Why The Lion King remake could be a turning point in how we watch movies

The release of Disney’s remake of The Lion King, which opened in cinemas Wednesday, will not only unleash a flood of nostalgia but could also mark a major turning point in how movies are made.

That is the view of USQ senior lecturer in film, Dr Daryl Sparkes, who believes audiences are in for a treat.

The Lion King remake is the latest offering from Disney, which has been working its way through animated childhood classics to give them the live-action treatment.

The Lion King is not strictly live-action, but rather uses photorealistic computer-generated animation – a technology Mr Sparkes says raises questions about the future of onscreen actors.

“We’re heading to a situation now where you’d have to ask, are we going to replace actors one day,” he said.

“Disney is trying it and they did it in Star Wars. You look at the photo realism in The Lion King and go ‘we’re one step away from having Humphrey Bogart, Carey Grant and Marilyn Monroe back on screen’.

“They will be able to reproduce their likeness so brilliantly that one day we may not even need actors on set.

“The stuff I saw in a clip the other day, with Scar and the hyenas; if you were five-years-old watching that you would think these are real lions. The technology is only going to continue to improve.”

Mr Sparkes said the special place the original 1994 The Lion King holds in the memories of parents ensured the remake would be a winner.

“With the Disney remakes, we’re talking about a whole bunch of films that were 25 to 30 years old,” he said.

“So what’s happened is people who are now in their 30s and parents themselves, they grew up with the old version of those films and they have a real nostalgic bent towards them.

“They think how wonderful those films were in their childhood so they drag their kids along to see them.

“People know exactly what is going to happen. There are not going to be any surprises, but they like that, in a way.”

Mr Sparkes said while the high-end Disney offerings usually hit the right note with audiences, they also pointed to a company less willing to take risks.

“If you look back in the 70s and 80s, Disney took a lot more risks in its programming than it does now,” he said.

University of Southern Queensland’s Dr Daryl Sparkes.

“The executives at Disney go ‘well let’s remake The Lion King, it was hugely popular 25 years ago’ and the thing is, if it succeeds they get the credit and if it fails they don’t get the blame because they go ‘hang on, it worked last time, it should work now’.

“Hollywood is supposed to be a town of artists and bohemians and writings and creators who are all sort of left thinking and experimental but it just shows you how far the corporatisation of Disney has spread its tentacles.”

So will Mr Sparkes be checking out The Lion King remake? Absolutely.

“My favourite character is Scar. I’ve always liked a good villain and I am hoping they add a bit more to him,” he said.

“I am hoping they have given him a little bit of depth and back story so he’s not just a cookie cutter sort of villain.

“I am always interested in villains, what drives them to be evil, why do they want it all for themselves. It’s pretty easy to understand the qualities of a good guy but with villains they seem to be a lot more complex.”

The Lion King remake releases across Australia on July 17.

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