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“It kind of hurts”: Original ‘Lion King’ animator reacts to Disney’s 2019 remake

He wasn’t a fan of the photorealistic reboot

Disney’s latest blockbuster, a photorealistic reimagination of The Lion King, has been a hit worldwide. But not everybody enjoyed the remake – including David Stephan, one of the original animators on the 1994 animated classic.

“If you polled the crew of the original Lion King, most of them would say, ‘Why? Did you really have to do that?’ It kind of hurts,” Stephan told HuffPost, which had reached out to 13 of the animators responsible for the original movie to get their thoughts on Jon Favreau’s CGI adaptation.

Stephan – who contributed to the ‘Circle of Life’ opening sequence and the hyenas’ designs – was one of three animators who went on the record with HuffPost to discuss the Disney reboot. Others declined to speak to the outlet, claiming they weren’t planning to see the movie.

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“It’s sort of sad that the stockholder is now in the room deciding what movies get made. […] Disney’s now taken the cover off, and it’s now in your face: ‘Yeah, we just want to make money.’ That’s disappointing as an artist, from a studio that was founded on originality and art,” Stephan said. 

He then went on to call the film’s voice performances “weak” and “so wooden”. He also said that the new character designs felt “too real”, so much that they jarred him out of the experience. “It reminded me of those old nature films where they would dub the voices over and the lips would move. I thought, ‘Oh, this is really cheap.’ I think it was just too soon for this one,” he added.

Another animator, who decided to remain anonymous, also said “there is a huge resentment against these 3D remakes from the original 2D crews” and that the animators’ opinions could have been different if the creators had “got[ten] any kind of royalties”. 

But not all the original animators have slammed the remake. Alexander Williams and Dave Bossert, who designed Scar and did visual effects in the original movie respectively, have praised the 2019 version. “Overall, I thought the film stands on its own. It not only showcases a great story again, but it’s an homage to the original film,” Bossert told HuffPost

The Lion King remake stars a slew of big names including Beyoncé, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, James Earl Jones – who reprises his role as Mufasa – and John Oliver. It’s out in theatres now.

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