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How ‘Lion King’ Music Differs from the Original

The music, like the story, is basically the same. The film’s opening is still the epic-sounding number “Circle of Life”, and songs like “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”, “Be Prepared” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” show up as well. And they each serve the same function as they did in the original film. But while it’s an arguable improvement that more of this film’s cast members are talented singers (in the 1994 film, different performers provided the dialogue and singing voices for Simba and Nala, unlike in the remake), the songs feel less memorable and emotional than they did in the more vibrant, bouncy original.

Part of the issue comes down to how the visual-effects tech interacts with the story of The Lion King. For all of the intent behind making this version look as close as possible to real animals occupying space in the real continent of Africa, this is still a story where animals burst into song and (in one instance) refer to other Disney animated films, things which are deliberately unreal. The hand-drawn animated film, in part because it wasn’t tethered to creating characters that look like the real thing, leaned into the surreality of making a musical. Its version of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” utilizes distinctly colorful backgrounds, a Busby Berkeley-style set of animal dancers, spotlights, and more. Favreau’s version eschews all of those elements, all the way down to even the simplest bit of choreography. Instead of dancing, we just get to see Simba, Nala, and the stuffy hornbill Zazu walking or flying around, in what amounts to a straight line through the savannah.

That style of dancing — as in, just walking around — is what happens in most of the other musical sequences. “Be Prepared” is, like this

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