Lion King – Animated vs Broadway vs Live Action

live action lion king with baby simba
It’s the Circle of life. (Sniff!)

The “live action” (actually CGI, folks) remake of The Lion King is hitting theaters.  This new version of the Disney 1994 classic features significant differences.  Now is a great time to return to Pride Rock — and revisit Simba, Nala, Timon, Pumbaa, Mufasa, Zazu, and Rafiki — as we compare the animated, Broadway, and the live action versions of The Lion King.

The Animated Version of The Lion King

In the summer of 1994, Disney released The Lion King.  It was the fifth film in the Disney renaissance that started with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.  It was also the first Disney animated film that featured an original story, and not an adaptation of an existing property.  Although it does have strong similarities to the play Hamlet….(link goes to our cool comparison post).

Elton John and Tim Rice wrote the award-winning songs for the soundtrack. Remember Hakuna Matata, and Can You Feel the Love Tonight?   Hans Zimmer himself composed the score.

The movie was a true critical and box office success!

hakuna matata log scene from lion king with simba, timon, and pumbaa
Hakuna matata, forever!

Synopsis of The Lion King (Spoilers)

The film starts with a young lion cub named Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), heir to his father Mufasa’s throne.

All three versions of The Lion King open with the song “The Circle of Life” with the mandrill Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) presenting newborn Simba to the animal kingdom, who bow in reverence.

Simba’s uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) murders Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and blames Simba for it, sending him into exile and taking over the throne.  Simba forms a new family with free spirits Meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane) and Warthog Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), who rescue him in the desert.  He embraces their philosophy of “Hakuna Matata” (No Worries).

Time passes.  Simba’s friend and love interest Nala (Moira Kelly) goes in search of him, and finds adult Simba (Matthew Broderick).  They fall in love (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”)  Nala tells him the Pride Lands are in ruin and everyone is starving under Scar’s reign.  She urges him to return home.

Simba refuses and storms off, unable to tell Nala he “killed” Mufasa.  Simba runs into Rafiki, who tells him his father’s spirit lives on in him.  Simba is visited by Mufasa’s spirit, who tells him he must take his rightful place as king (the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther has this concept too, and is also from Disney Studios…hmmmm).

Unable to run anymore, Simba returns home.  Timon and Pumbaa distract the hyenas so Simba can get to Scar.  When Scar thinks he has Simba cornered, he confesses to murdering Mufasa.  Simba pins him to the ground and forces him to confess this out loud to everyone.  Like all Disney villains, Scar ends up getting what he deserves.  Simba takes his rightful place as king with Nala as his queen.  The last scene is of Rafiki presenting their own newborn cub.

The lion king broadway poster
See The Lion King on Broadway, or at Disneyworld, if you ever get the chance!

The Broadway Version of The Lion King

In 1997, Disney brought the Lion King to Broadway.  Beauty and the Beast was still going strong as a musical, so why not adapt one of their other biggest hits for the stage?  Indeed.

From the very start, Lion King was getting rave reviews and selling out. It won six Tonys, including Best Musical.  It is Broadway’s third-longest running show, and the highest-grossing Broadway production of all time.  It made over a billion dollars.  Julie Taymor became the first woman to win Best Director of a Musical.

One of the most significant differences between the Broadway version of — and the other versions of — The Lion King is the appearance of the animals.

Animation is not an option for a live theatrical Broadway performance.  Instead, Julie Taymor designed elaborate costumes — most of them based on puppetry — that create not only the illusion of the animals, but the grace of their movements.

Having seen the show at least five times, I can tell you the effect is breathtaking.  It is the kind of creative risk one wishes Disney would take more of.

rafiki in the lion king broadway musical
Rafiki in the Lion King Broadway musical

Another significant difference is that Rafiki was changed to female, and the role is now traditionally played by a woman on stage.  According to the Wikipedia, Taymor believed there was no leading female character in the film.  Rafiki becomes a sort of Greek chorus in the musical.  She actually leads the song, “The Circle of Life” at the top of the show.

New Lion King Songs in the Broadway Musical

Musicals are generally longer than the average Disney cartoon.  So material had to be added to flesh out the show.  Significant new songs included Zazu’s pun-filled “Morning Report,” Mufasa’s powerful explanation of ancestors “They Live in You,”  Rafiki’s reprise to Simba about Mufasa “He Lives in You,” and Simba’s lament “Endless Night.”

Other new songs written for the musical include:  “Grasslands Chant,” “The Lioness Hunt,” “Chow Down,” “Rafiki Mourns,” “One by One,” “The Madness of King Scar,” “Shadowland,” and “Simba Confronts Scar.”

The book was written by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, along with additional music and lyrics by Lebo MMark MancinaJay RifkinJulie Taymor, and Hans Zimmer.

Rafiki’s chants in “Rafiki Mourns” were written by Tsidii Le Loka, who originated the role on Broadway.  Of course, favorites from the animated movie such as “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” remain intact.

The Lion King musical also includes new scenes:

There is a conversation between Zazu and Mufasa about his parenting.  Timon nearly drowns in a waterfall while Simba watches, paralyzed.  This is an event that helps remind him of who he is and the power he has.  Nala departs from Scar when he tries to make her his queen in “The Madness of King Scar.”  She announces her intention to leave home and find help.  During new song “Shadowland”, the other lionesses and Rafiki bless her.

Meerkat Timon and Warthog Pumbaa in the Lion King Broadway musical
Meerkat Timon and Warthog Pumbaa in the Lion King Broadway musical

Of course, there were new actors playing the roles when the show debuted on Broadway.  The one I felt was especially cool was Max Casella, originating the role of Timon on-stage.  Those of you from my generation may remember him as Vinnie, Neil Patrick Harris’s best friend on Doogie Howser, M.D.

The Live Action Version of The Lion King

It is now 2019 and Disney has gone a little remake crazy. (Done or coming next: The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Mulan, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid.)  Then again, after seeing the promos that show the photo-realistic Circle of Life sequence, a live action Lion King kind of feels irresistible.

I should start off by saying “live action” is a misnomer.  Even though we’re all using this expression, the animals are actually computer generated animation.

A few things the new Lion King has in common with the original:  James Earl Jones is again the voice of Mufasa (as well he should be).  And Rafiki is male again.

Like the Broadway version, the new movie includes The Tokens’ classic pop song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”  The Broadway song, “He Lives In You” is also represented.  “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” are, of course, highlights of the film.

The movie also boasts a few new songs.  Beyonce contributed a song called “Spirit” and Elton John wrote a new song called “Never Too Late” — which plays over the credits.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s new version of “Be Prepared” is reported to be toothless compared to the original Jeremy Irons version.  Which is ironic, because his version of Scar is angrier and scarier, according to reviews.  He even fought Mufasa for the crown and lost: a new addition to the villain’s back story.

The visuals in the new movie are beautiful.  This is constant across all versions of The Lion King.  The sets on Broadway are amazing.  The look of the original animated film is still dazzling.  (If they ever do another IMAX re-release or even just a theatrical re-release, I highly recommend it.)

According to critics, the new movie fails in two key areas:

One is that by making the film photo-realistic, the characters and the world are now bound by the constraints of reality.  For instance, you can’t have a massive animal pile-up at the climax of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” or an army of hyenas during “Be Prepared.”

The 1994 film wasn’t bound by such constraints.  The Broadway musical gets around this by using a combination of inventive costumes and set pieces, stage magic, and the participation of the audience.  When you’re watching a play, you fill in things with your own imagination.  You’re an active participant in the process.

When you watch a movie, you’re more passive.  You don’t get to co-create the experience with the filmmaker.

The second flaw with the new movie is the limited range of expression the animals have.  Again, this is a problem with setting the movie in a photo-realistic world.  In animation and theater, you can get away with going over the top.  In theater, you have to play to the back row.  However, to accurately portray how an animal looks, you can’t exaggerate its features.

And Timon and Pumbaa? 

The good news is that Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) steal the show here (as they do in pretty much every version).  Some critics claim they’re even more fun in this version than in the original.

*****

Don’t forget to bring the RunPee app to The Lion King

It’s a jungle out there.  Don’t go to the movies without the RunPee app or you  might miss the best parts.  We’ve got Peetimes for The Lion King, Toy Story 4, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, with new movies added every week.  To stay up to date on the latest movie news and reviews, follow us on Twitter @RunPee and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RunPee/.

Aladdin –  Animated vs Stage vs Live Action

The Lion King – Can Disney Remake a Masterpiece?

Surprise! The Lion King is a Hamlet Remake

Character voices for Lion King

The Lion King – Lyrics and Video to Hakuna Matata

the lion king log scene
We should all try to live the hakuna matata lifestyle…

The most charming song in the  1994’s beloved The Lion King is where Pumbaa, Timon, and Simba sing Hakuna Matata. Which means, as the meerkat and wildebeast cheerfully describe, “No worries.” A good philosophy…can you watch this scene without smiling?

It’s pleasant, funny, and even meaningful — remember the iconic moment where the three friends walk across a log, signaling the passage of time as Simba grows from cub to adult lion? (Sniff. Awww.)

Something you probably didn’t know is that Elton John was one of the songwriters for this sweet little film little interlude. We can only hope Hakuna Matata is included in the rebooted “live action” (actually CGI) Lion King movie, out this summer in 2019.

Note: Hakuna Matata’s got…farting and belching jokes. A little risque for 1990s Disney, but it underlies the underdog and acceptance theme well. We would all be lucky to have accepting, affectionate friends like Pumbaa and Timone. We should also try to adopt a certain No Worries mind-set in such troublesome times. We’d all be a lot happier and nicer to each other. 🙂

Watch the Hakuna Matata sequence and learn the lyrics (below)

Lyrics to The Lion King’s Hakuna Matata

Hakuna Matata!
What a wonderful phrase
Hakuna Matata!
Ain’t no passing craze

It means no worries
For the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy
Hakuna Matata!

Why, when he was a young warthog
When I was a young wart-hoooog!
Very nice!
Thanks!
He found his aroma lacked a certain appeal
He could clear the Savannah after every meal
I’m a sensitive soul, though I seem thick-skinned
And it hurt that my friends never stood downwind
And oh, the shame
(He was ashamed!)
Thought of changin’ my name
(Oh, what’s in a name?)
And I got downhearted
(How did you feel?)
Every time that I-
Pumbaa! Not in front of the kids!
Oh… sorry

Hakuna Matata!
What a wonderful phrase
Hakuna Matata!
Ain’t no passing craze
It means no worries
For the rest of your days
Yeah, sing it, kid!
It’s our problem-free philosophy

Hakuna Matata!
Hakuna Matata
Hakuna Matata
Hakuna Matata

Hakuna
It means no worries
For the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy
Hakuna Matata…

[Songwriters: Elton John / Tim Rice
Hakuna Matata lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company]

Movie Review – Rocketman

 

Movie Review - RocketmanI had a hard time with this review. Rocketman is both extraordinary (in costuming, sound, and visual sequences) and by-the-numbers (a creative life plagued by inner demons).

Elton John’s musical biopic is a grand fantasy with exciting numbers that feel like a top notch Broadway extravaganza. It’s got great pacing, fun set-pieces, an ideal cast, and a very special find in Taron Egerton.

Egerton looks like John, acts like him — and best of all — sounds like him. Except for the original Elton John song played over the end credits, Egerton does ALL his own singing. That’s no small feat. He’s simply brilliant. Egerton more than inhabits the role.

Taron Edgerton is Elton John in Rocketman
Taron Edgerton is Elton John in Rocketman

Rocketman is also very depressing. John has exactly two people in his life who are nice to him — his grandmother, and his long-time best friend and lyricist, Bernie Taupin. Everyone else is either mildly abusive or very abusive. That isn’t fun to watch. Almost everything between the rollicking tunes is about John’s sorrow, loneliness, obsessions, addictions, self-loathing, and an insane ability to absorb decades of personal torment…but somehow still be a beloved worldwide pop-culture phenomenon.

Was John’s life really this difficult? How much of this tale is true? Or did they make things so awful for John’s film character just to ‘liven things up’?

I don’t think you have to be a personal disaster to be a creative icon. But what do I know?

Since John’s alive (unlike, say, Freddie Mercury), these questions are askable. Reportedly John was so happy with Rocketman that he cried with joy to Egerton after his personal screening. I’d like to know specifically what parts gave him that joy. I just want to know if his life was/wasn’t that awful.

Taron Egerton as Elton John on stage in lights
Our rocketman, in lights.

A friend told me no one wants to watch movies about creative happy people. I’d love to condemn that statement, but I’m also told I have an atypical POV on entertainment. I like to have a fun time at the theater. I want to go home feeling like a damn superhero. If I want turmoil and drama, there’s enough of that in the day-to-day. Or I could simply watch the news.

So, if you’re an emotional sponge who found A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody dismaying, just stay home and watch all your favorite Elton John songs on You Tube. Eventually every cool musical performance by Egerton will appear too, so you can realistically catch 90% of Rocketman for free. (There were so many songs in Rocketman that finding even three non-musical minutes for Peetimes was a challenge.)

But should you see this? Almost every review of Rocketman RAVES on it. It’s super ingenious from start to end. Many sequences are  absolutely in the realm of fantasy, but somehow it all works flawlessly as a biopic. The flick is probably destined to become almost as iconic as the legend himself. Rocketman makes Bohemian Rhapsody look like a documentary.

I’m giving Rocketman a solid A for being so lovingly, thoughtfully, gorgeously made. It’s a remarkable film on many levels — not the least being the framing sequences with John’s outrageous demon costume slowly shedding away, as the inner man reveals himself.

If you can handle intense drug and suicide themes, you’ll enjoy this Elton John tribute. It’s also worth it just for catching Egerton’s performance: there will be awards, without a doubt.

Finally, I’m genuinely happy Elton John is alive to see his film — and if the credit notes are true, things worked out happily in the end.  🙂

Grade: A

RunPee movie meme of rocketman
Fun with the RunPee #MovieMeme. Taron Egerton had literally big shoes to fill, but more than pulled it off in Rocketman.

About The Peetimes: As expected, this was a tough film to find Peetimes for, packed with iconic musical performances and hugely emotional scenes. The first 2 Peetimes are pretty good: I recommend the 2nd at 42 minutes — a nice long break. I avoided any major Elton John songs, as I assume these are what you came to see.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Rocketman. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for language throughout, some drug use and sexual content
Genres: Biography, Drama, Music

Elton John – Lyrics & Video to Bennie & the Jets

Lyrics & Video to Rocketman by Elton John

Did Rami Malek Sing In Bohemian Rhapsody?

Elton John & Rocketman – Lyrics & Video to I’m Still Standing

taron egerton as elton john in his bird costume
A triumphant Taron Egerton is Elton John in Rocketman.

I’m Still Standing is probably the most important song to Elton John’s Rocketman biopic, as the movie follows his story from rehab to recovery and success. Watch this video and learn the lyrics to I’m Still Standing so you can sing along!

Video to I’m Still Standing

 

Lyrics to I’m Still Standing

[I’m Still Standing performed by Elton John]

You could never know what it’s like
Your blood like winter freezes just like ice
And there’s a cold lonely light that shines from you
You’ll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you use

And did you think this fool could never win
Well look at me, I’m coming back again
I got a taste of love in a simple way
And if you need to know while I’m still standing you just fade away

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

Once I never could hope to win
You starting down the road leaving me again
The threats you made were meant to cut me down
And if our love was just a circus you’d be a clown by now

You know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

[Songwriters: Bernie Taupin / Elton John
I’m Still Standing lyrics 1983 © Universal Music Publishing Group]

Elton John – Lyrics & Video to Bennie & the Jets

Taron Edgerton is Elton John in Rocketman
Taron Edgerton is Elton John in Rocketman

Taron Egerton apparently makes the perfect Elton John, and it’s kind of great he and Elton worked together last year in Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle (with Elton playing himself!). Egerton reported that John was so happy with is biopic that he broke down crying to Egerton. Can we just say Awwwww?

We know Bennie and the Jets will be in the film — at the very least, it’s featured heavily in the trailers. Here’s a great video, followed by the lyrics to this iconic song.

Benny and the Jets Video

Benny and the Jets Lyrics

[Performed by Elton John] 

Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight’s hitting something
That’s been known to change the weather
We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You’re gonna hear electric music
Solid walls of sound

Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Uh but they’re so spaced out, B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Bennie she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they’re blinded
But Bennie makes them ageless
We shall survive, let us take ourselves along

Where we fight our parents out in the streets
To find who’s right and who’s wrong
Oh Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Oh but they’re so spaced out, Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Bennie she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine, oh
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Oh Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Oh but they’re so spaced out, Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Bennie she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine, oh
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Bennie, Bennie and the Jets
Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie and the Jets
Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie and the Jets
Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie and the Jets
Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie and the Jets
Jets, Jets

Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie
Bennie, Bennie and the Jets…

[Songwriters: Olubowale Victor Akintimehin / Miguel Jontel Pimentel / Elton John / Bernie Taupin
Bennie & The Jets lyrics 1974 © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group]

Lyrics & Video to Rocketman by Elton John

Quiz – Test Your Knowledge of Elton John Songs

Quiz – The Amazing Elton John

Lyrics & Video to Rocketman by Elton John

Taron Egerton as Elton John on stage in lights
Elton John ((Taron Egerton) is the Rocketman.

With the long awaited Rocketman Elton John movie finally out, it’s time to get ready and learn the lyrics to the iconic songs, starting with the eponymous tune Rocketman itself.

Here’s a video and the lyrics to Rocketman to get you excited for the new biopic that test audiences are raving about!

Rocketman Video

Rocketman Lyrics

[Rocket Man by Elton John]

She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine AM
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then

I miss the earth so much I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home

Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don’t understand
It’s just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time…

[Songwriters: Elton John / Bernie Taupin
Rocket Man lyrics, 1972 © Universal Music Publishing Group] 

Lyrics & Video to Bennie & the Jets by Elton John

Quiz – Test Your Knowledge of Elton John Songs

Quiz – The Amazing Elton John

Quiz – The Amazing Elton John

Many of us grew up listening to Elton John. Do you remember any of the lyrics?  Most of these iconic tunes will be in the Elton John biopic Rocketman. Take this quiz and I’ll bet you remember most of these songs, and fall back in love with them again.

Elton John Songs

So many grew up listening to the great Elton John. Do you remember the lyrics? Test yourself with this quiz; I'll give you a lyric, you give me the title of the song. Good luck!

I hope you did well, and thanks for stopping by. And remember, sharing is caring.

RunPee Mom

Quiz – Test Your Knowledge of Elton John Songs

Quiz – Test Your Knowledge of Elton John Songs

You don’t have to be an Elton John devotee to do well on this quiz. I’ve chosen songs that did well on the charts and you’ve maybe heard a dozen times, or a dozen of dozens. Enjoy!

Quiz: Elton John

With the Rocketman Elton John movie coming out, we’re excited to have a quiz for this unusual music man!

Quiz – The Amazing Elton John