16 Differences Between the New ‘Lion King’ and the Old One

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Back in 2016, director, Jon Favreau, was handed the reins to curate a live-action rendition of the beloved 1994 classic, The Lion King. Remakes are always tricky territory because you don’t know if it’ll stick to the original sequence or veer off completely. Although, Disney can’t seem to get enough of upcycling their portfolio of animated classics either way.

But, as far as The Lion King was concerned, it was confirmed that the movie would feature songs from the original soundtrack as well as the same pivotal moments we witnessed more than 2 decades ago in the original. So, basically, those wanting the new version to exactly mirror the original didn’t have anything to worry about, right?

Well, it turns out there are actually quite a lot of big differences between Favreau’s 2019 version and the original animated classic, and people don’t know how to feel about it. After all, we all know that these remakes are really for the people who watched the film twenty years ago, rather than the kids now.

So, how loyal has the 2019 version stayed to the original? Read on to find out.

After a long wait, the live-action The Lion King hit the big screen last weekend.

Several Disney classics have been given the live-action treatment in recent years, but the thought of seeing Simba and the gang brought to life in a completely new way had fans more excited than ever before.

After all, other live-action remakes like The Jungle Book and Cinderella had been generally well-received by fans.

And, as far as the box office was concerned, it did deliver.

The movie grossed a staggering $185 million in its opening weekend alone – which isn’t exactly surprising, given the huge build-up and excitement of fans.

But, when it comes to the critics…it’s a whole different story.

Many accused Favreau’s cutting-edge characters of having less emotional range than their hand-drawn ’90s counterparts.

The reviews have been pretty mixed.

“Beautiful but bland,” is what Salon wrote, while The Guardian described the reboot as “resplendent but pointless.” As you can see, so many of these statements contradict each other – and that’s one of the main issues that critics have had. While the cutting-edge digitalization of the once scribbled-on-paper characters is pretty breathtaking, several people agreed that the same feelings the ’94 version evoked just simply weren’t there with this one.


Fans flocked to theatres to watch their favorite lion pride have a nostalgic makeover, but it looks like it was mixed reviews from theatre-goers too.

Like this Twitter user, who gave it a gleaming 10 out of 5 stars review.

Although, just like the critics, many agreed that the emotion just wasn’t there.

Looks like fans wanted the live-action remake to be, well, more animated. See what we did there?

It seems like there are actually quite a few differences between the new movie and the original animated version. So, let’s take a look at all the changes in Favreau’s The Lion King. How many did you notice?

Shenzi may have returned to screens, but the only thing that is recognizable is her name. The once dimwitted lead hyena is now way more devious and, well, scary, and also now has a rivalry with Nala.

In the new version, the 2 hyenas are now called Kamari and Azizi, and similarly to Shenzi, they’ve undergone quite the personality transformation too.

Sadly, this iconic moment is abscent from the movie.

Now that’s a disappointment.

Considering it’s supposed to be Scar’s big musical moment, there isn’t an awful lot of, well, singing. Turns out, in the new movie, it’s more of a speech than a sing-a-long musical number – with Simba’s devious uncle only singing for a fraction of the time showcased in the original. Great.

During their first argument, it’s implied that they had previously had a huge fight, and Mufasa came out on top.

Scar has a thing for Simba’s mom. Who’d have thought it? During the new movie, Scar expresses anger about having wanted to be with Sarabi (Simba’s mom), but she’d chose Mufasa instead. According to Favreau, the addition of a love triangle was for with very good reason… to quash the perception that Disney villains, like Scar, Captain Hook or Hades, to name a few, present stereotypically homosexual traits. So the new plot point is apparently trying to undo what some considered the first movie’s “queer coding” of the flamboyant Disney villain.

The photorealistic advisor, Zazu, who’s swapped out his animated colorful feathers for a more realistic color palette, isn’t caged-up and forced to sing to Scar. In fact, he actually sneaks back to Pride Rock when the hyenas take over to carry on providing the Morning Report to Sarabi. And he even joins the final battle to reclaim Pride Rock, swooping in to help Simba.

No coconut song. *Cries*

It seems like the comedy duo have also undergone a slight change, as Timon lets Pumbaa talk freely about gas while they’re singing “Hakuna Matata.” Let’s be honest, Timon’s 1994 former self would have never let that slide.

So there’s more fart jokes (we’re sure you can guess who from), a jibe about the umami flavor that every avid foodie will no doubt appreciate, and we get to hear a little more about the Hakuna Matata philosophy. The saying is explained presumably for laughs (Pumbaa explains how you don’t have to worry about impacting other people, you should just do whatever you want, but when Simba questions his notion, Pumbaa laughs it off saying it has to be true otherwise they’d “just be jerks.”)    

A young Nala is given more lines to sing in “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” while a grown-up Nala also gets more screen time. But we aren’t exactly surprised, given Beyoncé is voicing the lioness.

She also has a massively more important role in the final battle.

There’s a scene wherein Nala has to sneak away from Pride Rock, and, most importantly, Scar, to find more food for her family, as well as an on-screen moment in which she summons the lionesses to fight Scar, asking, “Are you with me?”  which, of course, they are. Oh, and she even fights Shenzi, one on one. Wow.

While we got to see many of the original classic musical numbers, as many of you will know, Beyoncé has sung some original songs for the soundtrack of the movie, and one of the songs, named “Spirit,” is attached to this scene in the movie.

On the contrary, Rafiki doesn’t use a staff and he has fewer lines.

And most of the lines that he does have are in his native tongue. Overall, his character is much more reserved in this version than in the animated one, presenting a more “older and wiser” demeanor. And his famous walking stick? It only makes an appearance during the final battle in this version.

The photorealistic Rafiki presents as more of a mystical presence, meaning the movie skipped the famous “learning about the past” speech.

While, in the animated version, this discovery comes about pretty miraculously, in the new version, it’s all thanks to a tuft of Simba hair.