Jon Favreau will helm live-action 'Lion King': Is 'Lion' Disney's biggest triumph?

The newest Disney animated film to be adapted as a live-action production is 'Lion King,' with Disney recently announcing that 'The Jungle Book' director Favreau will take on the classic 1994 film.

Walt Disney Co./ABC
'The Lion King' stars Matthew Broderick.

Director Jon Favreau brought the animals of Disney’s “The Jungle Book” to life via modern technology. Now he’ll be doing the same with the characters in the 1994 Disney animated movie “The Lion King.” 

Disney recently announced that Mr. Favreau, who also helmed such films as “Iron Man” and “Elf,” will take on a live-action adaptation of “Lion.” 

Until it was bumped by “Shrek 2” in 2004, “The Lion King” was the highest-grossing animated film of all time domestically. “Lion” tells the story of lion cub Simba, the son of Mufasa, a monarch who rules their home. When Mufasa is killed by his brother, Scar, Simba must decide whether he is fit to take on his father’s job and protect his people from Scar.

(If I just spoiled Mufasa’s death for you, you have been asleep since 1993.)

The production is just the latest live-action adaptation of one of its animated films by Disney. “Jungle” became one of the highest-grossing films of the year so far after being released this past spring. Releases such as the 2015 movie “Cinderella” and 2014’s “Maleficent,” which told the story of the “Sleeping Beauty” villain, also did well.

Many other live-action takes on Disney animated stories are planned, including the 2017 film “Beauty and the Beast” starring Dan Stevens and Emma Watson. 

In adapting “Lion” as a live-action film, Disney is taking on one of its most acclaimed projects of all time. “Lion” was released during a period in the studio’s history popularly known as the Disney Renaissance because the movies created during it are often called some of the best animated films ever made. 

Indiewire writers Jessica Kiang and Oliver Lyttelton selected “Lion” as the second-best animated movie ever made by Disney (behind only “Beauty,” which is the only animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar when there were only five nominees for the prize). 

“’The Lion King,’ from directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, represented the box-office pinnacle of the Disney renaissance of the 1990s,” Ms. Kiang and Mr. Lyttelton wrote. “But it’s also a creative highlight [with an] exceptionally well-structured story.… The (Circle of) Life Lessons that ‘The Lion King’ teaches may not be exactly groundbreaking, but seeing them executed with such sincerity and deep feeling, and with unparalleled craft in terms of the animation and design of every single character and every single background, is purest, unalloyed Disney magic.” 

Flavorwire writer Tyler Coates also selected “Lion” as the second-best Disney animated film, coming second only to “Beauty” (sense a theme?). 

“Perhaps the most ambitious of Disney’s films, ‘The Lion King’ presents an original story (albeit one inspired by the Biblical tales of Moses and Joseph, as well as ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’) and perfectly balances the serious and comedic tones,” Mr. Coates writes. “With the successful stage adaptation directed by Julie Taymor, ‘The Lion King’ may be the most enduring film in Disney’s catalog.”

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