absence. Maybe it was those unexpressive animal faces. Or the warmed over plot. Perhaps I was so busy marveling at the technical marvels on the screen that I missed the charm. Somehow, I just couldn’t “feel the love tonight”. And that’s too bad.Directed by Jon Favreau. Starring Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Beyoncé. Running time: 118 minutes. Theatrical release July 19, 2019. Updated July 19, 2019
Watch the trailer for The Lion King
The Lion King
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Lion King rated PG? The Lion King is rated PG by the MPAA for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements.
Violence: There are multiple (bloodless) scenes where lions fight with each other and with hyenas. Hyenas stalk and chase lion cubs. A lion pushes another lion off a cliff; he tries to do it yet again to another lion. A lion is seen eating a dead animal; no detail is visible. Lions stalk other animals. A character discusses the murder of his relatives. A lion cub is caught in front of a stampede. A monkey hits hyenas with a club. Hyenas attack a warthog who fights back with his tusks.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: None noted.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated July 19, 2019
The Lion King Parents' Guide
Timon and Pumbaa tell Simba that life is meaningless so they might as well do whatever they want. Do you agree with them? What values do you think are important in your life? What responsibilities come with those values?
Sarabi tells Scar that “A true king’s power is his compassion.” Why do you think she says that? Do you agree? Do you think compassion is a sign of strength or weakness? How can compassion be powerful?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Older viewers who are fascinated by the technical skill involved in making 2019’s photorealistic CGI version of the film will be interested in Michael Goldman’s The Art and Making of The Lion King.
C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series centers around a magical lion named Aslan. The first book in the series is The Magician’s Nephew but the most well known is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Simplified versions for young readers are also available.
A lion – who might or might not be real – is at the heart of a young boy’s world in Bill Watterson’s whimsical comic strips. The first in the series is titled simply Calvin and Hobbes.
Early readers who want to read about lions can get caught up in Mary Pope Osborne’s Lions at Lunchtime. This is part of the Magic Tree House series and is aimed at kids reading simple chapter books.
Youngsters who want factual information about lions will be interested in National Geographic Readers: Lions and Lions: Kings of the Jungle.
Related home video titles:
If you haven’t seen the original animated version of The Lion King, check it out and see which one you prefer.
For another animated movie about animals, the usurpation of power, and courageous resistance, you can watch Disney’s Robin Hood.
For an exciting fantasy adventure featuring a lion hero, the whole family can watch The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.