August 7-9, 2020
Sydney Showground Olympic Park
It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. And the lion cub. And the flying carpet.
That’s right, 2019 is a massive year for everyone’s favourite magical mogul, Disney, with THREE live-action blockbusters to come from the entertainment conglomerate in a span of less than six months. That’s almost one every two months!
Apart from the return of the always adorable Dumbo (who flew onto our screens in March), the releases are also set to step back in time to peak Disney renaissance days, with remakes of ‘90s hits The Lion King, and Aladdin, the latter of which will feature June Supa-Star Alan Tudyk as the voice of Iago.
But what does that mean exactly for those of us who grew up on these films, and what can we expect to love (and relive)? Take a look below to see what we know so far about Disney’s 2019 ‘90s knockouts.
THEY’RE BOTH LIKELY TO BE A LITTLE GRITTY
As it seems to be these days with most retellings, a remake isn’t a remake unless it’s unnecessarily dark (looking at you, Riverdale), and this attitude definitely seems to have influenced both The Lion King and Aladdin to a level.
From what we can glean from the heavily CGI-ed trailers, it seems that Disney is not targeting these reboots at their younger audience, but rather at those who grew up on these films. And despite how tired some are of gritty reboots, in this case, it might just be Disney’s secret ingredient.
After all, mixing frightening and furry in equal portions is the foolproof way to ensure that older audiences can revisit these films while still seeing them in a new light. Just imagine how heartbreaking Mufasa’s death is going to end up this time around.
BUT DON’T WORRY, THEY’RE STILL MUSICALS
If the previous point had you scared these new incarnations would be devoid of any musical mischief, rest assured. Unlike 2016’s The Jungle Book, you can be certain that both Aladdin and The Lion King will still be full of toe-tapping hits. How can you even have The Lion King without Hakuna Matata?
In fact, while keeping such iconic songs like Prince Ali and Friend Like Me, Disney also brought in some newcomers for Aladdin’s reincarnation. That’s right, Pasek and Paul, the songwriting duo responsible for all the smash hits from La La Land, The Greatest Showman, and Tony-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen signed on to write new music for the film, ensuring that we’ll have another 20 years of hummable earworms.
WISH UPON A STAR (CAST)
Perhaps one of the most exciting things about both releases is their star-studded casts. Some of the colossal talent to star in The Lion King alone includes Donald Glover as Simba, Seth Rogen as Pumba, Keegan-Michael Key, Billy Eichner … oh, and even a little someone named Beyoncé.
As for Aladdin, the main roles of Jasmine and Aladdin are going to somewhat fresh faces (Naomi Scott of Power Rangers and Terra Nova fame and Mena Massoud), while the highly anticipated takeover of the late and great Robin Williams’ role as Genie has been gifted to none other than superstar Will Smith. While Smith’s reveal caused some initial uproar (many fans were shocked when it seemed Smith wasn’t going to be blue in the film – don’t worry he is!), we can’t wait to see what the comedy powerhouse does with his Arabian nights.
A SPOONFUL OF NOSTALGIA
Smith isn’t the only one sprinkling a dose of ‘90s nostalgia that both films will be. As Aladdin’s director Guy Ritchie puts it, “[We’ve done] enough to make it feel fresh and worth it, but not so much so that it would wash away nostalgia.”
Both films already look to have an abundance of knowing nods and homages to the decade they came from.
Apart from having the Fresh Prince of the ‘90s in the role of Aladdin’s Genie, The Lion King has also confirmed that it will be bringing back James Earl Jones as the voice of Mufasa. Because, in all seriousness, it just wouldn’t be the same without that all-knowing timbre that filled up all our childhood VHS watching days.
IT’S A WHOLE NEW WORLD
But if you think this heavy-handed nostalgia means you’ll be watching the same old thing you did when you were a kid, you’d be gravely mistaken. In fact, both films have taken extra measures to add new depth and characters.
We already know that Aladdin is getting two fresh characters, to be voiced by the incomparably funny Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods) and Nasim Pedrad (New Girl, Saturday Night Live). Ritchie has also mentioned that this revival is adding a seriously needed feminist twist to the original tale that is ‘reflective of present-day ideals’.
Whilst Disney is keeping everything a little hush-hush right now on The Lion King’s revamp, we do know for sure that they’re also adding at least one new mysterious character, an elephant shrew (voiced by Amy Sedaris), to the bunch. Could it possibly be another sidekick to make Pumba and Timon a trio?
While we’ll probably keep on making guesses like these up until later this month when Aladdin is released (May 23), and later in July when The Lion King arrives on our screens.