Disney’s new ‘The Lion King’ trailer pounces on childhood nostalgia

The teaser for Jon Favreau’s 2018 remake promises loyalty to the original, while promising some Beyoncé vocals

If watching three hours of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or grabbing spoonfuls of your great-aunt’s cranberry dressing didn’t make you nostalgic enough this holiday season, you’re in luck — Disney has released the first trailer for “The Lion King,” Jon Favreau’s upcoming remake of the 1994 classic.

In direct homage to its predecessor, the teaser mirrors the original movie’s “Circle of Life” opening scene almost shot-for-shot. The animals’ sunrise trek across the savannah is stripped of saturated, hand-drawn animation in favor of muted, strikingly realistic effects — without context, the trailer’s dramatically scored early moments look like an ominous “Planet Earth” episode just waiting for some narration by Sigourney Weaver.

Instead, we’re treated to a rumbling Mufasa (James Earl Jones) voice-over. “Everything the light touches is our kingdom. But a king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun,” he says. “One day, the sun will set on my time here and will rise with you as the new king.”

I know that Jones is the king of voicing iconic dads with baggage, between Darth Vader and Mufasa, but come on! I can’t handle watching another version of that gazelle stampede scene.

From there, familiar music swells as the camera pans over a hill to reveal Pride Rock, complete with a fittingly fuzzy baby Simba. While marketing a movie full of computer-generated critters as a live-action remake is a bit of a stretch, they still look great. Favreau used “pre-visualization” techniques (in which motion-capture performances and camera moves are mapped out against virtual sets before filming) for his 2016 reboot of “The Jungle Book,” and it looks exponentially better without the inclusion of any real actors in this trailer.

If cool CGI and fondness for the original “The Lion King” doesn’t sell you on yet another Disney nostalgia cash cow, the film’s cast just might. Jones may be the only actor featured in the teaser, but the studio is quick to throw up a rapid series of cards to remind you of just how many A-listers are lending their voices.

Among them are Billy Eichner as Timon, John Oliver as Zazu, Donald Glover as Simba and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter herself as Nala. The trailer’s overhead shot of the animals bowing at Pride Rock is actually footage of me preparing to accept Childish Gambino and Beyoncé’s rendition of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” as next year’s song of the summer — representation matters!

You can catch “The Lion King” in theaters July 19, 2019.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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