Original Lion King animator launches scathing attack on 'cheap' remake

‘If you polled the crew of the original Lion King, most of them would say, “Why? Did you really have to do that?”’ said David Stephan

Ellie Harrison
Friday 02 August 2019 08:36
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One of the original animators of 1994’s The Lion King has hit out at Jon Favreau’s CGI remake, calling it “cheap” and saying that the decision to reboot “kind of hurts”.

The Disney remake, which has already crossed the £1 billion mark at the worldwide box office, stars Beyoncé, Donald Glover and Seth Rogen.

“If you polled the crew of the original Lion King, most of them would say, ‘Why? Did you really have to do that?’ It kind of hurts,” animator David Stephan told HuffPost.

Stephan – who worked on the “Circle of Life” opening scene and the design of the hyenas – was one of three animators who spoke to the publication to discuss the Disney reboot. Some of the other animators Huffpost contacted said they were not planning to see the film at all.

“It’s sort of sad that the stockholder is now in the room deciding what movies get made…” said Stephan. “Disney’s now taken the cover off, and it’s now in your face: ‘Yeah, we just want to make money.’ That’s disappointing as an artist, from a studio that was founded on originality and art.”

He described the film’s voice performances as “weak” and “so wooden” and criticised the new character designs for feeling “too real”.

Stephan added: “It reminded me of those old nature films where they would dub the voices over and the lips would move. I thought, ‘Oh, this is really cheap.’ I think it was just too soon for this one.”

Another animator, who chose to remain anonymous, said: “There is a huge resentment against these 3D remakes from the original 2D crews. Maybe if we got any kind of royalties it would be different.”

However, some of the original animators disagree. Alexander Williams, who designed Scar, said: “I think some of my colleagues forget that when you work on a Disney movie, you don’t own it. They own it. You get paid to work there, which is a great privilege. It’s an amazing company. You get to work on this great stuff.

"But when you walk away, it’s their movie and they can do what they want with it. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s kind of none of my business whether they want to remake it or not.”

The Lion King is out in cinemas now.

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