The Lion King: Hakuna Matata?

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By Refentse Malatji and Anna Cocks

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 6 of VARSITY News.


Many viewers find themselves conflicted about how they feel about the new live action Lion King (which opened in cinemas on 16 July 2019.) Some regard it to be a huge success and an ode to Africa while others perceive it to be a sad attempt at re-creating a film that is a part of so many of our childhoods. We can all agree that nothing can live up to the 1994 original. Albeit, whether we believe it to be a hit or miss, majority of us can concede that it was extremely difficult to suppress the wave of nostalgia that came over us whilst sitting in the cinema.



The movie begins with the rising of the sun on the African horizon and then transitions into the famous scene of Simba’s birth at pride rock. The movie is somewhat copied frame for frame from the original 1994 film. The entire film was created through CGI (excluding the opening shot.) Perhaps this made it difficult for them to recreate the emotional expressiveness of all the characters we love.


The film is made up of an all-star cast; from John Oliver, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Kani to Beyonce. Though Beyonce’s involvement in the film has sparked controversy following allegations made against her regarding plagiarism.


Queen Bey was accused of ‘stealing’ or copying the creative work of South-African-raised artist, Petit Noir, in her music video for Spirit off her soundtrack album for the film. Fans on twitter also remarked on the similarity between the name of her album (The Gift) and Petit Noir’s visual album (La Maison Noir: The Gift and the Curse.) They claim that she lifted his ideas and proved it with frame by frame shots of the similarities.


This theory was then turned upside down when some fans revealed that Beyonce may have referenced shots from her own 2016 visual album, Lemonade. Queen Bey isn’t the only artist accused of stealing art from South African artists- and strangely enough – the next case of stolen art is also linked to the Lion King.


In 2000, Rian Malan wrote an expose on the origins of the song, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” that features in the Lion King. The song was created by Solomon Linda, a Zulu artist, in 1939 and it was originally called, “Mbube” which means Lion. It was taken by Pete Seeger (an American artist) of the Weavers and then covered by The Tokens, The Nylons and even ‘N Sync. All the while, Solomon Linda died a poor man in South Africa.


Read: Rian Malan’s, In the Jungle: Inside the Long, Hidden Genealogy of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’


The new live action film may not be as brilliant as the first, but it still hits the spot. If you find yourself belting out the lyrics to “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” in the middle of the cinema, know that you are not alone. The Lion King is an epic that celebrates the majestic beauty of Africa. It is a story about loss, love and finding oneself.



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