9 THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE FROM THE LION KING REMAKE

You got to hand it to them, whatever you think of Disney, they are freaking evil geniuses when it comes to marketing. These live action remakes are the perfect way to keep their aging films relevant, and because those films have our childhood nostalgia by the balls, we will keep on going to see them over and over again. After the dizzying success of Beauty and The Beast, the next one on the horizon is The Lion King.

With the director who handled The Jungle Book pretty well on the case, the live action version of The Lion King has a pretty good shot of being actually good. Here are a few things I’d like to see from a remake that would really help it to up its game.

1. PLEASE FIX THE JARRING CHANGE IN MOOD OF THE ORIGINAL

From tragic death to Hasa Diga Eebowai Hakuna Matata in five minutes, this is the most break neck tonal shift since Bambi.

I mean, he’s watched his dad die, he’s been told it’s all his fault, he’s been seperated from everyone he loves but hey! Don’t get too upset kids-  Fart jokes! Goddamnit, If I wasn’t ready to move on, then sure as hell Simba wasn’t.So movie, try and ease us into the lighter scenes a little less haphazardly.

2. USE THE EXTRA RUN TIME TO GIVE SARABI MORE DEVELOPMENT

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If you were even half the President Obama was!

Sarabi is a strong lioness who’s balsy enough to go up to an evil tyrant and tell him to his face what a crap king he is. Imagine what she would be like in congress! But seriously, the problem is that she really gets brushed aside a bit. I mean, she’s barely an afterthought when Nala brings her up, and Simba spends a long time mourning for his dad but doesn’t spend even a second missing his mother. Hell, she was cut out of the sequel while Mufasa had a prominent role… and Mufasa was dead!

Don’t get me wrong, the focus of this film is (and needs to be) Simba and his father, but this lioness lost her husband and her son on the same day- and that’s so much worse than the death of a parent! She is an underated character who needs more love. I think maybe a scene or two between Simba and Sarabi, reconnecting and acknowledging their shared grief- and her pain at thinking her son was dead- is an angle that would really add a lot.

And speaking of leading ladies…

3. FEMALE RAFIKI

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The directors of the stage musical made a good point that there wasn’t really a prominent female character in the film besides Nala. And she was just the love interest. Even in female lead films Disney did love the smurfette principle in their Renaissance era. As much as I adored the original portrayal and thought he had the perfect balance of humour and wisdom, the Rafiki of the stage musical was really, really good. If you can’t get the original actor to come back, then lets get a female Rafiki.

4. MAKE THE CLIMAX AN EVEN MORE EPIC FIGHT SCENE

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It may not be Batman vs Superman, but watching two lions brawl is freaking badass, and so is a lioness army cutting through a gang of angry Hyenas!

The Lion King has one of the most rewarding climaxes. Everything- from Simba appearing in lightning as Scar shrieks ‘I’m ten times the King Mufasa was’, to the fight between him and Scar, to Scar’s confession- it sends shivers down my spine and so should the live action.

This director stepped up with the action in The Jungle Book, and I hope he does here as well!

5. MAKE MUFASA’S DEATH ACTUALLY SIMBA’S FAULT

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The Nostalgia Critic may have been wrong about the merits of the film, but he made an interesting point about the central conflict in his Disneycember review. That it was all about facing up to your mistakes, and yet as soon as Simba went to Pride Rock, it doesn’t matter because it turns out he didn’t make any in the first place. Good thing because his childhood friend and his freaking mother would have watched Scar throw him off the cliff if Scar didn’t confess.

Even as a kid, the conflict made no sense to me; Mufasa’s death clearly wasn’t his fault. I understand why as a kid he felt guilty. But as an adult? The guilt angle didn’t quite clinch. This would have worked a lot better if Mufasa’s death was Simba’s fault.

Imagine if the reason Mufasa died isn’t just that Scar tricked him… but he went somewhere else that Mufasa told him not to go. That Mufasa died to save him because of Simba’s actions… actions that he was too young to understand but whose consequences he has to live with for the rest of his life. That would make a strong conflict absolutely devastating.

6. IF YOU ARE HAVING BEYONCE AS NALA, YOU BETTER BELIEVE SHE’S SINGING SHADOWLAND

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Casting Queen B is another marketing move so clever, you almost have to stand up and applaud; Emma Watson may not have been the best actress, but having Hermione play the brunette bookworm princess was such a smart move. Meanwhile, Beyonce is royalty in the eyes of many African Americans (especially Black women), so making her the film’s future Queen is perfect- especially since this in effect makes Beyonce a Disney royal. Think of all the memes we’ll have when her twins are born. Sure, we don’t really know how well she can act, but Nala was more of a plot device and ploy to market toy lion cubs to girls than a complex character anyway, so she won’t make or break this movie.

I’m still not sure whether music would work with talking lions, but if they do, they need to put their Beyonce to good use! Shadowland was a beautiful and haunting addition to the stage musical, and I would love to see this sung by a woman who doesn’t need to rely on autotune.

7. GIVE IT MORE OF AN AFRICAN FEEL LIKE IN THE STAGE MUSICAL

Granted, it was more generic Africa than any specific culture, but still! It added quite a lot to the musical. I’m glad that they got James Earl Jones and his big manly booming voice for Mufasa, and a few other talented Black or African actors in the voice cast (as well as Queen B) wouldn’t go amiss.

The stronger feel for the time period worked well for Beauty and The Beast, so a stronger connection with the African landscape will serve this well too.

8. MAKE SCAR TERRIFYING

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Scar is one of Disney’s most memorable villains, thanks to Jeremy Iron’s performance, the fact that he killed a major character and, aside from Frollo, he has the coolest villain song.

Scar did follow some unfortunate Disney villain tropes in being slightly, well…

British.

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Okay, I know you thought I was going to say fey, but seriously. Look at the sarcasm that drips from those gestures. You can practically see that he wants to flip his paw around and give Musasa the finger, but he won’t because he has too much class. This worked well in the original, but I’m not convinced it will translate well to live action and I think Disney could lay off the fops for a bit. I want this to be a really, powerful warlike Scar, one that carries underlying menace, even if he is not stupid enough to say anything treasonous outright.

Maybe he could have got that Scar from fighting Mufasa flat out, Mufasa could have scarred him in the battle and Mufasa could have made him keep that name as a reminder of his shame. In short, I want to see both the soft, silver tongued manipulator and the big, murderous tyrant who inspires fear in his followers and shows us why Sarabi and Nala were too frightened to gang up on him and take him.

9. THIS BETTER MAKE ALL THE MEN IN THE AUDIENCE BAWL LIKE BABIES

‘Those are manly tears! I swear!’ This film is brilliant because its heart breaking and really gets through the sense of loss at losing a parent. If this film fails to do that, then nothing else the film could possibly do matters.

9 THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE FROM MULAN, THE LIVE ACTION REMAKE

As much as I love Disney, I have mixed feelings when it comes to the Live Action remakes. On the one hand,  The Jungle Book really benefitted from an update, while on the other, I thought Beauty And The Beast was too perfect to be updated, and the live action proved me right.

However, when I heard of Mulan’s live action update, I felt like it made perfect sense. It’s based on a story that is very maleable and rich for creating new and astonishing interpretations. Plus, while the origin has its charm, it’s far from a perfect movie and there are some updates that this film would really benefit. What updates you ask? Well, here are my top 7 things I would like to see from the Disney Live Action.

1) A DISNEY VILLAIN WORTH FIGHTING… UM, AGAINST

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Oh Shan Yu, what high hopes we had of thee. He SHOULD have been one of the greatest Disney Villains ever created, but he was so utterly forgettable. While Lady Tremaine had to make to do with turning a teenage girl into a domestic servant, and Shir Khan was defeated by a ten year old, this villain threatened all of China and I barely remember anything about him. He’s a general who’s slaughtered children, and yet the most memorable thing about him was his eyes. This needs to be fixed in the live action.

It’s time to give us the kind of Disney villain we crave, the kind we still haven’t had since Hades. Make him big, powerful, menacing, larger than life… a man who inspires fear the minute he enters the room. A man who’s built up even before he appears on screen. Disney, give the swishy villains a break and make Shan Yu a dark, macho badass: a warlord who’s always calm and calculating, never needing to raise his voice, even as he sharpens his sword while dropping implied threats to his minions if they should fail him.

2) REAL MARTIAL ARTS AND ADVENTURE

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This is the most perfect choice of films to make a live action. Unlike with BATB, the original was far from perfect and Disney has not told the definitive version. There’s plenty of scope for change and for the writers/ directors to bring something new to the table.

This film lends itself perfectly to a good old fashioned adventure. I would love to see Mulan do some real martial arts and engage in some blood pumping stunts. I mean, Mushuu killed the villain in the original while Mulan mainly flails around wildly. I want to see a big epic climax.

3) DON’T CAVE INTO THE PRESSURE TO MAKE IT INTO A MUSICAL FOR NO REASON

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Love the songs, but this film is no The Little Mermaid. Songs aren’t necessary to make this film work and could serve to destroy the tension.

As much as I enjoyed the songs, Mulan is a film that really doesn’t call for it. It is better suited as an action adventure.

Remember when back in the 90s, a live action version of 101 dalmations was made and there was a controversy because the dalmations didn’t talk? Well, in hindsight, it was a good choice. Talking dogs would have been more jarring because it didn’t have the animation to soften the surrealness of it all, and it gave us all we wanted from the original: cute puppies and a GLORIOUS performance from Cruella DeVille.

In this case we don’t really need them. It’s an epic martial arts, swashbuckling, sword fighting adventure filled with girl power! It has a more serious conflict, and the musical element could diminish that.

4) IF MUSHU DOESN’T WORK, DON’T FORCE HIM

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Forget Mushuu, I always wanted to see THIS dragon in the film.

Comic relief characters like Mushuu are often wildcards. Sometimes they work really, really well (Aladdin, Despicable Me), but sometimes they can turn into a complete nightmare (The Magic Sword, The Hunchback of Notre Dame). I enjoyed Muushu’s performance… most of the time. But he did jarr with the film’s tone and I doubt him translating well to a live action with a slightly less campy tone.

I can see him looking good, but none of the designs which would make him awesome would make him look funny. The last thing I want is another CGI monstrosity on our hands ala Beauty and The Beast. And I don’t want him completely breaking the tension or destroying the Chinese atmosphere.

Disney, if Li Shang is not essential, than neither is Mushu.

5) GIVE US AN ALL SOUTH EAST ASIAN CAST

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Gotta give them credit, Disney does seem to be sorting themselves out on this front.

To be fair, I think Disney has enough sense to do this with at LEAST the leading heroine and most of the cast. I mean, it really did everything right with Moana and Lilo and Stitch, and took a risk and cast an unknown Indian kid in The Jungle Book remake. Plus, criticise it all you will for its treatment of Tiana, Disney  sadly is more inclusive than Pixar or Dreamworks, and has made some of the most genuine efforts to self reflect on what it can do better. With their dependence on marketing Mulan as their one and only Asian Princess, I doubt they would cast a white person to play her.

But yeah, while I’ll doubt it’ll do an all Chinese cast, an all Asian cast would be terrific.

6) A STRONGER PERSONALITY FOR MULAN

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Yeah, Mulan was brave and all, but in terms of personality, she is the typical goofball missfit who sings to their own tune and saves the day. She is Flick, Hercules, Quasimodo in that respect and not too interesting in and of herself.

Even if she starts out unsure of herself (although the heroine from the Chinese poem was pretty damn confident), I wasnt to see some real steel in her performance. I want a complete ferocious badass, a true action hero. I’d also totally want her to full on defeat the badguy without Mushuu’s help, making her the second Disney Princess who full on killed their opponent! The first, of course, being our beloved Tiana.

7) A MAN WORTH FIGHTING FOR

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Pictured here the very beautiful Japanese actor, Jin Akanishi

I get Li Shang won’t be in the movie, and that’s fine as not all stories need a romance. But I think it would be good to include a handsome, macho male lead. Firstly, we all need more handsome Asian guys on our screen.

But more importantly, studies into sexual attractiveness and race have shown that South East Asian men are deemed the least desirable in part due to unfair perceptions that they are less manly than other races. You know, those delicate flowers whose various cultures spawned such feeble warriors such as the Gurkas, Samurai, and the Shaolin monks.

Having a strong, masculine and desirable Asian male lead shown to a wide audience won’t solve the problem, but it would help.

8) A MORE MEANINFUL INCLUSION OF CHINESE CULTURE

Disney have improved a lot since the Renaissance when it comes to writing race. They incorporated Polynesian culture pretty well into Lilo and Stitch and Moana. Hell, even the European films had a bit more of an identity than just ‘generic fairytale land’, with Brave feeling distinctly Scottish, and BATB at least incorportating more of the 1700s French aesthetic into their live action.

I’m hoping they will include the Chinese culture into Mulan in a more meaningful way, because while the original was good it felt like a Western film with pretty watercolor aesthetics. Maybe they could bring more Buddhist philosophy and martial arts teachings into it, as well as perhaps taking the ancestral spirits a little more seriously.

9) ANOTHER GAY DISNEY CHARACTER

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After the whole mess of an April’s fools joke from Pink News surrounding a Gay Simba, it proves that people are still. But LaFou did not stop Beauty and The Beast’s box office success.

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But the problem with LaFou is that he is a walking stereotype and camp joke. What message does it say to gay kids… hey kids, you’ll never be the hero, but you get to be the obsequious mincing side kick who servilely drools over the big manly straight man! Progress!

Mulan is a perfect film to include a proper gay character when you think about it. Mulan already subverts expectations of gender and masculinity by ending with our heroes in drag; I’ll Make A Man Out Of You is a camp classic; there’s some theories that Li Shang was having a big gay crisis thanks to Mulan’s cross dressing and most importantly, people have already seen a gay interpretation of the character of Mulan. The stage is set. And there’s so many possibilities.

If they were uncomfortable with having a gay romance, they could easily do a Persona 4 style ass pull and have a gay male soldier find himself attracted to Mulan, and after he learns the truth he realises that it’s definately only men he’s attracted to. There could be a sad and poignant talk under a cherry blossom tree in spring about how they both knew they were different, but perhaps in different ways and come on! This writes itself!

Representation matters, and after all the work gay staff, musicians and writers have put into making their films the classics they are, I think its time to show that gay men and women are people worth including in their works!

That’s what I want to see from a live action Mulan, and I’m interested to hear your thoughts