Disney released their questionably “live-action” remake of The Lion King this past summer and it was an instant box office hit. After a massive opening weekend of $191 million in the United States, the movie has raked in over nearly $542.5 million domestically, and over $1.1 billion overseas, making it the 7th highest grossing movie of all time around the world. But just because the movie was a huge box office doesn’t mean everyone walked away satisfied, especially if your name is Elton John.
In a recent interview with GQ (UK), the legendary Elton John minced no words when asked how he felt about the Lion King remake. John said:
“The new version of The Lion King was a huge disappointment to me, because I believe they messed the music up. Music was so much a part of the original and the music in the current film didn’t have the same impact. The magic and joy were lost.”
That’s coming from one of the people who wrote the songs that audiences loved in the original animated movie. What’s interesting about his criticism is that it’s focused solely on the music not having any magic or joy. But I wonder if that is the fault of the new versions of the songs not being as good or simply the photorealistic settings and lackluster framing not letting the musical numbers come to life as vibrantly as they did in animation. Photorealistic animals can only do so much before they start feeling like cartoons, and that limits the expression they have, especially with songs.
But for John’s part, he mostly seemed disappointed with the music. The singer/songwriter elaborated:
“The soundtrack hasn’t had nearly the same impact in the charts that it had 25 years ago, when it was the bestselling album of the year. The new soundtrack fell out of the charts so quickly, despite the massive box-office success. I wish I’d been invited to the party more, but the creative vision for the film and it’s music was different this time around and I wasn’t really welcomed or treated with the same level of respect. That makes me extremely sad.”
The Lion King score and Beyoncé’s African-inspired companion album The Gift debuted in the Top 10 of Billboard’s soundtrack and R&B album charts, but they didn’t stick around for long. Meanwhile, the original Lion King soundtrack was a massive hit, landing at #1 on the weekly Billboard 200, not to mention being #4 on the 1994 year-end list, and #21 for the decade from 1990-1999. It was so popular that it even still charted at #10 on the yearly chart for 1995.
Elton John is bound to be a little biased when it comes to comparing the new music to what he did with the original soundtrack, but he’s never been shy about expressing his honest opinion. I think there’s something to be said about the music lacking the same punch as the original, perhaps because those songs are so beloved that it’s hard to like new versions. But honestly, I think the fault lies with the lack of emotion and expression in the characters singing the songs, and not with the music itself.
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