Heather Riley loved the remake of the Disney classic. But she asks if The Lion King has become too scary to be a kids’ movie


It didn’t really occur to me that I would be legitimately fearful when watching the new Disney classic remake of The Lion King. I was wrong. We all know the story and Disney have been utterly faithful to the original, but somehow the volume on ‘scary’ has been turned up to full. 

This is not the first classic to have had a makeover and move from animation to live action CGI. We have seen The Jungle BookBeauty and the Beast and Aladdin all receive this treatment. The Lion King is a whole other level. 

Perhaps the total absence of human characters creates a more dramatic film as you enter wholeheartedly into the African plains. It almost feels like a legitimate piece of filming from a nature programme, and to that end has weight in the violent scenes.


The film is directed by Jon Favreau who also directed The Jungle Book in 2016. It’s like watching moving photos and the details and tiny nuances on the faces of the characters are incredible. It is easy to feel empathy for each character and become drawn into the narrative. The characters who steal the film are Timone and Pumba. Comedy gold. The jokes work on two levels and will satisfy a young and old audience alike.

There is quite a jumble sale of mixed spiritual messages throughout the film with an overarching narrative of good versus evil – classic Disney. Reincarnation is hinted at with Mufassa the mighty Lion still living on through both his son and as a spirit guiding from above. The great ‘I am’ is referred to in song and the message around the infamous ‘Circle of life’ is central. 

It is implied that a more satisfying life is directly related to a more outward focused life and that we should all strive towards a specific destiny and calling, all familiar themes within Christendom but probably not what Disney is pointing at. 

It is not a film to glean a theological foundation from but for a rollercoaster ride of fast paced action, which is delivered exceptionally well. It does exactly what you expect from the tin. Big ballads, weepy moments and powerful friendships are paraded for the audience.

The film is rightly a PG and a word of warning, sensitive or younger children could easily be terrified by the hungry hyenas. It genuinely feels like they could leap from the screen and eat you! Caution should be exercised as no punches are pulled in terms of violence within the ‘Circle of life’. On the other hand it is a film about wild animals. 

Once seen it is likely that people will be looking to book a safari as the whole film is very beautiful. It shows the wonders of Africa and the natural world without a shot of real footage. It is a piece of artwork set to become a new favourite.