Jon Favreau Developing a Live Action ‘Lion King’ Film with Disney

Earlier this year, director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef) impressed audiences and critics alike with his live action adaptation of The Jungle Book, which took inspiration from both the Rudyard Kipling novel and the 1967 animated classic. The film seamlessly transitioned the Indian jungle and the unique array of characters that inhabit it onto the big screen once more, to critical and commercial success.

The film followed a myriad of popular live-action Disney remakes that have been produced in the last few years, including Maleficent, Cinderella and Pete’s Dragon. But it is perhaps The Jungle Book that has arguably done the best out of all of these, ranking highly on many “best films of 2016” lists and generally being praised across the board for the voice acting, special effects and respect of the source material.

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From the success that The Jungle Book has found, it seems that Disney has trusted Favreau enough to let him helm arguably their most popular and lucrative franchise; a remake of the classic 1994 animation The Lion King, following an official announcement earlier today.

Favreau began the fan speculation himself with a cryptic and yet not-too-subtle tweet that hinted at his involvement in the remake. He tweeted that he was excited for his next project, followed by an emoji of a lion and a crown.

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In an official press statement on The Walt Disney website that followed, the new project was officially announced, but with no release date yet confirmed. Read the official announcement below;

“We can officially confirm that The Walt Disney Studios and director Jon Favreau are putting a new reimagining of The Lion King on the fast track to production. The project follows the technologically groundbreaking smash hit The Jungle Book, directed by Favreau, which debuted in April and has earned $965.8 million worldwide.

The Lion King builds on Disney’s success of reimagining its classics for a contemporary audience with films like Maleficent, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book. The upcoming Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson as Belle, is already one of the most anticipated movies of 2017. Like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King will include songs from the animated film. Disney and Favreau are also in development on a sequel to The Jungle Book. No release date has been announced for either film. 

The Lion King (1994) is one of the biggest animated films of all time with a lifetime global box office gross of $968.8 million, including $422.8 million domestically. It won Academy Awards for the original song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (Elton John, Tim Rice) and original score (Hans Zimmer), plus two Grammy Awards, with the soundtrack selling over 14 million copies. In 1997, the stage production The Lion King made its Broadway debut, winning six Tony Awards; 19 years later, it remains one of Broadway’s biggest hits alongside several other productions running around the world, including London, Hamburg, Tokyo, Madrid, Mexico City, Shanghai, and North America. Translated into eight different languages, its 23 global productions have been seen by more than 85 million people across every continent except Antarctica. The Lion King’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.”

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One of the best elements of 2016’s The Jungle Book was the realistic computer generated animals, that still managed to retain the comical or villainous personality of the voice actors (including but not limited to Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley and Christopher Walken) whilst still managing to look and move like real animals. Without a human character like Mowgli to anchor the film firmly in the real world, it will be interesting to see how Favreau handles this new project, and whether it will live up to the popularity of the original.

As well as The Lion King, fans can expect a whole assortment of live action remakes of popular Disney animated classics in the next few years, with 2017’s Beauty and the Beast being particularly anticipated by old and new Disney fans alike. Disney also has in development live-action redos of Dumbo (with Tim Burton directing), Mulan, Aladdin, Tinker Bell, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, The Sword in the Stone and Cruella, which can be assumed to be showing a different side to the villainous Cruella De Ville character from 101 Dalmations, following suit from the similar Maleficent film.

Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book is on Blu-Ray and DVD now.