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The New Lion King Just Isn’t Animated Enough

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In The Lion King—Disneys 1994 animated original—a pride of lions, led by the king Mufasa, perform a series of extraordinary behaviors. They squint. They wince. Their eyebrows arch to and fro with emotion: panic, anger, a slick sense of satisfaction, a devious sense of scheming. Welcome to anthropomorphism 101. Animals: theyre just like us, when we draw them.

In the new Lion King, helmed by Jon Favreau and out in theaters July 19, much is the same. There are capital-E-emotions. The plot beats are almost completely unrevised, as are many of the visual sequences. That iconic opening—the anointing of Simba as the future king of the pride, borne skyward by a mystical mandrill named Rafiki as the animal kingdom bows in reverence—is unchanged. Disney isnt stupid; this is a company that knows why were here, or thinks it does. And so, again, we have Simba: hero, taunted by hyenas, blamed for the death of his father Mufasa, driven off of Pride Rock by that nefarious, hang-dog uncle Scar. All is well; all is the same.

But in the words of that wise old mandrill Rafiki: Look harder. More than one person in your life is going to liken the photorealistic look of this movie to that of a video game cut scene — those scripted interstitial sequences that make video games feel more movie-like. They will not be entirely wrong.

More flatteringly, The Lion King is being hailed as a major advancement for movie technology—a movie “filmed” almost entirely in virtual reality. Wired magazine recently described it thusly: “They”—the films distinctive locales—“can live inside a kind of filmmaking video­game as 360-degree virtual environments full of digitized animals, around which Favreau and his crew could roam.”

The result? The fine digital craftsmanship of our new era, replete with all the vices it entails: nostalgic reenactments of scenes weve seen before; colorless voice acting by name-brand performers, the likes of Beyoncé and Donald Glover (who play adult Nala and Simba, respectively); and a color-drained visual palette befitting an early aughts movie about war in the Middle East. Early on, it was clear Id be able to count every ridge, sub-ridge, and micro-ridge on the trunk of every elephant, and count out the strands of hair on Rafikis face. But watching all this made me feel a bit like Little Red Riding Hood visiting the Big Bad Wolf, wearing the guise of her grandmother. Simba, what large, inexpressive, marble-shined eyes you have! What an uncannily post-Botox emotional range you have!

The new Lion King isnt a disaster. Its a lesson: in what makes voice acting resonate, for starters, and in the strangeness of hearing animals emote vocally when their faces are pretty much limited to moving mouths and blinking eyes—no eyebrow action, no subtlety, no livelinesRead More – Source

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