Disney’s‘ The Lion King’ remake is upon us. Giddy quivers run up, down, left and right of the spines of fans of Disney cartoons. But the progress of these quivers is obstructed at a few places by controversy. Why? ‘The Lion King’, the first one, in 1994 was a classic, a beautiful much-loved tale of family and devotion and friendship and a remake for the new generation should be as uncontroversial as more chocolate. And yet here we are, controverting. Let me break it down with a simple explanation.
They are lying when they say it is a live-action remake. A live-action remake would involve actors playing the lions in costume. In this instance, we have computer-generated imagery to render the lions and other fauna while the actors hide behind the screen and utter the words invisibly. It’s still animated.
The only difference is that this time they made the animals look like real animals, not cartoons.
Which is to say, instead of making them look nicer and more colourful and giving them faces with more human-relatable expressions, they made them look very very very much like actual lions.
Now, I don’t want it to be said that I am not a proud African who appreciates our African wildlife, but I am not a proud African who appreciates lions. They don’t clean them or groom them, so real lions have this mangy, unkempt look about them that I honestly wish governments would address. Equip the game rangers with some conditioner and shampoo and let’s style up these creatures.
And some sanitation services would not hurt. They poop everywhere.
That is, however, not the controversy I came here to explain. The controversy number one is the claim that the animals look too realistic.
Like previous computer-animated “live-action” remakes of Disney cartoons like ‘The Jungle Book’, for example, they really tried hard to make the animals look like actual animals. If you watch the trailer with no sound you would be fooled into thinking that it is actual footage from the savannah.
But let’s put this to rest. Even if the computers rendered each and every tick on Mufasa’s backside with the fidelity that would fool a Ph.D. zoologist, this would still be unrealistic.
Simply because, well, neither lions nor hyenas, nor warthogs, and certainly not meerkats, speak English or any other language.
I guess they communicate, somehow, with some language, but would warthogs speak the same language as meerkats?
For this to be too realistic, Mufasa the Lion would have to eat Zazu the Hornbill, and Simba would have to eat Rafiki the baboon.
Lions kill by biting and twisting the neck until it breaks. Then, to eat they start by disemboweling the dead carcass, and consume the heart, kidneys and liver first.
Disney would have to blast this onto a full cinema screen and then the children would have to burst out in anguished weeping and drench the cinema in tears for it to be too realistic.
If the kids don’t cry, then it is merely realistic. Not too.
Also on the cabinet of controversy is the casting, by the way. At first we would be concerned that of the voices playing the African animals, few are African. Where is the representation? What kind of alt-right apartheid is this where we will not let Africans tell their own stories?
But we dealt with that in ‘94, when historians discovered that ‘The Lion King’ was not an African story. It was a rip-off of a Japanese manga tale called ‘Kimba the White Lion’, which itself was a paraphrasing of the Briton Shakespeare’s retelling of Danish history. The whole thing was so convoluted, I think we should just make a few random movies, plays about Americans and get Africans to act the roles and call it even.
Because the main stars of this Lion King are Beyoncé and Donald Glover.
Let us put aside the fact that everyone loves Donald Glover because Beyoncé is there too, and where there is Beyoncé, everyone else stands aside.
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is beyond reproach. She soars above criticism. She is immaculate, unimpeachable and even Donald Trump himself would not dare tweet her name.
Yeah. She is one of the stars of the film and therefore, we shall retire that controversy.
Someone with no manners pointed out that her acting is rather stiff. Her delivery of the lines is stilted and mechanical and does not bring the script to life, but then again, how many times do we have to say “above criticism” for you to understand?
Beyoncé has done more than any human being’s fair share of service to the world just by being Beyoncé. Surely we can let this one slide.
Though if you must be appeased, her next album is themed around ‘The Lion King’ movie and she made it a point to feature as many African musicians as she can; Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Mr Eazi, Tekno from Nigeria and South Africa’s Busiswa and Moonchild Sanelly will perform, and Beyoncé will have it entirely produced by African producers.
So there. Be appeased by this. A bone has been thrown. Don’t say it is patronising, or condescending or pandering. It’s Beyoncé.
Follow Ernest on Twitter @bazanye