I've written so many articles in the past year and a half where I've referenced things that I saw at the D23 Expo in Anaheim back in the summer of 2017 that I've lost count. But the BIG one - the one that everyone was talking about - was the "circle of life" teaser that filmmaker Jon Favreau presented from his reimagining of THE LION KING. In one sense it's the latest in the string of live-action updates to the classic Disney animated film catalog, but how do you call something "live-action" when everything on screen is a digital creation? It's astonishing how far we've come, and if you thought The Jungle Book was spectacular, just wait until you see what's embedded below... the very first teaser for Disney's THE LION KING.
At the D23 Expo in Anaheim this summer, I was in the room when Jon Favreau walked on stage to present a first-look at early footage from his reimagining of THE LION KING. I truly wish that all of you could see it, because it's phenomenal. Still, it was unfinished, but an evolution of the photorealistic animation that Favreau did so well with on last year's THE JUNGLE BOOK. Today comes word from Disney that the cast for this new vision for the 1994 animated classic has been assembled. See the full lineup below!
It was this summer that my love for THE LION KING was reignited during my visit to the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. It wasn't that I hadn't been enjoying it on occasion with my girls over the past few years - quite the contrary, especially given that Disney Junior's THE LION GUARD has been in the regular viewing mix for quite awhile. I think what I'd forgotten was how magical it was at the time of its first release - the summer after I graduated high school, and a film that was really one of those "lightning in a bottle" moments. The combination of attending a celebration of the film along with being in the room for the debut of test footage from Jon Favreau's 2019 live-action version of THE LION KING just brought goosebumps. Now, with film having been reissued as part of The Walt Disney Signature Collection as "The Circle of Life Edition" (available on Digital HD and Blu-ray Combo Pack), it's prime time for audiences to experience the film again, or to introduce it to their children for the very first time.
This Special Feature is presented in collaboration between The Rock Father™ and The Walt Disney Company
I don't recall what I was doing on Friday, June 24, 1994, but chances are I was probably working my job as Assistant Dairy Manager of the local Hy-Vee grocery store in my then-home of Davenport, Iowa. I was a month or so past my high school graduation, and one of the summer's big movies was Walt Disney Animation Studios' THE LION KING. Aside from the buzz, I don't even remember what initially drew my attention to the film at the time, but I do remember taking a girl to see a matinee screening - not really a "date," but an afternoon adventure. It became one of my favorite films of that year, along with PULP FICTION, AIRHEADS, SPEED, NATURAL BORN KILLERS - and from the absolute opposite end of the cinematic spectrum, a tiny film called PCU, directed by the guy who played Ellis in DIE HARD. Now, with "The Circle of Life Edition" of THE LION KING being issued on Digital HD (out now for the first time) and Blu-ray Combo Pack (out 8/29) as part of The Walt Disney Signature Collection, my appreciation and love of the film burns brighter than ever after attending this summer's D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, where I was in the room for a special panel in celebration of this classic slice of Disney perfection.
The 2017 D23 Expo was absolutely massive, and while I live-tweeted the festivities direct from the show floor, I'm still trying to collect my thoughts on everything that I've seen and heard, even now that I've been back in Illinois for a full day. At the live-action film presentation, Alan Horn, Chairman, Walt Disney Studios, introduced Sean Bailey, President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production to give an overview of what moviegoers can expect to see across Disney, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm over the next few years. For a few projects, development is still fairly early on, but ALADDIN was confirmed to be directed by Guy Ritchie, with Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Will Smith as the Genie, with original music by Alan Menken with Pasek & Paul (La La Land) handling lyrics. MULAN will be helmed by Niki Caro (McFarland, USA, Whale Rider), and JUNGLE CRUISE marks the latest Disneyland ride to get a big screen nod, with Dwayne Johnson set to star. Those announcements simply scratch the surface, as the lineup is huge, and I've got all the details below...
As the 2017 edition of the D23 Expo draws to a close, closing the book on another installment of "The Ultimate Disney Fan Event," the news is really just getting started. I'm still here in Anaheim, getting ready to head back to Chicago on the red eye - and much of what I've seen has yet to be revealed. I did get a rare look backstage in the growing "Hall D23," and alongside all the technical magic, much of the talent involved with the next few years of entertainment from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm was on-hand to drop the curtain on a few surprises. So what did all of these actors and filmmakers do while hanging out in the pipe-and-drape "green rooms?" They had fun, and made some videos - many of which are now on Instagram. From Jon Favreau representing THE LION KING, to the voices of the Disney Princesses, the cast of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, MARY POPPINS and a host of AVENGERS and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, take a look at some of what happened backstage...