The first trailer for the reboot of The Lion King was fantastic. There were some nostalgic nods to the original — the silhouetted shot of Simba, Timon, and Pumba in front of the moon and the wise reuse of James Earl Jones’s voice talents — but it was the quality of the new animation that really blew us away.
Of course, a beautiful trailer doesn’t necessarily translate to an enjoyable feature-length film. After early praise, critics have been harsh on The Lion King (2019) for its story, neither changed nor expanded from the original, and CGI that while beautiful leaves many characters emotionless.
One of the more Photoshop-savvy fans decided to do something about it. Nikolay Mochkin — Instagram user ellejart — created what are essentially mash-ups of the new and old character designs, combining the realistic visuals of the new film with some of the more emotive facial expressions of the 1994 effort. The original film was a cartoon, an art form that uses exaggeration to portray emotion, so it was an obvious shortcut to bring more feeling to the new depictions and appeal to millenial nostalgia. A win-win!
The results are kind of unsettling, but kind of great. Mochkin helpfully included the altered version, the original, and a side-by-side view in each post. We’ll start with Scar, whose new look got folks riled up months before the movie even came out. Much of his sinisterness comes back in the altered version.
Timon and Pumba look great in silhouette in both movies, but the updated version brings back the sense of mischievousness that’s fundamental to their friendship.
Young Simba regains the oversized, innocent eyes that let you know how sad he is about his dad dying.
Even if you were a huge fan of the new animation style, it’s worth checking out the rest of the transformations Mochkin tackled on Instagram. They’re evidence of some impressive skill, and a peek at what might have been had Disney gone in a different direction.